By Coleman Monroe and Christmas Myers
The day after we returned from Dunhuang was a free day, and many of us used it to explore the city of Shanghai. This photograph was taken at Yu Garden, in the City God Temple area. The Yu Garden is a breathtaking oasis within the city that is filled with koi ponds, jade rock formations, and pagodas. The garden was constructed in the Ming Dynasty by a wealthy minister and had an important role in the history of Shanghai. The garden played many roles throughout its history: merchant guild, British headquarters during the Opium War, and a meeting place for the leaders of the Taiping rebellion. However, we could never truly forget about the big city around us, as the tallest building in Asia protrudes into the skyline.
Today we took our final group field trip to the world famous Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower. Standing at 1,535 feet, gazing at the tower from below is astounding. It is no wonder the tower has become the landmark symbol of Shanghai. Our tour guide took us to two observation decks. The first one was an enclosed orbital viewing deck that provided 360 degrees of breathtaking views of Shanghai. It was shocking to see the sea of buildings that seemed to stretch as far as an ocean’s horizon, which poignantly depicted Shanghai’s rapid urban development. The second observation deck consisted of a glass floor, which gave the impression of walking on air. For those of us who are afraid of heights it was a chilling reminder of just how high up we really were. Since we had a considerable amount of time on each observation deck, some of us indulged in snacks while absorbing the glorious views surrounding us.
After taking in the views from the top of the tower we went to the very bottom in order to visit the Shanghai History Museum, the subject of our next assignment. The Museum’s exhibit depicted Shanghai starting from the opening of the port in 1843 to the communist takeover in 1949. As we were walking through the exhibit it became evident that this museum was meticulously arranged in order to portray Shanghai as a wealthy, capitalist, and prosperous city. It was kind of disappointing to not see the economically deprived side of Shanghai in the museum, as that is also a major part of their history.
Today was the first day of our three-day weekend so a group of us decided to check out some of the counterfeit goods markets that Shanghai is famous for. We ended up exploring three different counterfeit goods markets. All of them were accessible via the subway; and a couple didn’t even require going above ground. The main counterfeit goods market, referred to as the “Pudong” market, is located underneath the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. It is incredibly expansive. There are multiple tales from different groups venturing out and getting lost. For what it had in size, it lacked in variety. Many shops sold the same merchandise, typically knock-off headphones, speakers, and other electronics, “designer” bags and purses, clothing, both name brand and not, and traditional Chinese souvenirs. Another market, called “Taobao,” is located about 10 min (walking distance) from the West Nanjing Road subway stop. Taobao is a four-story building, though there is a similar selection on every floor and the merchandise is identical to that sold in “Pudong.” Interestingly, the 4th floor has a cafeteria. Poor ventilation means a steamy, cough-inducing mist, though this was made up for by the surprisingly tasty food selection. The third market, located underground at the East Nanjing Road subway stop (and aptly named), is possibly more extensive than “Pudong,” with a focus on women’s apparel.
Over the three-day weekend some of us decided to take a day trip to Suzhou, a major city in the southeast of Jiangsu province in eastern China. When we arrived the first thing we did was to stop in a dumpling shop to settle our grumbling stomach. Afterwards we ended up walking along the main streets, which had a lot of shops selling a wide range of products from shoes to tea. We finally ended up at a park called the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Although the weather was extremely humid it was easy to ignore thanks to the beautiful lush surroundings. We spent most of the day walking around exploring and visiting little cafes. We even stopped at a Japanese café where they had cats running freely. Of course some of us had to get our animal fix and play with the cats. By the end of the day we were all exhausted and really looked forward to going back to our rooms in Shanghai to unwind after an adventurous day.
At night, a group of us decided to go out to try some authentic Shanghai street food. Hundreds of tables and chairs line the side of the street as patrons try to attract pedestrians into their hole-in-the-wall establishments. We decided to take a seat at a well-populated seafood stand that is known for their crawfish. The waiters brought us out buckets of the crustaceans and plastic gloves so we could eat with our hands. 很好吃!