Ohh, where to begin?
Huge nerd that I am, I spent some time before our trip reading up on each city and researching places to see that weren’t covered on our itinerary or optional excursions, as well as places to eat for the times when we would be on our own. I’m not going to lie, I was definitely more excited about Shanghai than the other two cities. But as we saw each city, I realized what they each had to offer.
Our Friendly Planet Travel national tour guide, Frank, summarized Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing perfectly: Shanghai represents China’s future, Xi’an represents China’s past, and Beijing represents China now. Once I realized that, it was easier to to enjoy each city in perspective.
Our China adventure began with a midnight flight on the 17th from LA to Beijing, where we cleared customs, met our national tour guide, and then boarded another flight to Shanghai. There was a lot of flying on this trip — first our flight to LA, then the flight from LA to Beijing, then all the flights within China, and finally the flights from Beijing to LA, and LA to Atlanta. I’m all fly-ed out now!
Anyway, once we’d all landed in Shanghai, our group (about 40 of us) collected our luggage and then we all boarded our bus that would take us around Shanghai the next couple days. After stopping for lunch, we were off to see the Yuyuan Gardens, where I went crazy taking pictures (thus setting off a trend for the whole trip).
Just a few of the bazillions I took:
Walking through the market outside Yuyuan Gardens:
That’s just the first day!
The next day, we decided to join an optional excursion to Suzhou, which has been described as the “Venice of the East,” because of its many canals. Suzhou is also known for its beautiful gardens and is considered the silk center of China.
We started off at one of the city walls, then headed to a silk factory to learn about how silk is made.
Some hungry kittens outside the silk factory. So cute!
After lunch, we took a boat ride along the canals, saw some more gardens, walked through a market, and then ended with rickshaw rides through the streets of Suzhou.
Once we returned to our hotel that evening, we were tired, but there was one thing nearby I really wanted to see. Our hotel was located on the Bund, which is an embankment along the Huangpu River that housed many European banks and other foreign institutions during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Across the river from the Bund is the Pudong district, which is fast becoming the face of modern China, with high-rises and and futuristic buildings. I had read about a really neat sounding sightseeing tunnel that ran beneath the river — you ride these little trains through the tunnel and there’s this sound and light show going on the whole time. I convinced Mr. Spice and a couple of girls in our group that we had to see it. I think the words “psychedelic” and “neon” were the magic words!
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, all lit up at night.
This was cheesy but fun! If I get hold of the video that was taken during the ride I’ll see if I can post it, you have to hear our reactions!
Our final day in Shanghai was full of sightseeing. We opted to join in on the sightseeing tour instead of exploring by ourselves because many of the places I wanted to see were included in this optional tour and this way our transportation was taken care of.
We started off at the Jade Buddha Temple. I loved that there were temples scattered throughout the city, right next to high-rises and busy streets. It turned out to be pretty busy that day since it was some kind of religious day, so I felt bad trying to get pics while people were trying to pray.
The highlight of this temple are the two jade Buddhas that are each carved from a single piece of white jade. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but there was a replica of the bigger one that was okay for taking pictures.
Next was the Shanghai Museum. Not so many pics here, since the lighting was low and flash wasn’t allowed. We hit up the jade and ethnic minority costume exhibits.
After lunch, we headed to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, which is one of the tallest towers in the world! There are observation levels throughout the tower, but unfortunately for us, the day we went was really hazy and we didn’t get good views of the city. The highlight of this tour for me was the glass floor on one of the observation levels.
View across the river, overlooking the Bund. You can kinda see our hotel to the right of the arch of the bridge.
Our last stop of the day was the French Concession area, which was basically a French settlement in the middle of Shanghai for about a hundred years, ending after World War II. It makes for an interesting contrast of European and Chinese culture. If we had more time to spend in Shanghai, I probably would have spent an afternoon people-watching in one of the cafes. Next time (hopefully!).
On the way back to the hotel, we got to witness one of the busiest pedestrian crosswalks in Shanghai!
That night most of us decided to attend the Shanghai Acrobat show. They didn’t allow photos inside, but let me tell you I am amazed and impressed what they can do with their bodies! If they ever come tour in the U.S., I would go again.
Let me close off the Shanghai sights part of the re-cap with a little fun we had at dinner. This statue cracked everyone up!
But I think the re-enactment was just as funny!
Stay tuned for the Shanghai eats re-cap! I took over 1300 pictures during the trip, so it’ll take some time to get all the posts up! 🙂