Shanghai

Shanghai is AMAZING!  I’ve never experienced such a sprawling city.  We went to the restaurant at the top of our hotel to get a view of the city, and it extends as far as the eye can see. It is a fascinating mix of old and new, West and East.

We arrived yesterday, taking the Maglev train from the airport to the city.  It was one fast ride!  The train goes so fast, that it only accelerates and then decelerates to get to the city.  It got up to 431 kilometer/hour!

Our guide, David, helped us see all the major sights today.  As we drove through the city past old sections, David was often quick to say that this area won’t be here soon.  Almost everything large and new that he pointed out, mostly shopping centers, were built within the past three years.

We saw the Pudong, the business capital of the city.  It is across the Huangpu River from the original part of Shanghai. The surrounding architecture of extremely tall skyscrapers (home to the 2nd tallest building in the world) makes it feel like you’ve stepped into the future. Just like the rest of the city, this section is sprawling, and yet, none of it was here twenty years ago!

Other stops on our tour included the beautiful Yu Gardens, the British and French Concessions, and a walk along The Bund so we could see the colonial architecture.  We went into the house where the Chinese Communist Party was first established -90 years ago this week.  We also saw the Jade Buddha Temple and the Confucius Temple and School where a student showed us around the grounds. The area is now surrounded by chic boutiques and shopping malls.  I think Mao would be disappointed.

We also walked through two Chinese markets.  The first was a traditional food market of which are becoming few and far between, as the younger generation prefers supermarkets.  Every type of food is found here.  Vegetables and fruit abound, but the more interesting sights were the live, fresh food.  Fish and crab, and other shellfish were everywhere.  As were caged chickens, pigeons, ducks, frogs, and turtles.

The Cricket Market was even more exotic.  Here is where people come to purchase –you guessed it- crickets!  They have teeny, tiny crickets that you keep in small boxes and place under your pillow so that even while in a metropolis like Shanghai, you can sleep with the sound of nature.  Singing crickets were extremely large and found in bamboo baskets or ornate cages.  As the name suggests, they make a lot of noise!  Perhaps the biggest attraction at this market was the fighting crickets.  Before purchasing these crickets, you nudge a stick around in their small box cages to see how aggressive they are.  Large gambling tournaments exist all over (albeit underground) where these crickets fight to the death. DVDs of great fighters are even available!  Other items for sale at the market were birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and many types of turtles and frogs.  An extensive collection of food and cages for all these creatures are also available.

For lunch we finally tasted xiao long bao, or “soup dumplings!”  This was the single food item I have most looked forward to on this trip.  In fact, for months I have waited to taste this Shanghai specialty.  They are steamed dumplings that are filled with juicy meat.  As you carefully bite into them, you suck the “soup” out before devouring the dumpling.  Yum!  This will also be dinner tonight…

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