Sunday, May 20, 2007

China Day 6: Jiading and Shanghai (May 3)

My last full day in China was another great one. In the morning Amanda and I went out of Shanghai to the town of Jiading. This was maybe my favorite day trip – it was a bit less touristy. The first place we saw in Jiading was the Quixia Garden, the estate of Gon Hong, who was the Ministry of Works for the Ming dynasty, built in 1502. Seems this guy had it pretty good. If he wanted he probably could have never ventured beyond his estate’s walls. This place was awesome, and the grounds were huge – you could get lost in them. The gardens were beautiful.

From the garden we walked through Old Town Jiading and then climbed another pagoda. Old Town and the new are literally right next to each other in Jiading – across from the square below the pagoda they were opening a new Walmart-like shopping center. From the top of the pagoda we could check out the Old Town and the new square below, where there were plenty of little amusements and rides for kids (holiday still going), and where they were very insistently playing Christmas music. According to Amanda the Chinese love Christmas music and play it all the time.

Next to the pagoda they had an amazing museum of wood and bamboo carvings, and after walking through Amanda and I decided to take a break and do some people watching in the square. I should mention that in China, like in Russia, they are big on selling individual ice creams from freezers on the streets. I had to try it – but somehow it’s not quite the same as in Russia. Must be that the weather’s not cold enough in China.

From the square we went over to the so-called Confucian temple, which was actually a rather long tour of the Chinese imperial examination system. Across the street from this temple you can go paddle boating on these funky paddle boats with Disney-like characters (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc.) on the front, and since I love to paddle boat, we had to do it. Actually it turned out that this was the best way to see the temples around the little lake. Although we were not the only paddle-boaters, we still got plenty of “Hellos!” shouted at us from the shore, and I suspect we may have been the subject of a number of photos. We just waved right back.

Amanda decided we would treat ourselves to a cab ride back from Jiading to Shanghai, rather than take the bus. This led to perhaps the most interesting experience of our trip. We got to the cab station and a seemingly very polite driver even opened the door for us to let us in. You have to take a round-a-bout driveway out of the cab station and stop to turn onto the main street. When our driver stopped, two Chinese motorcyclists drove up to the driver-side door and literally pulled our driver out of the cab and started beating him. Obviously, Amanda and I got out. Very fast. We were completely unharmed and never actually a target – apparently our cab driver had recently had an altercation with a cyclist. When we got out of the cab there were actually dozens of cyclists revving their engines and heading toward this cab driver. This guy was bleeding pretty well from the head by the time we drove past him in another cab just 3 minutes later. (They had already broken up the fight.) Amanda says fistfights fights are not necessarily uncommon in China, but she had never seen anything like this.

We had our drive back to Shanghai to recover, and then we got ready to go out for the evening. Shanghai has a couple of main streets that run perpendicular to the Bund and Huang Pu River. One of them is Nanjing Road, part of which is a pedestrian street. Tonight we walked down it. At night all the buildings on the pedestrian part are lit up until 11 pm. I have never seen this many lights in one place outside of Las Vegas or gambling/casino strips. There were a ton of people out, and there is also a little passenger train that runs down the center of the road.

From Nanjing Road we crossed over to Pu Dong and made it to the Pizza Hut in the Super Brand Mall after all. It really is a great view of the Bund and river. All of the buildings along the Bund are lit up until 11 pm, and there are also illuminated ships on the water. We had waffle fries and cheese-stuffed cheese pizza for dinner, which is totally disgusting, but when am I going to have that again in the next 7 months? (Actually, when have I had that ever…) We walked off a little of dinner by strolling along the embankment and checking out more lights, along with hundreds of other people. Since we were in Pu Dong, the east-side special economic zone, we were looking at the lights across the river on the Pu Xi side (west side), where Amanda lives. The lights in Pu Dong are also pretty awesome, and we could look back to get some idea of them, too.

We capped off our day and my trip with drinks at the Cloud 9 Bar on the 86th floor of the Hyatt Hotel, from which you can look down on all the lights of Shanghai. From this high up everything looked small, even the lights of the supposedly tall buildings. I proposed that we bring a Russian tradition to China and do some toasts, which we enjoyed immensely. And of course we did the requisite reminiscing about Wellesley and the Fulbright. Who ever thought we would be where we are today? Certainly not us! Look, we’re American college friends who have to meet up in Shanghai for drinks, after all. We have been on some pretty incredible journeys over the past few years, and who can imagine what is waiting for us in the future, and what new and amazing adventures might lie ahead.

Pictures: 1. and 2. Quixia Gardens in Jiading, 3. teenagers in Jiading, 4. Confucian temple. In this temple there were statues representing Confucius’s 72 best disciplines, 5. and 6. Nanjing Road at night, 7. Bund and Pu Xi at night, 8. Pu Dong at night (the building with the spheres is supposedly just for show)

1 comment:

Jen said...

Sounds awesome Cheryl. You make me want to visit China.

Living vicariously through you,