Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 60 - Shanghai and Zhujaijaio

Water Town of Zhujaijaio
Today has been a really good day!

We had to get up early this morning to join an 8am tour.  This one was called "Ancient Water Town of Zhujaijaio," and was one of the best tours we have been on.  The guide was really good.  He talked about the Shanghai area for the first half of the 1.5 hour drive out of Shanghai, then let us enjoy the countryside once we were out of the city.  During our walking tour of the town he stopped to explain the town's history and the merchandise in the shops.  He also made sure no one got left behind in the winding streets and gave us hits on where to meet him if we did get lost.  (No one did.)

Only Covered Bridge in Zhujaijaio

Largest Bridge in Zhujaijaio
The town is built around man-made canals.  Our guide explained that, just like we build railroads and highways today, for this culture, water travel was important.  They dug out these canals to tie them to the rivers and built their homes and  shops along the canals.  It looks like a small, Chinese version of Venice.  There are only a few towns like this left and the Chinese government is encouraging the people to preserve this town as a tourist attraction.   They may have modern conveniences inside, but have to get permission for any external changes. 

We walked past all the shops where vendors sold food, household goods, crafts, and tourist souvenirs.  Our guide took us into a Chinese Traditional Medicine Museum and explained how the Chinese doctors would diagnose ailments and prepare herbal medicines, and how the patient would use the medicines at home.  He said that every Chinese city still has a place to get traditional medicine. 

We also visited the ancient post office.  Originally, this was only used by nobility, but now it is a full post office for the local residents.  This also had a museum upstairs and he explained how the postal system worked in ancient times when few people could read or write.  They would dictate their message to a person at the post office and the message would be read to the recipient by someone working at the receiving post office.

Chinese Canal Boat

"Gondolier" steering our boat
After walking around town for about an hour, we had a half hour on our own for shopping.  Despite the language difference, bargaining with the vendors is not a problem.  Each one has a calculator.  You pick something and they enter the price into the calculator and show it to you.  You can then take the calculator and enter a lower price.  They will then counter with another number.  In this way you can almost always get the price down.  I bought a lovely little wooden fruit basket that is cleverly designed to fold flat, making it easy to pack in my suitcase.

The last event in our tour of the town was a boat ride on the canals.  The boats are something like the gondolas in Venice, but wider so that passengers sit on benches facing each other.  The boats are also easier to get in and out of.  They are steered from the back with a long paddle, just like to gondolas are.  No singing though.

We were surprised at how much the outskirts of Shanghai has been built up.  Factories and high-rise condos have been built far out of the city and many more are under construction.  Our guide said that many people are coming into Shanghai from the provinces, and it is obvious why.  The work is here.

Pearl TV Tower at night

Both last night and tonight the upstairs restaurant opened early with a Mediterranean buffet because there were evening tours to see Chinese Acrobats perform.  We had tickets for tonight's show.  It was a little over a half hour bus ride into the city to get to the show.  Our guide led us to really great center seats.  The show was simply fantastic - sort of like a Cirque de Soleil.   Our guide said that the troupe we saw are the best in China and are celebrities here. It it very hard to explain what we saw in just a few words, but these are very talented acrobats.  In addition to the physical feats, the finale was a show of motorbikes zooming around inside a globe.  They started with one and added another every few minutes until there were 7 bikes all running inside the globe.   It was crazy good!  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.

Shanghai Night Skyline

To top off a wonderful day, it was a clear night.  When we got back to the ship we headed up to the 12th deck to take photos of the Shanghai skyline Our ship is docked across the river from the main city so we have a great view.   We made it just in time too.  At 10pm chimes rang from somewhere and all the lights began to go off.  We have been very lucky!

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