16 May – Much clearer air in the big city today. Jet lag had us awake at 5.30am so a little time to kill until the city came to life. From our window could see the locals getting into their early morning tai-chi exercises so guessed we would be able to find somewhere open for breakfast. A great coffee shop around the corner did a mean scrambled eggs which gave us the energy to get on with some serious sightseeing. First stop was the “Tourist Tunnel” which took us under the river to the other side. We hopped into little capsules running on rails through the tunnel with a little sound and light show on the tunnel walls as we went through it. Came out the other side to the commercial area, beside the iconic Pearl TV tower. Hard to believe that this is a city of 24 million people as we had the river path to ourselves while we watched the hustle of barges steaming out to the mouth of the river. Had a walk around the area for a while and returned via the tunnel to the Bund.
The hop on/off bus seemed like a good option for today’s exploration and with three routes to explore, started off with the red route taking us through older parts of the city, the French Concession. Swapped over to another route to get to the Jing An Temple. This temple has had various reincarnations over the years (first built in 220 it was then relocated in 1200 to it’s present site; during the Cultural revolution it was converted to a plastics factory; 1972 burnt to the ground; reconstructed in the 80’s and finally reopened to the public in 1990). It houses some iconic items- The jade Buddha has a height of 3.78 meters (about 12 feet), a weight of 2.6 meters (about 9 feet) and a weight of 11,000 kilograms, a 15 tonne silver buddha, a 3 tonne Ming Dynasty copper bell. The main temple is constructed in Myanmar teak – 49 huge solid columns and interior carvings. It was quite an impressive building and very incongruous in amongst all the highrise buildings.
After a spot of lunch, it was back on the bus to do another loop and get off at YuGarden area. We decided to head off the beaten track around here so have a little peak at the more original Shanghai – much more reminiscent of backstreets of Hong Kong. Narrow alleys, tiny shops, multitudes of wires overhead mixing in with the washing drying on poles.
Had intended to visit Yu Gardens, but by the time we reached that stop they were already closed so it was back to the hotel for a break with the plan for taking the blue route over the river to see the nightlights. That plan also scuppered as the last blue bus turned out to be at 5.30pm not the 8pm we were expecting. Plan B was implemented with a walk along the bund to watch the lights come on along with the thousands of very excited Chinese – wedding photos seem to be a favourite on the Bund with the nightlights in the background. Walked back up Nanjing Road to our hotel. What a complete contrast walking around in the evening – Shanghai really comes to life, the main preoccupation seems to be shopping and the streets are just seething with Shanghai-ites.
Opted for a local restaurant for our dinner – just nice to get out of the hustle of the main shopping areas and happened to share our table with a very interesting Australian working in the fire service who was currently on a round the world 10 week Winston Churchill funded scholarship studying his field of expertise – fire fighting/evacuation plans of fire services around the world. Yummy dinner sampling little delights such as steamed prawn and meat balls, wonton soup and chicken – washed down with the local beer – well fed for a fraction of the main street prices.
17 May – With a few hours still left on our bus tickets, we got to take the blue route over to the other side, over an impressive bridge and through the financial centre of Shanghai. China’s highest building Shanghai Tower dominated the landscape – this miracle of architecture is the second tallest building in the world, creates 10% of its own energy needs and incorporates all manner of energy saving features. It only cost 2.4billion US to build.
Swapped buses to get back to People’s Square with the intention of going to the Shanghai museum – after about an hour of walking around we finally found it. Had a good few hours to explore some of their impressive collections – jade, coins, calligraphy and bronze. The museum is set in a lovely building, four floors with a central atrium. Walked back home for another welcome break before heading out for dinner in a Thai restaurant. A lot of places will not accept non-local credit cards, so we have had to make sure that we have enough cash on hand.