Sunday, January 31, 2010

China Trip #5

Dateline Beijing/Shanghai: January 10, 2010
We left the hotel about 8:00 AM. As usual, street vendors were trying to sell us that last minute souvenir like a Chinese hat. As the bus pulled out, I saw outdoor ping pong tables down a side street, with a couple games in progress in spite of the 10°F temperatures. Because it was a Saturday and traffic was lighter, the trip to the airport went quickly. Airport check-in was much like that of any American airport but the security check seemed a bit more intense. For example, my glasses prompted a scan with a hand wand, something that did not happen in the U.S. Students had their small bottles of hand sanitizer confiscated.
The flight on China Eastern was much like a domestic flight in the U.S. Full plane. Flight attendants were all very young. Announcements were recorded in both Chinese and English rather than live. No safety announcement about airbags or floatation like is required on U.S. flights. The meal was totally Chinese food. It was a little bumpy because of weather - when we arrived in Shanghai it was raining and about 45°F.
After a bus ride on busy streets in which our guide told us how Shanghai was far more western than Beijing, we checked into the hotel. Again, our passports were collected. This is a very nice hotel with an atmosphere much like you'd experience anywhere in the U.S. After a short opportunity to catch our breath and get situated, we left on the bus to visit the Jade Buddha Temple. Raining lightly and chilly. We entered the courtyard to the smell of inscence and people praying. We toured the gardens and various rooms with statues of various buddhas and saw the two famous white jade Burmese Buddha statues.
The smell of incense filled the temple. A number of the faithful were there praying, observing, and getting in touch with their faith.
The gardens and courtyards of the temple were beautiful. We were allowed everywhere and photos were permitted in all areas except for the temple room itself.
The famous reclining Buddha.
Leaving the temple and throughout Shanghai there was lots of construction. The scaffolding is bamboo, something we often saw in Shanghai and in Hong Kong.
Shanghai city lights from the window of our hotel room.
Returning to the hotel we enjoyed a rather formal Chinese dinner on the 9th floor with the whole group. From my western pallette, likely being served a menu designed for Americans, it seems we are getting similar dishes at the restaurants. But, there is an incredible variety of tastes, textures, and styles. Will I ever master chop sticks?