Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cherry Blossoms at Gucun Park.

Today was set aside as blossoms day. I planned this day with Bro and I in mind, well before we learned that SK would be joining us on this trip and well before I found out that the poor thing suffers from really bad spring time allergies.  Pollen is not her friend!  Despite the fact that she's been outdoors all day, with the pollen fluttering all about, she's been a real trooper about it ....runny nose and puff eyes and all!

I had planned for us to visit two gardens today.  We spent the morning at Nanhui Peach Blossom Village and the plan was to visit Gucun Park in the afternoon to check out the cherry blossoms.  All morning long, I had been in contact with Miki, her assistant and Melody, the lovely guide who took us around Hangzhou and Xitang yesterday.  Miki had asked Melody to help us out because it turns out that Melody lives in the area around Gucun Park so she can advise the driver on how to take us to where we need to go which started with a place to have lunch.

We had no idea where we were being taken; we just left it in the hands of our trusty and very friendly driver to take us there.  Our driver didn't speak any English but with all his smiles, he seemed like a very nice guy.  That and he had a mobile hotspot in his car which allowed me to connect to the internet and communicate with Miki, her assistant and Melody.

As we drove through Shanghai, I was yet again struck by how modern the city is.  The highway is excellent; large, new model cars were zipping by all around us and tall high rise apartment buildings were everywhere.  I think like many cities in Asia these days, the majority of the population calls an apartment home.

We eventually out front of a large shopping complex.  Our driver pulled over where he could and waved in the direction that we needed to walk in.  He had been in constant communication with Melody and lo and behold, we were barely a few steps away from the car when we bumped into her.  She looks very different without her baseball cap on.  Yesterday, she had told us that she would be spending the morning with her young daughter and husband.  She was in the middle of eating lunch when she met up with us.  We were all so happy to see each other!

We only asked for two bits of advice.  One was where to go for lunch and two was how to get to the park.  Lunch was easy.  Plenty of places around the shopping plaza.  Directions to the park took a little bit longer for us to digest even though the instructions were really simple.  Melody pointed to the road we had arrived in on and told us to continue in the direction that we had been driving in.  The park was a short walk down the road.   She also told us where to meet back up with the driver and we agreed that we would meet back up with him at 5p.  Melody would convey that information back to him.  She was so kind to do this for us on her time off.  I really didn't want to impose on her all that much so with our two questions answered, we gave her our thanks and sent her to go back to her family.

We noticed a sign pointing to restaurants and that took us to the side of the complex where pretty much all the store fronts were eateries or cafes.  We settled on a cafeteria style place that served up what I would describe as home style cooking.  The food looked delicious enough and the fact that it was cafeteria style meant we could eat quickly.  We all picked out a few dishes to share.  Truly nothing fancy and the food was okay.  Filled our bellies for now.

After our quick lunch and a visit to the toilets, we followed Melody's instructions to make our way to the park.  I shouldn't have been surprised to find out that we were basically three people in a sea of a mob of people who were all walking in the same direction.  I was certain they were going to the park as well.

We just kept following the crowd which seemed to swell in numbers the closer we got to the park.  There are too many people in China! 😁  Sure enough, we were following the correct mob because they led us directly to the park.

Bro did the needful and got our entry tickets.  Nice having a *banker* in the group!

Once we got past the entry gate, we were greeted by trees and grass and flowers and a million Chinese people.  It is Saturday today so everyone is out enjoying their weekend.

So in China, they use the Japanese term "sakura" to describe cherry blossoms!

I had read somewhere that Gucun Park is home to some 70 different species of flowering cherry trees.  I didn't know there were that many different types!  Just I walked through the entrance turnstiles, I was greeted by a large wall that explained each of the different flowers....not that I would be able to remember all of them.

Again, we didn't have a map to guide us so we did make a few stops to check out the large posted maps.  Otherwise, we just took a path and walked it.  Gucun Park is much more spread out that Nanhui but even so, it felt crowded at times.  Unlike at Nanhui, people coming to Gucun were really treating it as a park outing....complete with picnic meals and of all things, tents.  I think if you spend your days working inside a building and nights inside an apartment, being able to get out an enjoy a bit of Mother Nature would be a popular thing to do and it seems like Shanghainese take full advantage of this park.

I suspect we were probably about a week or so late visiting Gucun as blossoms were really sparse on the trees.  Cherries bloom earlier than peaches so we pretty much lucked out with Nanhui but not so at Gucun.  Indeed the blossoms at Gucun were a tad disappointing so I'm really glad we got to see the peach blossoms at Nanhui.  If I ever come back to Shanghai at this time of year, I will again know how to time my visit if I want to see the cherry trees in bloom.

However, one of the pluses of having 70 different varieties of trees here is that each variety blooms at a different time so I think we were able to catch the late bloomers.  I think there were also some peach trees mixed in with the cherries.

You can easily distinguish cherry blossoms from all other types of fruit tree flowers because the flowers present themselves in clusters just as the fruit does.  So, when you look at the flowers in the photo below, let your eye imagine that you are looking at a cluster of cherries.

I do have to say that Gucun is a nice city park.  There's a small river and you can rent paddle boats.

For those who could not be bothered to pack along a picnic lunch, there was a area with food vendors selling the Chinese version of US carnival food....lots of things on sticks as well as the ubiquitous stinky tofu which announces its presence about a football length distance before you even spot it!

There were so many people in the park today that if at any point, I simply stopped walking, I would be in immediate danger of being bumped into from behind.  No joke.

The tulips were in full bloom here.  First tulips I've seen since I've been in Shanghai.  So pretty.

There was an air of fun here.  I spotted countless young people sporting headbands with whimsical head boppers attached to them.

And it wasn't just the girls who were into the head band, head bopper action.  The boys were not shy to show off their equally impressive, fun head gear!

Gucun Park is a very large park and while you could walk through it all and not stop for a break, we didn't.  Not only was it such a nice day for a stroll in the park but this was also the perfect place to do a bit of people watching so every now and again, we would simply plop ourselves down on the ground and watch the world go by.  One thing that was amazing to note was just how clean the park is.  Thousands of people here and not a piece of litter on the ground.  Everyone minds their trash!

We had agreed to meet back up with our driver at 5p and considering where we were, inside the park, relative to the entrance and the spot where we were suppose to meet back up with our driver, I was constantly trying to move us to walk back towards the entry pavilion.  But that was an exercise in futility.  At one point, I saw an exit sign and it was pointing in the direction we were already walking in but nothing around me looked familiar so I got concerned that perhaps we were heading for another entrance/exit.  After all, it's unlikely a park the size of Gucun only has one entrance/exit.  But lo and behold, soon the sight of the ticket counters came into view and I recognized that we were back at the spot we had arrived into.  Luckily we did somehow manage to make our way back to our starting point and in time!  I was pleasantly surprised and relieved.  Whew!  Then, came the challenge of finding our driver.  The meeting spot is right on a very busy road and so we stood for a bit and kept our eyes out for the van.  Car after car went by and minutes past 5 and no sign of our car and driver so I sent Bro and SK across the street see if perhaps if he was waiting for us on the other side of the road.  At one point, I lost sight of Bro and SK so I got a bit worried for a moment.  Where were they walking to.  Then, we locked eyes....the driver and I.  He was a few cars back in traffic so I stood where I was and waited for him to approach.  Big smile on both our faces.  At that very instant, Bro and SK had already crossed the street and were standing right beside me.  Wow!  Talk about the stars aligning and timing being perfect!  The driver had to stop just long enough for the three of us to open up two car doors and slide inside.  We all breathed a huge sigh of relief!

We were done with sightseeing for the day but we weren't done for the day.  Instead of dropping us off back at the apartment, I had arranged for the driver to take us to Shanghai Circus World which is the venue where an acrobatic show called ERA Intersection of Time takes place every night.  I had bought tickets to see tonight's show.

Sadly, I never got our driver's name but I did want to take a photo of him before we said our goodbye's and I gave him his tip.  Such a nice man.

We are now off in search of a pre-show dinner.  I've seen many Chinese acrobat performances both in China as well as at home in the US.  I never tire of them.  I know that Bro has never been to a performance and I don't think SK has either so hopefully, this will be as entertaining for them as I am expecting it will be for me.