Day 196: September 24, 2018
Our guide met us after breakfast at 9:45 am. Her name is Jennifer and she is much more down to earth then our guide in Beijing, Catherine. Jennifer asked if we wanted to fit our two day tour into one so that we could have another free day. We agreed to that.
We drove 15 minutes to the Jade Buddha Temple. Inside one of the temples were wood statues painted gold. They represented the past, present and future. The temple was very busy as it was the mid-Autumn Festival. On the lunar calendar it was August 15 and the moon was at its brightest. It was a time for families to get together. Many people had come to the temple to pray.
The complex has over 100 monks living there. Another temple had a large jade Buddha statue inside. People bought oil blessed by the monks and placed it in a flame in front of the Buddha to give them their wish.
Next we drove to the Shanghai Museum where we saw many different exhibits: bronze art, pottery, calligraphy, paintings, furniture, etc.
We then drove to a silk spinning factory. We were shown the lifecycle of the silkworm. They build a cocoon around their body with silk string that comes out of their mouth. They stay inside for ten days and exit as a moth. The full lifecycle takes 60 days.
The silk thread is one third the thickness of hair and one cocoon has 500 m of thread. The lady told us that 6,000 cocoons are needed to make one silk shirt. The cocoons are wet and then stirred with a brush to find the end. They are then placed on a machine that spins them onto a spool.
We had lunch just outside the Yu Garden. There was so much food! After lunch we walked around the garden. It was built in 1559 as the private garden of Pan Yunduan, an administration commissioner. The height of the thresholds of buildings indicated the rank of a family: the higher, the more important. The thresholds there were quite high.
We were able to see into the living areas of the homes. The upstairs would have been the bedrooms. There was a koi pond and lots of interesting rocks around. It would have been a beautiful place to live.
We moved on to Jin Mao Tower where we took an elevator up to an observation deck on the 88th floor. Next to us you could see Shanghai Tower which is 128 floors (632 m) high making it the second tallest building in the world. The new Stantec Tower in Edmonton will only be 251 m tall.
Next on our itinerary was the French Concession. The area was established in 1849 when the governor of Shanghai gave territory for a French settlement. The buildings within used to be for living, but are now mostly Western food restaurants.
We watched a performance on a nearby stage. They were singing the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain which was pretty exciting to me.
Then it was time for supper. Jennifer had us order our food because we said we didn’t want so much. We had Kung Pao chicken, scallion pancake and an eggplant/potato dish. She told us to order more, but that was already plenty. The food budget for the tour must have been huge. Jennifer ordered pigs’ feet and we tried them. The flavour was good, but the texture not so much. It was all fat.
We chatted a bit over supper about our different lives. Jennifer has a two year old daughter who her husband or father looks after while she is working. Women in the public sector get 128 days maternity leave. Women in the private sector often are asked to leave the company. The government in China is now encouraging people to have two children due to the lack of young people in the workforce and the huge elderly population. After supper, we walked up the Nanjing pedestrian street which was full of flashy lights.
From there, we took a bus to the theatre where we saw a very exciting acrobatic show. At points it was hard to watch because it was so crazy. Our driver picked us up after the show and took us back to the hotel for bed.
Day 197: September 25, 2018
We were up earlier this morning. We had arranged for our driver to take us to Zhujiajiao Ancient Town. He picked us up at 8:00 am and it was an hour drive. The town is known as the Venice of China with 36 stone bridges. It was established 1,700 years ago.
When we arrived, we walked around looking at all the different vendor stalls. It was not very busy yet. We crossed the large bridge and walked along one river. We met up with a friendly little kitty who was too skinny to be dinner.
Further out, we walked along Dadian Lake. The path was nice and quiet which gave Danny and I a chance to talk. We discussed how our idea of religion and spirituality have changed over the last year. We spent two hours walking around and wished we had a bit more time.
Back at the hotel we took some time to chill. Around 4:30 pm we took a cab to the Bund, the Shanghai waterfront. There was a wonderful view of the skyline.
We walked up the street to a restaurant a lady at the acrobatic show had suggested. It ended up being a bit more pricey than we were expecting. We had a tea leaf salad, beans and chicken. The first two dishes were delicious. The chicken had Sichuan pepper which left a weird tingling in our mouths.
After supper, we went back out to the waterfront to look at the skyline at night. All the skyscrapers were lit up, some with flashing lights.
We walked along then turned to walk up Nanjing pedestrian street. I found a really nice purse for $20 CAD and Danny bought some dress shoes for $20 CAD. We ended our evening with a McFlurry before catching a cab back to our hotel.
Day 198: September 26, 2018
We had breakfast in the hotel then went to a market suggested by our guide. It was a clothing market with major discounts. Danny found a nice pair of dress pants for $20 CAD, but I couldn’t really find anything I liked. We were followed around by guys trying to get us to go to their store. “This Chinese market. I show you American market.” The guys got really annoying because they would not leave us alone.
We looked for nice shoes for me, but none of the sizes were large enough. We took the metro back to our neighbourhood and went back to the sushi place we had been to the night before.
We had a workout then chilled in our room. We watched the news for a bit and they talked about a Chinese hot pot (Asian fondue) restaurant that expanded to Hong Kong. I GoogleMapped it and found one only a 30 minute walk away.
The restaurant was a pretty fancy hot pot. We were given aprons and a wipe to clean my glasses at the end. We had beef broth and a spicy broth. Who knew Chinese food was so spicy?!
When it came time to pay we tried to use credit card, but they couldn’t take it (credit cards are not common in China). We were short 18 RMB in cash. We tried to tell the waitress we would go to an ATM, but she couldn’t understand. She went into our bill and ended up giving us a discount. We felt so bad, but she brought the English speaking waiter over to explain it to us. She seemed so happy to do it that we couldn’t say no.
We left and found an ATM to make sure we weren’t in that situation again. Up the street there was supposed to be a Dairy Queen, but it was up on the 6th floor so it took us awhile to find. We ordered blizzards, but their flavours weren’t quite as good.
We returned to the hotel and went to bed knowing we would have to be up early to catch our train back to Beijing
Day 199: September 27, 2018
We were up at 5:30 am and down in the lobby for 6:00 am. We had to wait for a bit for the hotel to put together some breakfast packs for us.
We took a taxi to the nearby train station because my stomach was feeling a bit iffy. We found our train fairly quickly. The ride took 4.5 hours and I slept for two hours of it. We chatted with an American couple about our travels. They were looking for some tips on Beijing as they only had a short amount of time there.
When we arrived at the station in Beijing we found a place to have lunch then caught a taxi to our hotel. We chilled in the hotel then went up the street to an Italian restaurant for pizza. It was really good.
We spent some time researching Southeast Asia and I FaceTimed Tara before bed.
Day 200: September 28, 2018
We had breakfast in the hotel and then I called my parents for a chat. We walked up the street after to a shopping centre. I needed to find some shoes for the next part of our trip. My feet are apparently huge here. There were size 9 shoes which normally fit, but they were a bit tight. I finally found a fairly nice pair for $20 CAD that were only a smidge tight.
We walked further up the street and there were more shopping centres. We both started to feel a bit overwhelmed so we returned to the hotel. We did some more planning then at 3:00 pm we headed back up the street to the tour office for our trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea.
At 4:00 pm we were given a briefing with the other people going on the tour. There were two Mass Games weekend trips and two China National Day five day trips. This amounted to way more people going than I had expected.
Our briefing consisted of warnings to not bring religious material to distribute, not take photos of the military, not go outside the hotel grounds without a Korean guide, not be disrespectful to their leaders, etc. I left the briefing feeling a bit more at ease. We were worried about bringing anything in. I took most apps off my phone and deleted all previous pictures, but it seemed it was not required.
We left the office and walked up the street to a German restaurant. It was fairly good, but drinks were really expensive. The rain started really coming down while we ate so we sat for a bit. When the rain let up we returned to the hotel and packed our bags for the DPRK. Danny loved taking pictures of all the random little cars on our walks.
China has been a very good experience for us. We had no real desire to explore China very much, but now I feel like we should have spent a bit more time out in the countryside. When we only visit the cities I feel we are missing out on the soul of the country. At least we were able to get a taste of China.
Next we fly to the DPRK for a different experience than any of our other trips. We are looking forward to seeing the world from another perspective since that is why we travel.