Long day! Breakfast at 6 (still working on our time adjustment); day's tour began at 8:00; dinner at 6; acrobatic performance at 7:30; back to hotel at 9:30.
Facts: population is 24 million
small city until 1942
Observation: High rises, low rises EVERYWHERE!
Tour took us to Yu Garden in the middle of the city, which was 5000 acres at one point, until the mid-1800's when a change in political leadership reduced it to 5000 acres. A son though built for his father an amazing traditional Chinese enclave that includes water, what was once the highest "mountain" in Shanghai, several wooden structures, and gorgeous meticulously maintained shrubs and trees. A central market has evolved around Yu Gardens. Would have been an even lovelier experience if it hadn't be 95 degrees at 10:00 a.m. in close quarters on a Saturday in the summer when all the kids are on holiday. Enjoyed the people watching.
Next stop on the tour was the Shanghai silk carpet and embroidery factory. They have 800 mostly women in outlying villages that color the threads (harvested and woven from silk worms) with natural dyes. Saw a young woman who was beginning, on a loom, a 4 X 6 foot rug that will take--because her work requires 625 knots per square inch-- about 8 months to complete.
Mongolian Barbecue for lunch at restaurant adjoined to the factory. Excellent food--as in US, diner selects meats, veggies, sauces and hands bowl over to chef who flat-top cooks it. Ambiance was typical tourist group; reminded me of a german beer hall.
The museum was an excellent cultural introduction to our trip. Saw evolution of everything from coins, to furniture, to clothing to crockery to paintings and calligraphy. Biggest "ah ha" for us was that we were seeing the oldest artifacts we've ever had the chance to experience. Oldest we saw was from 6000 BC. Great foundation for our next 10 days. Still having trouble sorting out all the dynasties, but hoping that by the time we get to Beijing in 10 days that we'll be prepared for the final quiz.
Who Knows What and Acrobats
After a too short respite we rejoined our group of 36 (yeah...36!) for a traditional Chinese buffet dinner. We ate with three other couples at a round table with a huge lazy susan in the center. Appetizers were waiting for us and then the entrees kept on coming. Not at all certain about the specific names but here's what I recall circled the table for an hour: blackened white fish, tofu, mushrooms, square pieces of radish meat coated with something, noodles in sesame/soy sauce, calimari (steamed, tender, taste neutral), beef and large white radishes, green vegetables (maybe spinach stems in a vinegary sauce?), pork loin, green beans w/water chestnuts, shrimp battered in something doughy coated with coconut...and watermelon for dessert. I am very pleased to note that I tried everything except the tofu and didn't find anything horrid except the cooked white radish.
Final stop of the day was a 90 minute show in an old, intimate theater in West Shanghai--Wu Csi (?). Pretty low budget--no Circque d'Soleil (sorry, no spell check available) for sure--but it didn't matter. Troupe of perhaps 25 men and women. Not sure we saw anything new, but the skills were extraordinary and routines captivating. Most entertaining for us was the slack wire tumblers, the acrobats performing on a flexible balance beam held on the shoulders of two men (who had to be there!), the guy juggling 9 tennis-size balls, the pyramid of men doing back curls with top man balancing another on his head and twirling him. And of course the finale of eight motorcycles racing around together in a 20x20 foot sphere/ball. Great way to end the day.
Even better way to end the day was a nightcap in the lovely lobby bar.
Tomorrow after a time on the Bund--river walk, we fly to Wuhan and the beginning of the river cruise. Have been told that WiFi will be pretty non-existent on the river so I'll be writing, but you may not see anything from us for a few days. Will be back in touch when we can.