A Travellerspoint blog

Shanghai Departure: May 18

Goodbye China It's Been Great!

rain -24 °C

We packed our bags with our purchases and managed to fit them all in our luggage. Packing light to come to China turned out to be a great idea. We had another wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel then boarded the bus for an optional experience. We paid extra to have the bus take us to the Maglev train for a ride to the airport and back. It's a 30 km trip that takes only seven minutes because the train reaches a speed of 431 km per hour. It is the only commercial magnetic train in the world and cost 4 billion dollars to construct.

We then had them take us to the knock-off mall for shopping. Dan and I were all out of funds (we even brought a sandwich from the hotel buffet for our lunch) so we just had fun looking around. It was quite the experience. You barter for everything because if you don't you've paid too much.

Our China experience complete, we headed to the airport for our 14 1/2 hour flight home. Because of the twelve hour time difference, we'll arrive in Toronto just a couple hours after our departure time from China.

Note: We've arrived home safe and sound. The first 45 minutes of the flight was one of the most turbulent we've experienced but, after that, it was a beautiful smooth flight. Our apologies for the failure to post these blogs from China. We had a great deal of difficulty with the WIFI. It was available in the five-star hotels we stayed at but we had only intermittent connection. Just for interest, Google and Gmail are banned in China. We had a wonderful experience but, as always, it's good to be home.

Posted by jkroetsch 13:28 Archived in China Comments (0)

Shanghai: May 17

Another Busy Day

sunny -26 °C

We started our day with a bus ride to the Bund where we were free to walk the mile-long stretch along the Huangpu River and take in the two skylines: on the one side, all the new, modern buildings that have been erected in the last twenty years, contrasted, on the other side, with the elegant old buildings. Our bus then took us to Manning Road, the biggest (and quite expensive) shopping district in Shanghai. There are no cars allowed and the number of people on the wide walking street was incredible. There were a lot of street vendors trying to sell their wares but we were surprised that there were very few beggars. Our guide told us that when they're found, they are taken to a government shelter where they are given a bed and food for a week. They are then sent back to their families in their home towns. When possible, they are given training for a skill that they can use to support themselves i.e. Blind people have been trained to become very good massage therapists.

The Shanghai Museum presented the historical items from many areas such as jade, pottery and enamel ware, bronze, clothing styles, currency, calligraphy and wooden furniture.

On we went to the Shanghai General Carpet Factory which produces beautiful silk and cashmere rugs and carpets. Once again, we were aware of the patience and skill required by the people who work there. A basic carpet has 130 knots per linear foot, a medium carpet has 300 knots and an expensive carpet (don't walk on it just hang it your wall!) has 500 knots per linear foot. One woman had been working there for 20 years and was a master of precision, at producing detailed silk carpets with intricate, multi-coloured designs. She was working on a 6' x 9' carpet and, though she seemed to be working at an amazing speed, the carpet was going to take a year to complete.

Lunch was in the Mongolian BBQ. It was something like the Mongolian Grill in Waterloo (fill your bowl and take it to be cooked) but we are spoiled with a lot of extra ingredients like mushrooms, pickled corn, water chestnuts etc. Here in China, there were fewer choices, but still very good.

We next went to an area called the French Concession. Before the beginning of the People's Republic, some European countries claimed areas of China as their own territory. When the Chinese government reclaimed them, this one area was maintained in its original state and when you walk through the streets, you feel like you're on a street in France or Italy. The shops were all very expensive but it was fun to window shop. We were responsible for our own dinner and then went to see an amazing acrobatic show – ERA The Intersection of Time. It's the best-selling show in Shanghai and has been running for ten years.

Then it was back to the hotel to pack our belongings in preparation for our departure tomorrow

Posted by jkroetsch 13:14 Archived in China Comments (0)

Hangzhou-Shanghai May 16

Happy Buddha

sunny -27 °C

After another delicious buffet breakfast, we visited Jingci Temple. Joe Ying, our guide who is Buddhist, led this tour. He explained the purpose of the different areas of the temple and details about the statues of Buddha, his guards, his disciples, or the popular female Buddha.

The Tea Pot Factory produced tea pots but also had studios to train and develop tea pot masters. A good tea pot is used only for one kind of tea. The demonstration of well-designed tea pot features included: a smooth pouring stream, no drip at the end of pouring, you can stop the pouring by plugging the vent hole with your finger while pouring and the pot could be held 90 degrees without having the lid fall since a good lid and pot are a matched set that create a seal.

The soil and weather in this region is the key to producing the best green tea in the world at Hangzhou. The tour of Meijiawu Tea Plantation helped us to understand why green tea is so important to good health. The best tea is produced by the delicate hand picking of the young spring shoots (top three leaves only) on the tea bush but they can pick 3 crops per year. The tea leaves are dried for two hours on flat bamboo trays and then in heated metal woks and gently moved by hand to maintain the shape of the 2 leaves and new leaf bud. Tea tree oil is also produced from this plant.

Posted by jkroetsch 12:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

Wuxi to Hangzhou: May 15

It Rained Today But We're Smiling Anyway

overcast -25 °C

The first stop this morning in Wuxi was the tour of the largest pearl exhibition in China at the Wuxi Yuan Run Ju Pearl Co. We were shown a fresh water oyster (triangular in shape) and then they opened it for us to show the pearls inside. The one we saw contained 27 pearls, not all of which were perfect enough for jewellery. The salt water oysters usually have one pearl. The rejects are ground to a fine powder for use in face creams.

The morning weather was a light drizzling rain but that was okay since we had a 3 1/2 hour drive by bus from Wuxi to Hangzhou. There was a small group that was complaining about too much Chinese food so there was a stop for lunch with choices of KFC or McDonalds. We were sad because we have really been enjoying the menu differences from each province.

Upon arriving in Hangzhou, there was no rain, only cloudy skies so we were dropped off at Lake Taihu, one of the five largest fresh water lakes in China. We started walking the path along the shore, but our leisurely stroll in the serene surroundings was rudely interrupted by strong winds and a sudden downpour. We dashed to a covered seating area nearby for protection. The sound of thunder caused some to return to the safety of the bus. When the rain stopped, the hearty souls continued along the lake path enjoying different views of the city and the beautiful tree-lined pathways. We then were treated with a boat cruise on Lake Taihu to see many other buildings and vantage points that we could not see by walking. Our restaurant that night was right at the lake.

The evening performance was another spectacular performance called Night of West Lake. The show was presented with dance and acrobatics.

Posted by jkroetsch 12:48 Archived in China Comments (0)

Suzhou-Wuxi: May 14

Beautiful Gardens Everywhere

sunny -26 °C

We woke early this morning in Suzhou and since we were on the 21st floor I was able to take some nice city view pictures. We were able to get everything packed quickly which left us some extra time. We decided to BBM Dave and Claire with an audio chat which allowed us to get updates and share our experiences with them.
By 9 am we were on the bus to Wuxi. Our local guide today was Angela. Our first stop was Liyuan Gardens in the Taihu Lake area which originated as a private home and garden but is now open to the public. He had created a gorgeous and peaceful garden that was full of rocky formations, trees, flowering shrubs, ponds and interconnected pathways.
Wuxi is known for its beautiful gardens and lakes. Turtle Head Park, also on Taihu Lake, is shaped like a turtle. The turtle in Chinese culture is a symbol of longevity. In the park there was a statue of a turtle with a dragon head and a fish tail,and a Camphor tree that was 400years old. We enjoyed the relaxed meandering through the park.
The purple clay Tea Pot Factory, our next stop, had a pot that held 2500 kg of water. This was a design studio as well and they displayed some very unique designs. All of them did not drip after pouring and you could hold them at 90 degrees without having the lid fall off - even without a lid tab. The design of the pot was to have a perfect fitting lid that created a seal when wet. One design of the Master presenting was to have an air hole in the top of the handle, not the lid, so that you could easily stop the flow while pouring.
Our supper was at a local famous wedding hall. All of the chairs were covered in white and red fabric. Each lunch and supper were at round tables with 9 chairs with a glass turn table. The meals were all samples of the local cuisine.

Posted by jkroetsch 12:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

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