Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shanghai - Day 2

Hi everyone. I was really hoping the weather would be better today, but it is still REALLY foggy here in Shanghai. It is so foggy that I can hardly see some of the buildings that I know are right next to the hotel!

I know Kristin and Amy are sad about the fog. They are here in China to take photos and gather information for the Stanley Foundation's Web site. It is hard to take good photos when it is this foggy outside. But Kristin and Amy decided to do what Kristin calls, "make the best of the day." I'm not sure what that exactly means...but I can tell you that we were SO busy that I barely had time to rest!

Right after breakfast Kristin and Amy decided to walk to a place called "People's Square." It is located near the hotel. Kristin says it is a very famous part of Shanghai. And she says it used to be a racetrack. The racetrack is gone. Now the area has several museums and shopping malls. Here is a photo of the Shanghai Museum.

The fog was actually getting worse while we were in People's Square, so Kristin and Amy walked across the street from the museum to a place called the Shanghai Urban Planning Center. Kristin told me the building had a museum that shows how Shanghai has grown into the city it is today. I wasn't sure I wanted a history lesson, but since it was so foggy outside, I decided not to argue with Kristin. Guess what? The museum was really cool! It has this HUGE model of the city.

The model is SO big that Kristin can't even get the entire thing to fit in a single photo!

The museum has several floors. One of them included a really cool model of the Shanghai's Pudong International Airport.

And there was a section about Shanghai's port. I learned that lots and lots of ships carrying everything from cars to food to clothing pass through Shanghai's port every year. Who knew? The best part (for me at least) was getting to spend time "driving" a boat for a short time in the museum.

Since the museum has several floors, we had to take an escalator to get to each new floor. And every time we got on the escalator, we saw this sign.

I was confused why there would be a sign reading "mind your head" so I asked Kristin what it meant. She says the sign is telling people to "watch" their head as they move on the escalator. Kristin says some places in the world use the word "mind" instead of "watch" on warning signs. Very strange and confusing if you ask me!

After we finished the tour, Amy and Kristin walked across the street to a big shopping mall to take a few photos of people shopping in the expensive stores there. The mall is several stories and is kind of like our mall at home.

After lunch, Kristin and Amy hired a car and a guide and we visited several places around Shanghai. Our first stop was the Orient Pearl TV Tower. It was too foggy to see the top of the tower, but Kristin did show me photos of it in her guidebook. It is a skinny building with two round globes and a pointy top. Kristin says it reminds her of the Space Needle in Seattle. I am going to have to trust her on that.

Our guide told us that the Orient Pearl Tower was built in 1994. She also says it was the first building in the section of Shanghai called "Pudong." Today Pudong is home to hundreds of buildings, many of them very tall skyscrapers. That means all of the buildings I saw in Pudong have been built in the last 15 years. WOW! There must be a lot of construction workers in Shanghai to construct buildings that fast.

Next we visited a place called the "Jade Buddha Temple." It is a temple that has two Buddha statues made entirely of a stone called "jade." Kristin says jade is very popular in Asia and our guide told us that jade comes in many colors including green, purple and white. The jade Buddha statues in the temple complex are made of white jade. I wasn't sure I really wanted to visit another temple since I've been to so many in the past two years in Asia, but the jade Buddha statues were actually neat to see (shh...don't tell Kristin I told you that). I wish I had a photo of the white jade Buddha statues but photos were not allowed. But Kristin could take photos in other parts of the temple complex. Here are a few.

This is the "smiling Buddha."

Here people are burning boxes that hold special items belonging to a relative that recently died. Our guide says this is an important part of the funeral for people here in China that follow the Buddhist religion. Very interesting.

This is the main courtyard.

As you can see it was still pretty foggy outside and it really slowed down the traffic in Shanghai. But I did notice Shanghai has lighted signs that give traffic updates to drivers. I've never seen a traffic sign like this. Pretty cool if you ask me.

After our visit to the temple (and getting through the terrible traffic), our guide took us to a place called Yu Yuan Garden. It is located in a part of Shanghai called "Old Town." I guess it makes sense it is called "Old Town" because this garden was first built in 1559. That is a really LONG time ago! Parts of the garden were destroyed during a war but they have been rebuilt. Here are some photos from the Yu Yuan Garden.

Look at the Koi! I love Koi ponds!

This is Kristin's favorite photo from our garden visit (trees reflected in the Koi pond).

And here's a photo our guide took of Amy and Kristin. She said they look like sisters. They do look a lot alike in this photo (scary!).

Today while we have been driving around Shanghai, I've recognized a number of the business signs. Some are written in English and some have these funny characters on them. Kristin says the characters are Chinese letters. Who knew?

Here's a sign that should look familiar to you.


...a Coke machine (inside the Jade Temple complex)....

...and Dairy Queen in the Old Town market near the Yu Yuan Garden....

I really wanted to stop at Dairy Queen but Kristin said we didn't have time. :( Still it was interesting to see Shanghai's DQ. It sure doesn't look like the one in Muscatine, does it?

After we got back from the afternoon whirlwind tour, Amy and Kristin went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. But guess what, they went to dinner with one of Amy's relatives! Amy's sister-in-law Mary lives in Shanghai. She is the sister of Amy's husband, David. How cool is that? Anyway, we met Mary, her husband Steve, their son Peter, and Steve's sister Diane for dinner. I think it is cool that Amy knows someone here in Shanghai! Kristin says if we have time, we might get to see where Mary and Steve live before we leave.

After dinner, Amy and Kristin decided they should try and take a few photos of the street by the hotel. It has LOTS of bright lights, billboards and shops. It reminds me of Times Square in New York. Here is one of the photos Kristin took.

Whew....I am tired. I still have some of that jet-lag stuff so I am headed to bed.

Bye for now....

(PS....please forgive any typing mistakes...I am really tired).