上有天堂 下有苏杭 "In heaven, there is paradise; On earth, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou."
01.09.2006 - 07.09.2006 -17 °C
Friday (1/9/2006) What can I say about the Shanghai? The buildings are very modern and they have good transportation systems though the haze and traffic is very bad during peak times. It took us more than 2 hours just to arrive to the New Harbour Service Apartment that we were going to stay even though the distance from the Pudong International Airport was only 45km away.
We were however, satisfied with the apartment because it has 3 rooms, 2 tvs, 2 toilets, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room. Since our room is on the 12th floor, we could see morning activities going on at the streets. Everyday, there’ll be old people doing tai chi in the park, people selling fruits and also a group of ladies dancing at the side of the street regardless of the cars passing by. It was quite a sight actually ’coz most people seemed to ignore what other people are doing on the roadside while others are just entertained by the sight of ladies dancing with fans in their hand.
Saturday (2/9/2006) We met up with our first tour guide, Geoffrey. Quite an entertaining guy and a very fast learner. We went to the Yuyuan garden first which is the only place where the old Shanghai town is left now. After taking some photos and looking at some of the shops, we went to a tea house which used to be an opera house. We were shown how the tea ceremony is carried out, how to prepare the tea properly and we were also given 15 types of tea to taste. Good thing we didn’t get drunk just drink different types of tea but we had to go to the loo after that.
Next, we visited the Shanghai museum which is really big and we were surprised that they allowed visitors to take photos and videocam of the artifacts shown. Then, we went for our lunch in a healthy living restaurant which serves medicated food. We were also offered a free cup of medicated Chinese wine made from seahorses, snakes, lizard tails, etc and surprisingly, it tasted like brandy. We also learnt that if we’re already full, we should leave some food on the plate or else the tour guide will order some more dishes to eat until we are full. What a different culture!
Finally, we went to the Jade Buddha temple. On the ground floor, there are various gods like the Kwan-yin and Amitabha. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are made of jade. Regardless of how noisy and buzy Shanghai can be, the atmosphere of this temple is very peaceful and transcendent. Then we passed by the French Concession to go to Hua Hai road which is supposed to sell imitation goods but we were unlucky because the authorities have started to stop all these imitation products from being sold in Shanghai.
Night time, we walked to Nanjing Road which is 3.4 miles long. It took us quite a while to walked there’ coz we weren’t familiar with the streets but regardless of how early or late the time was, there will always still be people walking on the streets. Nanjing road is actually amazing ‘coz it’s a whole stretch of road filled with shops and neon lights. However, things are not cheap there so we just went window shopping. When we got tired of walking, we sat on a trackless sightseeing train which only cost each of us 2 rmb and just watched people walking by us.
Sunday (3/9/2006) Today, we met up with out second tour guide, Troy who brought us to Hangzhou (Heaven on earth). Troy's character is the oposite of Geoffrey's. He’s very polite, humble and gentle (not to mention tall also so all he had to do was raised his arm for us to spot where he was). It was a long journey to Hangzhou from Shanghai ‘coz it took 2½ hours to reach there but it was worth the time. He also told us that if you go to China, you should go to 3 places; Xian which represent China of the past, Beijing which represent China of today and Shanghai which represent the China of tomorrow.
The scenery around the West Lake is just lovely and it’s romantic for couples to stroll along the bridges. We visited the Guo Garden Villa first before strolling on the Fish and Flower Harbor and West lake bridge. Then we went on a boat ride cruise around the West lake where we saw the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon and also people paddling in small boats. We were laughing at some of these paddlers ‘coz some of them either got tired of paddling in the middle of the lake or even though they were paddling, the boat didn’t move at all. What a funny sight! Before heading back to Shanghai, we stopped at the Meijia Tea Village or the Dragon Well Tea Village. We were told about the advantages and tips of using green tea for health purposes.
Monday (4/9/2006) We went with Geoffrey to Suzhou this time. First stop was to the Tiger Hill where the Pagoda of the Yunyan Temple is the oriental version of the leaning Pisa. It is said that the leaning angle of this temple is even steeper than the leaning Pisa. We were also told about the story of the Sword testing rock, Stone peach, Pillow stone, Zhen Niang Tomb, Thousand People Rock and Sword pond which was located throughout this hill alone. Then, we went to the Han Shan temple where each of us paid 10 rmb to hit the bell three times so that our wishes can come true (How true it is, I have no comment but I would consider it as just a mere concidence). Before going to the silk factory, we went to the Fishing Master’s net. The gardens are just so peaceful and impressive. There’s not even a single weed growing at all.
Tuesday (5/9/2006) We took an extra day trip with Geoffrey to Zhouzhuang Village which is known as Venice of the East. We saw the Chinese opera and then visited the scholar as well as the richest businessman’s house during the ancient times just to compare the differences in the layouts. Then we went on a Chinese-style gondola to cruise on the waterways of the city. The weeping willows along the banks just made the scenery looked so heavenly.
Wednesday (6/9/2006) We decided to try the Maglev and visit the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the Pudong district today. We had problem at first of finding subway No. 2 but after that, we were able to go to the Maglev station just next to the Lujiazui metro station. It only took eight minutes (maximum speed of 430 - 431km/hr) to reach from Lujiazui to Pudong International Airport and the two way ticket costed us each 80 rmb (B$16). We then took the subway to go to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which was worth the money we spent on the entrance fee. This tower is 468 meters high (1,536 feet) and is the world's third tallest TV and radio tower. Since we took the 85 rmb ticket, we could only go up to the 267m level at a speed of seven meters per second and because of the fast speed upwards, our ears got blocked a few times. From 263m, we could see most of Shanghai and the wind was really cold but no doubt, you can actually feel the floor swaying from side to side. Then we went down to 259m and 90m where we could still see the roof of most buildings around the tower. At the lobby of the tower, we saw the Transportations Exhibition, Overview Of The Old City, The Architectural Landscape Of Shanghai At The Beginning Of The 20th Century, The Metropolis Infested With Foreign Adventures, Traces Of Old Shanghai and Architectures Exhibition. It took us 4 hours just going around this tower alone.
Thursday (7/9/2006) Just as we were about to leave Shanghai, the weather was slowly changing as the haze cleared up and the wind started to become cold compared to the first few days when we were in Shanghai. Basically, I would say, Suzhou and Hangzhou have lived up to the standards of what everyone has talked about. Shanghai is a lovely place for if you like to see very modern buildings but not necessary a cheap place for shopping. Hopefully, the next time I go to Shanghai again, there wouldn’t be too many major changes like what we were told as minor renovations will be done every 3 years and major renovations will be carried out every 10 years.