A Day in Shanghai
LNP 02 - 22 - 2010

Our recent 4-day visit to Shanghai has been a restful one in comparison to some of our experiences elsewhere. We welcomed a bit of relaxation and luxury while staying in a nice hotel with heavenly beds, tasty breakfast buffets, and other amenities like a pool, hot tub, and workout center. Now we're spoiled! However, despite the comfort of the hotel calling our names, one day we spent out and about in Shanghai was particularly interesting. It started off with a visit to the waterfront with a full view of the eclectic skyline. One building, a globular TV tower with bright pink windows, steals the show (for better or for worse). There is also an interesting mix of older architecture and more modern skyscrapers dotting the cityscape. Following the stop at the waterfront, we visited the Jade Temple, famous for housing 2 buddha statues carved from solid pieces of jade. This was also our first encounter with authentic Chinese temple architecture (right, bottom). Bright red lanterns hanging across the central courtyard and throughout the temple marked the celebration of the Chinese New Year, which began on February 14th. People filled the temple grounds holding bundles of lit incense in their hands as they bowed toward the statues in all directions. After some sketching time, we were invited to try a few different kinds of tea in a building inside the temple grounds. We were told how to prepare it in the Chinese way with loose tea leaves and what the health benefits of each kind was, which I was really intrigued by. They seemed to have a tea to cure every ailment. Lunch that day was provided at a restaurant that specializes in Mongolian barbecue. For any of you who do not know what this entails, it involves filling a bowl full of your choice of meat, vegetables, and sauces that is thrown onto a circular grill where it is prepared by men using long wooden sticks. Wait approximately 30 seconds and voila! Your delicious meal! Following lunch, our day got a bit more hectic when we made a stop in Chinatown. (You may be wondering why a Chinatown district exists in a Chinese city. Apparently that part of town is considered the most authentic because both British and American concessions held jurisdiction over other parts of the city at one time.) Our group of more than 40 people snaked and struggled our way through the heavy crowd and fully experienced a lack of personal space that most Asian cultures are known for. Chinatown smelled particularly bad as well. We later found out that it was the smell of fried tofu. Inside the Chinatown district is the Yu Garden (right, top), which is one of the traditional Chinese gardens we have had the opportunity to visit so far. I really enjoy that sort of garden style and I was happy to finally see it in person! I personally could have spent more time there. It was like a walled oasis set in the middle of hustling and bustling Chinatown. Our final stop of the day was to see the other half of Shanghai's skyline lining the river. Our morning visit had allowed us to see one bank in the distance, while the afternoon stop was the opposite. The difference between the two is that one side is full of buildings that were built around the 1920's, while the other bank is much more modern and flashy. Overall, it was a good day filled with interesting sites to see. Thanks to our friendly guide, Qin, our bellies were full, our sketchbooks were more complete, and we now have a Chinese friend.

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