Shanghai – “upon the sea”
A two day trip to Shanghai, China’s global financial center and a transport hub with world’s busiest container port. Shanghai sits on the south edge of the mouth of Yangtze River. The city’s name is derived from Shang meaning “above” and hai meaning “sea”, together meaning “Upon the Sea”.
We boarded our flight to Shanghai from Wuhan airport. We stayed at Hotel Ramada Shanghai.
Speaking Mandarin is as much difficult to us as its for Chinese to understand English. We had a local English speaking guide, Ben to guide us through our itinerary. Before starting the trip, he gave us few perspectives of the city, culture and China in general from a local’s point of view. A must listen witty, humorous and interesting Audio clip from the guide.
JADE BUDDHA TEMPLE : Jade Buddha Temple is a Buddhist temple in Shanghai founded in 1882 with two Buddha statues (a sitting Buddha and a small reclining Buddha representing Buddha’s death) imported to Shanghai from Burma by sea. The temple is also known as Jade Buddha Chan temple and it draws both Pure Land and Chan traditions of Mahayana Buddhism.
Inside the temple, the great hall has many statues including three golden Buddhas. Left one is Amitabha Buddha, Center is Sakhya Muni Buddha and Right one is Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. It is said that Sakhya Muni takes care of the sufferings of the present world. Bhaisajyaguru also known as God of Medicine takes care of mental and physical health. He is seen holding medicines in his hand. Amitabha Buddha is the god of paradise. It is said that if you chant his name “Namo Amitabha” you will attain paradise after death.
Further ahead there were beautiful original carvings each depicting stories in Chinese mythology. I like the way our guide narrated the stories specially the popular tale Journey to the west, giving references and similarities to the culture which the group belonged to.
The temple also has a larger reclining Buddha made of marble donated by Singapore. Tourists may mistake this for original Jade Buddha. The sitting Buddha and the original small reclining Buddha is in the inner chamber of the temple where photography is prohibited. Hence I could only capture those in my memories!
We also had tea tasting session on top level of Jade Buddha temple. They listed out so many varieties of tea that even I was puzzled which one to have. It looked like they almost could cure every disease in the universe through these varieties. They had a sheet printed on which tea is good for diabetes, liver, skin and so on.
JIN MAO TOWER : Jin Mao Building, also known as the golden prosperity building is an 88 story skyscraper and third tallest building in Shanghai. The best and breathtaking views of Shanghai’s skyline can be captured from its observation desk (at 88th floor). Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower also can be seen from here.
PEARL FACTORY : I was more interested in the process of making pearls than buying it. Pearls are born from oysters. It starts when an irritant enters the body of an oyster and causes discomfort to its host. Unable to expel out the intruder, the oyster engages a defense mechanism and starts secreting a smooth, hard crystalline calcium carbonate based substance called nacre surrounding the irritant in order to protect itself. This irritant forms the nucleus of the pearl. As long the intruder remains in its body, the oyster secrets nacre layer after layer. After few years, the intruder will be encased in a smooth lustrous cocoon of nacre forming pearl. But in present days all the pearls available in market are “cultured pearls”, where the skilled technicians place a small round of shell into an oyster body to cause the irritant and stimulate the pearl formation.
SHANGHAI MUSEUM: We then went to Shanghai museum of ancient Chinese art located at People’s Square. It had varied collection of pieces of calligraphy, jade, ceramics, bronze,ancient coin collection from the Silk Road and so on. The place was dimly lit.
MAGLEV TRAIN: The best highlight of my Shanghai trip was a train ride. This sure was not an ordinary train ride. Shanghai Maglev Train is the world’s first commercially high speed magnetically levitated train. It was implemented in 2004. The line runs between Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and the Longyang Lu metro station. It takes less than 8 minutes to complete 30 km journey. Coming to Shanghai and missing this ride is the worst nightmare I could ever have. I still remember when this concept of magnetically levitated trains was introduced, I had given a presentation during my college days and today was the day when theories were going to be implemented practically! The train runs at 431 km/ hr. I recorded a clip during the journey to capture the 431 km/hr speed. A thrill ride not to be missed ! They also have a museum to explain the concept and working of magnetic levitation.
ACROBATIC SHOW : The show was at Shanghai White Magnolia Theatre. Though it cannot be compared to Cirque Du Soleil, this show has few moments of surprises and thrills. Few of the best performances included plate spinning, juggling hats and bicycle acrobats.
THE BUND : The Bund,also called Wai Tan is the symbol of old and new Shanghai. Its a beautiful stretch of 4 km waterfront boulevard spread on the banks of River Huangpu. The Bund is one place stop where you can notice modern tall skyscraper buildings like Jin Mao Tower and Oriental Pearl Tower on the newer Shanghai side, whereas on the older Shanghai you have buildings of different Gothic and ancient Chinese architectural styles. The Bund is regarded as “The Museum of International Architecture”. The word ‘Bund’ derives from an Anglo-Indian word for an embankment along a muddy waterfront and that is what the Bund was originally.
The entire view was so amazing that we decided to see the place during night time too. We also visited XinTiandi, a shopping, eating and entertainment district in Shanghai with an active nightlife. The place has a good cultural fusion with classical Victorian buildings and Old Chinese Architecture. You get a feel of historic days when you walk across the cobbled streets of the shikumen lane.
CITY LIFE : We went to Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. Owners were shouting at top of their voices with the customers to settle down at their agreed price. I entered a shop with amazing handbags and asked for the price. A piece of advice is you never buy the product for the price written on it. Bargain to your best in China. The lady offered the bag for 200 RMB which I slashed it to 50 RMB. The sheer look of horror in her face was enough to drain the blood of my face. The best part was what came after that. She shouted and yelled at me at top of her voice stating “Joking Price! Joking Price”. I couldn’t control my laugh on her statement of joking price. Soon we settled for 70 RMB and I walked out of the shop happily with the joking price I paid for the handbag. But the happiness didn’t last long. I discovered the same bag for 40 RMB outside the street. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? It was indeed a joking price!
An interesting thing I noticed outside a shop soon after my lunch. Have you ever thought of drinking a snake wine? or eating skin of vipers or braised viper? Check this out! I took few snaps of the restaurant’s menu. This snap itself was a confirmation for me that I entered China!
My trip to Shanghai ended here. Maglev ride and Bund were the highlights of the trip and of course the joking price !
Copyright ©2014, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.