The road to Shanghai began on the overnight train. Believe me it sounds much more glamorous than it really was. Am I glad to have had the experience, I suppose so because it makes for a great story. Would I ever do it again? Absolutely not, and I would not recommend it to anyone unless you travel via back pack camping and enjoy staying in hostiles. Thankfully there was four of us and we had a room to ourselves otherwise you could be paired with anyone. This poor young couple was not allow to come into the room they paid for because the woman with her child and mom were very rude. We purchased food that we could recognize at the train station and had some protein bars, vodka, wine and some hard core Chinese liquor I bought that helped us get through the ride. A food cart did come by once and I have no idea what was on it but the smells were intense. The room was a bunk bed/chair situation with very thin cushion. Let's put it this way I got about 30 minutes of sleep between the train vibration, hard as a rock bed that I was to tall for, and the noise of trains passing by. I seriously felt like I got run over by the train when we arrived in Shanghai that next morning. Fly or take the bullet train if you plan to go from Xi'an to Shanghai.
Shanghai is definitely the most modern and European city in China and the most populous city in the world with over 24 million people. It's a global financial center and has the worlds busiest container port in the world. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade after the British victory over China in the First Opium War and the subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nanking and the 1844 Treaty of Whampoa. This allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession. I promise to not go into these. Skipping ahead in the 1990's economic reforms resulted in an intense re-development of the city with the return of international trade and finance. I wish I would have recorded the video in the base of the Shanghai World Financial Center building (it's the one that looks like a bottle opener) that showed a sped up video timeline of the cities growth since the 1990's. We did go to the 100th floor observation area that you will see later.
We went to the Jade Buddha Temple that was founded in 1882 imported from Burma by sea. The temple was beautiful and I really loved all of the attention to detail. There are two Jade Buddha's one of which is reclining representing Buddha's death. This temple came about because a Huigen, a Buddhist monk went on a pilgrimage to Tibet and after leaving he headed to Burma. While there he met Chinese resident that resided in Burma that donated five Buddha statues. Huigen transported 2 of them back to Shanghai and had a temple build with donated funds. The statues were moved into the current temple that was completed in 1928. This temple is also the home of the Shanghai Institute of Buddhism. You were not allowed to take pictures of the Jade Buddha but below are some photos of other parts of the grounds.
Yu Garden is a 5 acre area built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan as a comfort for his father. The garden has been damaged over the years during. The First opium War in `1842 and in 1942 by the Japanese. In 1961 it was opened to the public after being restored and declared a national monument in 1982. It is divided into six areas and laid out in Suzhou style. The attention to detail was pretty spectacular and you can see just a handful of pictures below.
One of the things I highly recommend is taking the sunset boat cruise on the Huangpu River. It gives you the opportunity to see both sides of Shanghai, the modern verses the old, at night and the building lights are awesome. Pay the extra $10 or whatever it was to have the VIP experience so you are not crammed in with everyone else.
The Bund is the collection of early 20th-century buildings and structures of various architectural styles. You see styles from neoclassical to Art Deco. Shanghai has one of the worlds largest number of Art Deco buildings due to the construction boom during the 1920's and 1930's. I wish I could have taken a picture during the day time from the river so you could see them all. I was initially and architecture major in college so I get excited about stuff like this. We had lunch in The House of Roosevelt building at the Roosevelt Sky Restaurant and took in the sites of the modern side of Shanghai across the river. This building gets its name because it was acquired in 2008 and was restored by and investment firm who's decedents were from two famous American Presidents- Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Has anyone seen the movie Hitch with Will Smith? There's a scene when Sara, played by Eva Mendes, knees Vance in the family jewels and it looks like his head is sticking out of the bulls butt. I felt the need to replicate the scene without the getting kneed part. The Bund Bull was designed by the same designer of the Wall Street Charging Bull in the the US.
Being a fashion guy I loved the Shanghai street fashion and snuck a few pictures to share of my walk down The Bund.
We heard about the observation floor in the Shanghai World Financial Center building so we had to go check it out so we could see a view of the city from above. The building is 1,614 feet tall and it the 3rd tallest in China and tenth in the world. After paying the $10 admission fee you get sent up to the 100th floor in a hurry.
The last night in Shanghai we had VIP tickets to see the famous Shanghai Circus and it was spectacular. We were literally front row in the center much to our surprise. This in my opinion is where Cirque de sole got its inspiration. The skill of these performers was unreal and the few pictures that I am sharing below don't really do it justice. The motorcycle finally in the sphere was crazy, ridiculous, and so dangerous. I have seen it in the states when they get between 2-4 motorcycles in the sphere going in different directions. They had 8 motorcycles going toward the end of the performance and let me tell you it was amazing and stressful and I was king of glad that it ended so I could relax.