Suitcase and World: Shanghai. Round 2.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shanghai. Round 2.

y first full day with the rest of the tour group started with the buffet breakfast at the hotel . I wasn’t hungry so I just sat with the group. Our itinerary for the day was to visit the Shanghai Museum this morning and as the group decided, to go to see a Chinese acrobat show tonight. We would have the afternoon to explore the city on our own.

After breakfast, Jenny led us on the walk to the Shanghai Museum – about 30 minutes from the hotel. The Museum is housed in a very modern building. Inspiration for the design of the building came from the style of ancient Chinese bronze vessel.

We queued up to enter. Flanking the museum entrance are stone replicas of lions that are in the museum’s collection. Each lion represents a different dynastic style of sculpture. Entrance is free.

As we waited to enter, Jenny explained the layout of the museum to us. It’s not a large museum – just about 10 or so galleries.

Once inside, we were given about 2 hours to walk through the galleries. I started with the ancient bronzes. It was remarkable to learn that Chinese were smelting ore and making bronze vessels as early as the 18th century BC…..that’s right…..about 20 THOUSAND years ago. From there, I continued through about 5 galleries including ancient pottery, calligraphy, jade and even seals. Each gallery was very well laid out, collection items were well displayed and described in English. Though I have seen more impressive Chinese art collections in other museums, it’s obvious that a lot of care and money has gone into this museum.

After about an hour and a half, I had had my fill. I bumped into Jan outside one of the galleries and we decided to meet each other for tea in the museum tea house. Mairead joined us and after a brief respite over cups of tea and coffee, we headed to the meeting place to join up with the rest of the group.

From the museum, we walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, Robbie, Jackie, Jan, Trevor and Madeline headed over to Yu Yuan Gardens with Jenny while Bernd, Dean, Mairead and I headed down to the Bund. Jenny had given us instructions on taking the subway and walking directions to the Jin Mao Tower (the building on the right in the picture). The Jin Mao tower has an observation deck from which you can seek the skyline of the city.

We caught the subway near Peoples Square and for 3 RMB got to the stop near the tower. Of course, since I cannot read Chinese or speak Mandarin, I was completely useless as far helping us navigate to the tower. But, it’s a big building and not hard to figure out which direction you have to walk in. Of course, as we later discovered, we probably walked several blocks more than we really needed to. It was another swelteringly hot day in Shanghai so walking fewer blocks would have been much welcomed.

We eventually found out way to the tower and followed the directions to the Observation Deck on the 88th floor. Oddly enough, we had to go one floor down to buy our tickets and queue for the elevator. We paid our 88 RMB each and got in the elevator for the 9m per second right up to the 88th floor which was 340m above ground.

From the Observation Deck, we got a 360 degree view of the city below. It was amazing to see just how sprawled out Shanghai is…..this is a BIG city. From high above, we could also see just how densely populated this city is and from what the locals tell me and from all the construction cranes I see, more and more buildings are coming up each day. In no time, Shanghai is going to take a spot on the list of most crowded cities in the world!

Unfortunately, it was another hazy day so the view was not as spectacular as it would been had the skies been clear but even so, it was one hell of an impressive vista. We had our photo ops and then queued in line for the ride back down.

From the Jin Mao Tower, we walked towards the river’s edge. There, Mairead and Dean decided to do the cruise of the Bund while Bernd and I decided to head back to the hotel. Back in the hotel, I took the time to relax and to wait for Mairead to return.

At the agreed upon time, we all met up in the lobby. Jenny led the way to the subway station where again for 3 RMB, we would end up at our destination.

I must say the subway system in Shanghai is very efficient. Buying a ticket is a breeze. You can either go to the ticket booth or else use one of the automated machines. We opted to go with the machines. The machines operate in both English and Chinese. Once you pick the language, you then have to select the subway line you want to travel on. Next, you indicate the stop and how many tickets you want to buy. The machine then tells you how many RMB to insert. You feed the required number of coins or bills into the machine and out comes the ticket which basically is a plastic card about the size of a credit card. You then just pass the card over the ticket reader at the entry turnstile to get in. Trains come quickly and are very modern and clean inside.

We got off at our stop and followed Jenny. About a 15 minute walk later, we arrived at the theatre. We immediately walked to our seats.

The show started shortly thereafter. What a spectacular show!! I had been expecting a stereotypical Chinese acrobatic show – with performers dressed in traditional Chinese outfits performing completely improbably acts like balancing porcelain plates on chopsticks on one hand while twirling a set of chairs in the other. One such act would follow after the other and we would all go “ah” in amazement. The show would then close with a lion dance. That’s what I expected to see. Instead, I saw a very modern production with costumes, sets and performances to rival ANYTHING that Cirque du Soleil could put on (no offense to Cirque fans). My favorite performance was a modern day Romeo and Juliet story that looked like it took place in 1930’s Shanghai. The performance focused on acrobatic maneuvers by both the man and woman using a pair of long ribbons hanging from the ceiling. It was a simply breath taking performance……so romantic and beautifully performed. Of course, there were the stereotypical acts though updated - the woman contortionist who can seemingly twist her body as if she has not a single bone in it except this woman was dressed up as a dragonfly sitting atop a lotus leaf. It was a captivating performance as were all the performances. In fact, I was so caught up in the entire show that I was really, really sad when it came to an end.....and I really, really wish I snuck in a video or two to remember the show by :-(

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Shanghai, I would highly recommend seeing the Shanghai Museum and seeing a performance by the famed Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe (theatre located at No. 466 Jiang Ning Rd).