20 October 2008

Shanghai 4

Last post from China. Today was our last day to see as much of this city as possible before embarking on a 28-hour odyssey back home. Yikes.

We took a taxi down to Old Town, which features classic Chinese-style buildings that may or may not be hundreds of years old. One thing is for sure: they attract loads of European tourists who must have woken up early to get there, thus not having time to bathe first.

Here's Cali outside the main entrance.

I snapped a few shots of the Old Town environs before we headed inside.

To properly appreciate this impressive relic of old China, a visitor should spend hours shopping in the various shops throughout the area. If possible, one should sample local cuisine such as the Oreo Blizzard that Cali had (Starbucks coffee and McDonalds were also available for purchase by tourists). But most importantly, one should scour the shops to find just the right authentic Chinese artifact and buy it as a souvenir. Such an item will help you remember the trip to China forever. I came across two such pieces of Chinese art and I could not decide which one would give me the most authentic memories of this land. Luckily, the two were sitting side by side in an artisan's stall, so I photographed them together. I'm interested to know which one you would have chosen.

(*Side note. This stone engraving of Brittney and kids is the funniest thing to hit the interweb since Aaron's post of the A-Ha/Pipe Wrench Fight video. If I do say so myself).

Next we paid 40 yuan each to enter the Yuyuan Gardens. Apart from shopping, this appeared to be the only thing to do in Old Town and it turns out it was actually worth the money.
The Yuyuan Gardens are 2 hectares of impressive rockwork, water features, and Chinese buildings that are hundreds of years old. The rockwork is so incredible that it seems like a natural wonder. But even more wonderous is the fact that the formations are not natural. They were constructed by famous rockwork architects over the course of decades at the commission of the royal families who occupied the land.

Here's a sample. Most of the good photos are on our real camera so this iPhone version is the only one you'll get from me.

I am always goofing around, it seems. In the photo below, I noticed a hole in a rock that was roughly the size of my face and I put my head right in there. These are good times.

A great feature of many asian gardens, including the massive Yuyuan Gardens, is the pedi-friendly mosaic walks. These artistic walkways are meant to be traversed barefoot. The stones are smooth but raised so as to massage the feet and generally cause good foot health. Here are a couple of shots from today (with shoes on, I'm afraid).

Oh, one interesting fact about these mosaic walkways before moving on: a group of senior-aged Euros were sitting around near a pond listening to their tour guide. We were walking past, and out of nowhere an old guy stood up and projectile vomited all over the mosaic walkway. He sat down as if baffled by his own action, then stood up and puked violently on the walkway again. His wife, in a strange lack of sympathy for what must have been ailing him, just starting yelling at him and pointing to the pond, where she would have preferred that he had puked, presumably.

Cali got sick immediately and it was a good 60 seconds before she could resume eating her Oreo Blizzard.

Away from the puker, we sat in a lovely gazebo overlooking another pond, this one filled with koi. A group of French tourists passed us by (I could tell they were French because their tour guide was speaking French and also one of the guys was wearing solid red pants).

Now I should preface my next comment by saying that I am not cultured in the ways of French fashion. I understand that the French are often on the cutting edge of style, and I can give them credit for that. Even so, I couldn't make sense of the following outfit worn by a woman in the French troupe:

We finished the day with some more shopping in the Old Town area. Cali posed for a photo with this lovely elephant statue:

and then we stumbled on to a real bargain shop in an alley where we were the only white people. CNY 2 is less than $0.30, so this place was like a Dollar Store in the U.S, but for a quarter instead of a buck.

We finished the day by returning to the cavernous underground shopping area by the metro station. I picked up a few more dress shirts at the price I had bargained for a couple of days earlier (the sales girl was none to happy about it) and then we bought more Crocs for the kids and a pair of leather DC Shoes for Cortney (featuring a raised white fur tiger on the side of the shoe - I hope he likes it). I posed for this picture with Ping-Ping, our helpful sales attendant.

The trip was great. I think the business contacts I made are going to lead to some worthwhile relationships, and Cali and I had lots of fun. The 28 hours of travel coming home...not so fun.

Zai Jian, Shanghai.


Supercords said...

Awesome post. I look forward to many future travelogues.

Peggy Dee said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your Shanghai posts. I feel like I was on vacation for the last 5 minutes. Glad you guys had fun.

Lindsay said...

That's awesome. Poor Cali and her blizzard. I bet it just didn't taste the same after the mosaic incident.