March 8, 2014
After a big Western style breakfast, we assembled in the lobby with “Peter” our Chinese tour guide who is employed by Viking Cruise lines to keep us from getting lost. We got new name tags and met the Shanghai girl who carries the Viking pennant for us to follow. I began to dread with great foreshadowing of events to come. Despite misgivings it was OK. This is our first fully escorted tour. We have been on one day shore excursions on other cruises but never have we been babysat 24/7. It will be a new experience and I will remain positive.
On the bus we got. A long pep talk from Peter about rules and stuff. Pretty basic. I told Peggy that we were now traveling with our contemporaries. I already started to evaluate their chances of falling off the boat or getting hit by a predatory taxi. Then my Bible study conscience kicked in and I am determined to exercise patience and work at loving my fellow members of our traveling band of brothers. I am working hard.
We rode the bus a few blocks to the Bund Promenade to admire the new China rising across the Hutong River in Pudong. Peter was quite proud of the erected towers that symbolized the future of China. I preferred the Colonial Era buildings on our side of the bay. Of course he never brought up much of the Shanghai debt to the Opium trade for making it a leading Chinese City. I kept mum.
Almost lost one of the band crossing a street but all managed to reboard the bus. We travel a few blocks to the Yuyuan Gardens in the old Chinese quarter of historic Shanghai. During the period when the foreign legations ran the city, ethnic Chinese were confined to this area. The gent who built the lovely gardens was a corrupt Manchu official who made plenty of deals with the European and Japanese masters who ran the place. Despite the crowds, we managed a number of pictures. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the venture.
The center of the Garden is reached by crossing over a zig zag bridge to the protective wall. Chinese believe that ghosts only travel in straight lines so zigging and zagging is good. Also good are big stones between the gate and the front door. Chinese ghosts must be like Wily Coyote. The place was packed but the term is relative. Chris said the place held 10 times the people we experienced. What a change from yesterday.
Peter did a good job of pointing out some basics but since we had become authorities yesterday it wasn’t too riveting. This Garden was much larger than the Master of the Nets in Suzhou. Good things with the crowds. What it lacked in intimacy was balanced with grandeur.
We wound are way back to the bus through the vendors selling stuff like the universally desired and market glob of plastic snot that you throw on the ground. I have never seen anyone buy it. Our 36 members of our group reminded me of many a class trip. Peter made sure no one passed up the restrooms or as he called them Happy Rooms.
The Shanghai General Silk Rug Factory was next. Peter explained that the art is dying out in China because of rising wage expectations and being undercut by child labor in Southern Asia. Welcome to our world. The rugs were great and the place lacked the sales pressure we so loved in Istanbul. Amazing embroidery. Tempted by the Goldie look a like. The high light of the visit was lunch at a Mongolian BBQ. This is relatively new in Shanghai. Bob Bryson would have loved it. These real Mongols put on a show to equal Benihana.
Next stop was the Shanghai Museum. Many of our traveling companions were starting to fade and many expressed concerns that we were visiting too many museums. I kept quiet. We were allocated 90 minutes in a world class venue. Made the best of it. We spent too much time looking at traditional dress of the Chinese minorities. The jade collection was fabulous. Jade represents a continuum in Chinese culture much like calligraphy. The evolution in styles and technique reveals the culture in a beautiful way.
We left the museum around four and returned to our crystal palace hotel for a brief rest. We reassembled in the lobby and walked our restaurant, The Shanghai Uncle. Not a Chinese patron in sight. We were served Chinese style something like 12 dishes. I ate everything including the strange mushrooms. I hoped I was not eating donkey meat. It was very good. Not all were so pleased. Left more for me.
We now left for the highlight of our trip to Shanghai, the Acrobat Show. Picture a couple of dozen young men and women doing impossible things for a show. Jumping through hoops acquired a new meaning. Teeter totters turned into catapults. Young girls contorted their bodies into human sculptures. Hard to figure which part was where. The hula hoop stuff was clearly impossible as was the giant hoop that girl managed ride around in and gave me vertigo just watching. The show was paced with comic interludes but remained fast paced to the end. I will upload cast pictures tomorrow. It was great.
Reached the hotel by 10 and got packed for our flight tomorrow.
You can see that I have a way to go to match the Ming Dynasty wood workers. Green and Green were clearly inspired by the same pieces. The black beakers are bamboo wine servers. Not sure they would work. The Celadon vase determined that we now know what to seek in Beijing.