Shanghai: Pheonix of the Orient - China Travel Story

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Shanghai: Pheonix of the Orient

Shanghai is such a city of contrasts! One day you can go out and marvel at the new city that is rising up around you. Buildings are being constructed of glass, steel and concrete but they seem to float above the horizon.

When I finally reached Peoples Square (Renmin Square) in the heart of Shanghai after a crushing ride on the speedy subway, I could only stand and look all around me at the magnificent and creative 'buildings' that were trying to outdo each other in beauty and grace.

I had just arrived four days earlier in the city that was to be my home for a year! I have been fortunate enough to fulfill a dream of seeing China and at the same time earning an income as a teacher at an English Business College. The adventure of finding the new Shanghai that has arisen since the explosion of the Cultural Revolution has just begun for me.

I spent 3 hours exploring the brand new Shanghai Museum and only covered 1/3 of it. There are jade artifacts that go back to the 51st century B.C. There is furniture from the Ming Dynasty that just begs to be touched and sat upon but of course the guards will not allow to do either. The buddas are funny, scary and mystical.

The mystery of Shanghai continues as you walk along the street passing happy people humming or singing, both young and old, as they go about their busy lives. That very evening you can witness, as I did, four policemen or licence inspectors swoop down on a street vendor and push, shove and loudly bully this very scared old man. When you hear the 'police' shouting "Shagwa!" (Stupid Man or Jerk), pushing the vendor back and forth among them and throwing his pots and pans on the back of their truck, you know that he is being made an example for the rest of the vendors! Don't mess with the uniforms, they are still very much in control!

The food in the local restaurants has been very tasty and the chop sticks work very well if I don't think about it! All the regulars just can't believe it when they see a 'lefty' using chop sticks. The students can't believe it when I write on the board (no, its not the writing, it's the left hand, Shagwa!).

The service is wonderful with your beer glass or your tea cup filled each time you sip from it. The prices make it almost less expensive to eat out (especially in a group) than to cook at home. Last night for 3 people with 5 dishes and beer it was 20 kuai (yuan) each - about $2.50 US.

Since arriving in Shanghai the temperature has not been below 2 yet and there are numerous green plants all around. We have had about 3 days with a soft gentle rain in the morning - much like Victoria, B.C. or Seattle.

The Residence and College where I teach are only three years old but they seem to be about 20 years old - the Assistant Director swears that the Chinese could not have built the Great Wall because it would have collapsed many centuries ago (and in fact it did!). The 'apartments' are converted offices with glass in each door except the hallway door. There is even a sliding glass panel between the sitting area (living room) and the inner office (bedroom). It is a little tricky to find the right combination to create a hot or even warm shower in the morning since each unit has its own propane hot water heater and stove elements which take some getting used to.

I walked down Cao Bao Lu (Road) for about 15 minutes to the Jade Factory where they cut, carve and polish all kinds of stones. The walk is interesting in itself to see apartment blocks going up 12 buildings at a time, one floor at a time with netting sticking out to catch falling bricks or concrete or men, I presume.

Then you pass over a bridge under which a stagnant 'river' sludges along and almost makes you pass out. Don't get me wrong, there are far more pleasant images of Shanghai than unpleasant. It is just that when you are lulled into the fantasy of the passing beauty of the 'new' city, you are jolted awake by a scene from the 'old' Shanghai.

One of the beauties was the Jade Factory with its Art showroom. Shining beauties in authentic jade, agate, turquiose and other semiprecious stones. I am so proud of myself because I was able to bargain down two pieces, one of green jade and the other of black jade, from 120 and 100 Kuai to 165 for the both of them. Actually I only got him down to 185 and then opened my wallet and showed him I only had 165. It seems like a lot when you are dealing in Yuans (Kuai) but in US $ 165 is only about $20. Not bad for two carved pieces of Jade!

I haven't even made it down to the Bund where 'all the action is'. Maybe that's where I'll go on Christmas morning since we have the day off and the rest of Shanghai does not!

Oh I did find St. Ignatius 'Cathedral' nestled in among the glass skyscrapers. It is some 400 years old and looks it! It had its twin spires pulled down by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution but they have since been replaced. I haven't been to a Service there yet but judging from the building it is going to be an adventure in itself!

Story Courtesy to Bmerchant

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