Monday, September 3, 2012

...many happy returns...

Friday, May 11, 2012

From our friends' apartment, we walked to the subway, our suitcases bouncing behind us.  We transferred once and arrived at the Maglev station, where the fastest of the fast trains spirited us to Pudong International Airport in 8 and a half minutes flat.  Its speed topped 300 km/hr for a brief moment before it had to start slowing down.  I should mention that taking this train saved us 45 minutes on a rush hour subway.  [*just a note to anyone traveling to Shanghai via air-- there are 2 airports, so be sure you know which one you are flying in/out of] 


What will this plot of ground look like if/when we get back to Shanghai?

2 minutes later--an increase of 297 km/h

Pudong International Airport

Hope the brakes work!

They did.

The Shanghai to Detroit flight was just as smooth as the one two months prior and we glided into the morning just as it dawned above the Canadian Rockies.  We gathered our luggage in Detroit, were welcomed by the border patrol, and breathed deeply of Michigan sunshine & blue skies before boarding the flight to Lexington. 

... Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This was our last full day in China and we looked forward to spending it peacefully, in the late spring warmth, surrounded by the most greenery we'd seen in our entire stay.  Guidebooks and local residents advised that the gardens of Suzhou were well worth the fast train ride from Shanghai to Suzhou.  (65 miles due west)  Suzhou is currently a rather industrial city and we arrived into what appeared to be an endless construction zone.  Eventually, we finally found a pleasant taxi driver who drove us to the Humble Administrator's Garden.  Apparently we could tour gardens for a week if we were so inclined, but this one had the highest ratings, and we did not have a week. 

UNESCO's website offers this summary:
Classical Gardens of Suzhou
Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens in the historic city of Suzhou. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.

We spent 4 hours following the garden paths, pausing in the pavilions, and talking about how much we had enjoyed our Chinese experience. 


Stone walkways joined pavilions

Each window had unique latice designs carved in stone.

The stone patios were as detailed as the buildings.

The bonsai garden contained dozens of specimens.




...on to Shanghai...

We arrived in Shanghai on Monday evening, May 7th, for our last few days in China.  Some American friends of ours who are working in Shanghai had invited us to stay at their apartment, which we greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  True to all the reports we'd heard, Shanghai is a very large, very fast-paced, very modern city.  It is located on the coast and is considered the commerce center of China. 

We visited the Oriental Pearl Tower, walked along the Bund, and shopped near an iconic tea house.  As with the other Chinese cities, transportation was efficient; even though the prices were a bit higher for subway fares compared to Xi'an and Beijing, they were still reasonable.

We walked by this fruit market every day we were in Shanghai.
The Soup Dumplings (far left with straws) are popular in Shanghai.
This park near the Bund appears to be a popular gathering place for the local residents.  

Tea house near Yu Gardens.

On the Bund.  The border patrol station is next to the flag and in the background is the Oriental Pearl Tower.

This French bakery is right near the subway station at the center of town.  Shanghai's French colonial history is evident in many design  & dining aspects.

Stella was still traveling with us!  The dragon topiary in the background is much larger than it appears.

The Oriental Pearl TV & Radio Tower was built 1990-1994.  It is one of Asia's highest buildings.  It is 1,535 feet high.  (Chicago's Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, is 1,451 feet high.)

We had afternoon tea in the revolving restaurant (Asia's highest restaurant) near the top of the tower.

The observation platform is some sort of plexiglass, I think!  The barges chugging by on the river below look like Legos.  This platform is near the top of the building, but not at the very highest point.

Walking on air?

At the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower is the Shanghai Museum.  This museum is one of the nicest we visited.  The wax figures and detailed displays describe Shanghai's colorful culture and history.  This scene highlights cricket fighting, a popular sport enjoyed by all ages.

Pepe, too, enjoyed the view!  This diorama modeled the historical setting of the buildings we passed during our walks along the Bund.

... Tianjin, China ...

After a full week in Beijing, we took the fast train to Tianjin, a city 2 hours (90 miles) southeast of Beijing.  Tianjin is much smaller than Beijing with a population of 5 - 6 million residents.  Although it is certainly not in the "quaint little village" category, we found Tianjin to have a more laid back feel than the capital city.  It is quite modern and the architecture has several fingerprints remaining from the area's colonial history. 

Here is a great video that a Chinese traveler posted:

Youtube video: Fast train from Beijing to Tianjin

We had the unique opportunity to converse with some English students at a university one morning.  The students showed a great interest in learning how to improve their skills.


An antique collector has decorated the outside of his building with a mosaic crafted from ancient pottery pieces.  Tianjin, like the other cities we visited, has its own "flavor".
And...speaking of flavor, the cuisine was, again, outstanding!  Some local friends took us to dinner on our last night in the city.  The variety and presentation was amazing.
We also ate what I'll call  "breakfast burritos"-a Tianjin specialty available from street vendors.

...leaving Tianjin...destination: Shanghai!