Following a delightful Palm Sunday at sea, we docked in Shanghai early Monday morning, April 14th. Situated at the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River – actually situated in the Yangtze River Delta of East China – Shanghai is not only the largest Chinese city – it is THE largest city proper in the entire world with a population of almost 24 million. As we stood on our balcony, it was hard to grasp the magnificent vista before us: A skyline backdrop that went on – seemingly forever – combined with bustling river traffic right below us. Looking down, we are mesmerized as the “old” navigated the waterways of the Huangpu River along with the “new” in an endless flotilla of sampans sailing side by side with giant tankers, tugs, and barges.
We had opted for the all-day “Highlights of Shanghai” tour that began with an elevator ride to the 88th floor of the Jim Mao Building (the second tallest building in China.) Standing on the Observation Deck, we had a 360 degree view of the “largest city in the world”. Even more amazing from this vantage point was trying to comprehend what it must be like to live and work in a city of such mammoth size and scope.
From there, we boarded our motorcoach to the Jade Buddha Temple. (The temple was built in the late 1800s to house two jade Buddha statues that had been brought by a monk from Burma to Shanghai. The two precious jade Buddhist statues are not only rare cultural relics but also porcelain artworks. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved from whole white Burmese jade. The quiet, peaceful serenity of this temple – on the inside – was certainly in stark contrast to the frenetic pace of life taking place just outside its doors.
Next stop – the iconic Jin Jiang Hotel where we gathered for lunch. Served family style ( i.e. served from a Lazy Susan in the center of our table for eight), we first enjoyed a variety of fresh salad vegetables. Next, we were offered at least 10 different dishes that included beef, chicken, seafood, soup, rice, noodles, cooked vegetables, dumplings, and watermelon for dessert. (It’s interesting to note that this famous hotel was the site of the 1972 Sino-American joint communique by Chairman Mao and President Nixon.)
Following lunch, we traveled to the Yu Yuan Garden. Covering about five acres, this scenic garden was built during the Ming Dynasty ( 1557) and has gone through multiple renovations, ownership, decline, restorations, and finally was taken over by the government and opened to the public in 1961. Highlighted with pavilions, corridors, unusual stone sculptures, statues, rockeries, quiet resting areas, lush landscaping and streams filled with colorful fish, this large garden is surrounded by restaurants, food courts, souvenir stores, silk shops, clothing, jewelry, and shoe stores, tea shoppes and even a Starbuck’s!
We’re now headed back to the ship and venture through a very densely-populated residential area. “Densely-populated” is an understatement, too! Every single – without exception – apartment balcony had clothes lines strung from roof top to a pole and all lines were filled with clothes blowing in the breeze. Another common sight were outdoor sinks – used as big basins to wash clothes and dishes -plumbed and positioned next to a curb in front of a store/shop. Also, we were amazed at the quantity of “stuff” the locals could stack on a bicycle and still be able to balance and maneuver through heavy traffic. One other interesting bit of local trivia, we learned from our guide that buildings up to six floors generally do not have elevators; only buildings taller than six stories.
We’re almost back “home” – with just one more stop: The Bund. What an incredible vista standing atop this promenade. While we were there, a bridal shoot took place and visitors were posing for pictures with the backdrop – not only of the bustling Huangpu River – but with a backdrop of an eclectic mix of buildings of such diverse architectural style as Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classical and Renaissance. This proved to be a marvelous “snap shot” of Shanghai… that showcased not only the impressive architecture, bustling river traffic and the Pudong New Area ( Shanghai’s New Economic Zone), but literally a snapshot of the condensed version of just “all” this city has become.
Once back on board, Cynthia and I stopped at our favorite bar on deck five for a late-afternoon cocktail, and toasted to another marvelous day of our Asian Adventure. We were also very happy to be back “home” on our ship. That evening, Rainer brought us a superb room service dinner.
Our “entertainment” for the evening was watching all the party/dinner boats sail right by our “window to the world.” What a great day.
We will be in Shanghai two more days/one night before we have a sea day crossing the Yellow Sea and then our final port of Dalian. We will then debark in Beijing on the 19th.
A few additional comments and observations…First the weather. Could not have been better – mid 60s, sunny and breezy. Very light pollution. We were told in the summer – temps can exceed 100 degrees and the air is very humid. Again – just as it was in Hong Kong and Xiamen – the city was clean and very green. Even in the crowded neighborhoods, you didn’t see litter. Major commerce here: Textiles and automobiles. Skyscrapers continue to be built as fast as possible. It’s amazing to see hundreds of buildings that are at least 50 stories tall. What is even more amazing to us – how/where are they going to get the businesses and people to fill these buildings? The “one-child” law is already becoming a factor as the Chinese labor force is not as plentiful, plus the younger people are better educated now and don’t want factory work. So some industry is having to move their assembly line work to the Philippines and/or Indonesia where labor is cheaper and more plentiful.