Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Other Side - Day 6

As I mentioned in the previous posts of this series, I am writing a mini-series on my trip to China. Each day was so jam-packed with activities that I decided it would be best for readers as well as myself to split the days up into posts for better digestion of information.

On our last episode, we travelled to Hangzhou, the chosen location for the 2016 G20. There we saw the beautiful Tai Lake, a buddhist temple, and the most excellent highway rest stop ever.

The sixth (and penultimate) day of our trip began with a beautiful boat ride around the West Lake. We saw all sorts of things like these interesting rowers along the water. The morning was gloomy and cloudy, but we were able to enjoy the boat ride without much rain.

A failed attempt at getting a wide depth of field. The images one the 1RMB bill are of these statues in the water! See below:

Eric told us that the West Lake is very famous for a theatrical show performed right on the water, for guests at the lakeside restaurant. We were not able to see the show at that time though, because it was being updated and revised for the G20. But here's a photo of what it looks like:

As we finished our ride, we saw so many small boats leaving the shore toward the center of the lake, all at the same time. It was really cool to see. Check out a video I took:

After the boat ride, we were off and away from Hangzhou, riding the bus toward Shanghai. But before we were to hit the hustle and bustle of the Shanghai city life, we made a pit stop at an extremely starkly contrasting place. We were going to a tea plantation. As the bus loomed around corners on a valley road, we could see the patterns of lines of tea plants on both sides of the bus. The hills seemed to vibrate around us, dotted with the odd tea leaf harvester wearing a thatched cone hat to keep the rain off their heads.

The tea plantation we visited was a beautiful structure (like all the other places we had seen so far on the trip) and we received a lesson in how to prepare and drink tea from the leaves that were harvested there.

On our way to Shanghai, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant with lots of interesting aquariums. My favourite by far was the tank filled with turtles...but I had to wonder if these were pets that remained in the tanks or if they were a pick-and-eat delicacy of some kind. I didn't bother to ask.

I also enjoyed that (as Eric warned us) the bathroom signs were delightfully ambiguous. Men were denoted by the picture of a pipe, and women by a shoe. Luckily, there were no embarrassing mixups.

We arrived in Shanghai around 4:00pm, with a sliver of sunlight peeking behind the clouds. Overcast days make for good photos anyway. We walked along the Bund, which is a sort of boardwalk along the river that cuts through the city like a knife. From our side of the river, we could see all of the iconic buildings of the Shanghai skyline. Lots of nice landscape pictures here.

Just as we were walking back toward the bus, a torrential downpour began. The clouds had certainly been hinting at this all day, and it was finally coming down. We hoped that it would subside as we ate a nondescript dinner, but it only got worse. Eric made a difficult decision to cancel the boat ride along the river because the winds were just too strong. We were pretty disappointed by this, as it was meant to be the highlight of the trip. The view on the Bund during the day is nothing like seeing it lit up at night. But there was nothing we could do except go to our hotel.

This was the entrance to the boat ride - where Eric checked to see that it was cancelled.

Some weird blurry pictures I took from inside the bus.

Things picked up a little at this point because the hotel in Shanghai was extremely opulent. I don't think I had ever stayed in a hotel this nice, perhaps apart from the hotel in Suzhou. As we waited for Eric to assign everyone their rooms, I scrawled down a few copies of instructions to make the tea we had purchased at the tea plantation. What would be better than gifts of tea imported right from the source in China?
The staircase was particularly beautiful.

Once we settled into our hotel room, my mother suggested we walk around the area a bit and see what there is to see. It wasn't too late at night since the boat ride had been cancelled, and (of course) the rain had stopped by this point. The area around our hotel was a bit curious. It's obviously a financial district, as many of the hotel's patrons are wealthy businessmen, so we probably looked a bit dumb walking around with our necks craned to see the tops of the skyscrapers from the ground.

Okay I don't know what was going on behind this door, but you can see I took the picture hurriedly because I think it was some kind of illegal gambling!

We tried to walk all the way to the Pearl Tower, but it was just too far. Here you can see it was mocking us from behind a building!

This last one that looks like a bottle opener was probably my favourite building. It's the Shanghai World Financial Center, the 8th tallest building in the world and the fourth tallest structure in Mainland China. The original design featured a circular hole at the top, supposedly to reduce the stresses of wind pressure and to reference the Chinese mythological depiction of the sky as a circle. It also resembled a Chinese moon gate due to its circular form in Chinese architecture. However, this initial design began facing protests from some Chinese, including the mayor of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, who considered it too similar to the rising sun design of the Japanese flag.

After we were done with that, we got a snack from the hotel convenience store (weird potato chips for all!) and walked around the hotel to see more of its opulence. I shined my shoes on one of the complimentary shoe shine machines that sit on every floor of the hotel (Converse have never looked so shiny) and we wandered over to the bar. Some of the people on our trip had obviously beaten us there, and were well into what looked like the third round of drinks. Why didn't we think of that! (Just kidding).

We hung out there for a little while, but soon decided to go to bed because we had been warned that the next day would be quite full. After all, it would be our last day in China!

On our next and final episode of The Other Side, we'll get a lovely view of Shanghai from the top of the Jin Mao tower (sister tower to the Shanghai World Financial Tower), eat lunch in a floating restaurant, visit the extremely interesting and eccentric Xintiandi area, take a ride on the Mag Lev (the fastest ground-transportation in the world), and visit the fake market (where you buy all your lovely fake goods - made in China). We definitely went out with a bang. Until then!

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