Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Shanghai Weekend

Hi everyone! I was hoping to wake up to sunny skies in Shanghai but I guess King Tut is still mad at Kristin because this is what it looked like outside her hotel room Friday morning.

YUCK! I think Kristin and Amy are upset about the weather but it sure didn't keep them from slowing down. On Friday morning we went to a place called the "Soft-Spinning Material Market." It's a very busy market with tons of little shops that sell nothing but fabric. I've never seen so much fabric in my life! I wasn't quite sure why we were there but then Kristin and Amy decided to buy jackets made from Chinese silk. And guess what? The jackets were made specifically for them! A woman at the shop Kristin and Amy went to took tons of measurements. Here you can see Kristin getting measured.

After they were done getting measured, Kristin and Amy picked out the fabric they wanted and looked at books to show the woman...or seamstress as Kristin called her....what style jacket they wanted. Kristin says many people in China have their clothes made at markets like this one instead of shopping for pre-made clothes at a mall. She says this is called "custom tailoring." I had no idea! Anyway, Kristin and Amy's jackets will be done in 2 days! Can you believe it?!

As soon as we left the market, our driver and guide took us to the house where a man named Sun yat-sen used to live. Our guide told us that he is considered the "father of the Chinese republic." Who knew?

The house is now a museum. The house is located in a part of Shanghai known as the "French Concession." Kristin says many people from France moved to this part of Shanghai in the 1800's.
Next we went to a place called the "Arts and Crafts Research Centre." I really didn't want to go because arts and crafts are for girls. But Kristin said I might see some people making nice needlework prints. I know my Aunt Lynn likes to make needlework prints so I decided I would see the crafts.

This is a picture of what is called "Shanghai Gu Embroidery." It sure looks different than what Aunt Lynn makes. This looks more like a painting!

Here you can see one of the artists working on the embroidery. Her needle is SO small that I could barely see it and the thread is really, really thin. Kristin says that's why the finished product looks like paint. Wow...she must have really good eyes!

It was still foggy outside when we left the arts and crafts place but Kristin and Amy decided to stop at a corner in the French Concession to take photos anyway. Here are a few of the photos Kristin took.

I've seen lots of bicycles in Shanghai...just like I saw when I was in Beijing this summer with my friend Michael from the Stanley Foundation.

It was interesting to watch all of the people, cars, and bikes on this corner. I even spotted a UPS delivery person. But this one wasn't driving a truck. He was riding a moped. Very strange!

Kristin and Amy took more photos but I decided to take a nap. Then they decided to have dinner at the Italian restaurant at the hotel. I guess they were tired of eating Chinese food. The restaurant is right near the coolest fish tank I have ever seen! It has four pillars which are connected by glass beams. It also has many lights and TONS of colorful fish.

The best part was getting to walk underneath the glass beams so I could look up and see the stomachs of the fish. How cool is this photo!

Here I am with some of the fish. Pretty cool!

I must have been really tired from our long day in Shanghai. I feel asleep while Kristin and Amy were eating.

It was still foggy when I woke up on Saturday. YUCK!

Saturday morning Amy's sister-in-law Mary came to the hotel and took us to where they live. They live in a section of Shanghai called "Pudong." This is one of the newest parts of Shanghai. Most of the buildings in Pudong have been built in the last 20 years. And there are a LOT of buildings in Pudong.

Mary and her husband Steve live in a big apartment building. It is very nice.

Mary and Steve teach at one of the international schools in Shanghai. Kristin says many people from around the world...including and work in Shanghai. So there are many international schools for the foreign children to go to while they are living in Shanghai. Who knew? We walked to the school to see a high school basketball game. Mary and Steve's son Peter plays for the varsity team (and he is REALLY good!). Guess what? The school looked a lot like my school in America on the inside. And the basketball game looked like a basketball game I would see my school.

They even have boy scout troops at the school. Very interesting.

We spent some time walking through a mall that is a lot like the big malls in the United States. Kristin even bought me a book about China (but she was too busy to take a photo of it with me). Thanks Kristin!

We also took a cab to an area not far from Mary and Steve's apartment. Mary wanted to show Kristin and Amy the apartments most Chinese residents live in. They certainly aren't as nice.

Mary even told us that many people who live in these buildings share one kitchen and bathroom. I didn't think that was so strange. I share a bathroom with my sister and brother. But then Kristin told me that it wasn't one family sharing the was many families. She says it would be like my family sharing a kitchen and bathroom with every family on my block at home. Wow...I would NOT like that!

We had dinner with Amy's family and then we took a cab back to the hotel. I thought we were done for the day but Kristin and Amy wanted to go to a place called "The Bund." It it right along the river and you can see the cool buildings and Orient Pearl Tower from this part of Shanghai. Amy and Kristin decided to go because the fog had lifted and they knew were going to get to see the buildings (FINALLY!!). It sure looks cool at night, doesn't it?

On Sunday Amy's family (including Steve's sister Diane who is visiting from Iowa) took us on a small walking and cab tour of the area of Shanghai were our hotel is located. I'm really glad Amy's family lives in Shanghai. I know they helped Amy and Kristin a lot when they were planning this trip. Thanks Mary, Steve and Diane!

It's time for us to head to the airport....we are leaving for Delhi, India soon.

Until next time....

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).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Greetings from Shanghai, China!

Hi everyone! I am writing to you from Shanghai, China. See if you can find it on the map. The flight here was really bumpy at times and it seemed to take FOREVER to get here. I keep forgetting that I have to be patient when I travel. Being patient is SO hard...especially when the plane ride was over 12 hours long! I have traveled to Asia enough now to know that I need to sleep a lot on the plane to help with that jet-lag stuff, so I slept most of the flight.

Since I've already been to China, I thought I knew what to expect when we got off the plane, but I was a bit surprised. Shanghai is a very modern city with lots of skyscrapers, bright lights, and fancy stores. It reminds me of Seoul, South Korea.

BUT, I haven't really been able to see much of Shanghai because it is VERY foggy here. Here's a view of the city from Kristin's hotel room.

Can't see much, can you? Kristin says I should see lots of skyscrapers but the fog is hiding them.

We are staying at the Le Meridien not far from the Huangpu River that runs through Shanghai. The hotel is VERY nice. Much nicer than I expected. Kristin told me her budget is very tight and she had to work really hard to get rooms in this hotel within her budget. I am glad that she did because she got a really cool corner room with windows on two sides. Here's what Kristin's room looks like.

I visited Amy's room right after she checked in and her room isn't as big (and it doesn't have windows on both sides). Kristin says she booked the same kind of room for both her and Amy, so she thinks her extra nice room is another one of her travel rewards. Cool!

Anyway, Kristin warned me I was going to have that jet-lag stuff when we got here and she was right! I am really tired so I am going to bed now.

More later....bye for now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Off to Shanghai

Hi everyone! I am officially on my latest adventure. Kristin, Amy and I are waiting in the business lounge at O'Hare airport in Chicago for our flight to Shanghai, China. I am SO excited.

We have to leave to get on the plane really soon. Kristin wanted me to tell you that I may not be able to update you every day during our trip. China has Internet connections, but Kristin says there are some Internet sites (including this blog) that I won't be able to see on Kristin's computer. Who knew?

I will keep you updated when I can. Until next time....