Our accommodations had made a steady decline in quality but we were doing fine. From indulgent cruise to Suzhou fancy hotel with lush breakfast to two basic rooms that smelled of cigarettes and no breakfast, to one basic room in Shanghai that smelled of cigarettes, had no breakfast, and housed a dodgy casino in the windowless lower floor room. I found the casino when using the unlit, damp, electric cord-strewn cement steps to get to the fifth floor. It felt like a speakeasy when I peeked inside. Through clouds of cigarette smoke, I could just make out the no smoking signs. It was awesome!
We barely made it on a dark, rainy Friday morning as we left our Suzhou hotel at 6am with four sleepy children. We had tickets for the 6:45 bullet train, which was only 4 km from our hotel and shouldn’t have been difficult to reach. The subways, however, did not open until 6:30 and taxis were uncooperative. They were few and far between, and the ones we saw were unavailable. Finally at around 6:30, we got one. All six of us plus luggage piled in and we got to the station… at 6:46. There are luggage X-rays at every station, even the subways, and the trains leave on time, so we knew we were out. Which possibly meant no place to stay that night! Luckily, there was another bullet train 25 minutes later, and they accepted our tickets. We bulleted to Shanghai at 300 km/hr. We tried to get on the subway but the sea of people slowed us down and we decided to take another mad cap taxi ride. We made it at 8:49 and met our host, and collapsed into the hotel room beds.
The great part was, we were there early and our train Sunday left late, so that gave us 3 days in Shanghai. Also, we knew where we were sleeping the next 4 nights!
We were in the southern part of the city. Our host had explained the bus that goes to the subway, which goes everywhere, so we gave it a try.
We walked around the French Concession area, met a friend of Mr Fantastic for an amazing vegetarian lunch, and walked around the Bund, a famous riverfront area with a walkway and views of the skyline. The Bund has the newer skyline area with the distinctive round viewing tower across the river, and also has older buildings from the early 20th century on the side we were on. We debated taking a light show “sightseeing tunnel” ride under the river but chose not to after seeing the crowds. The subway can also take you there, BTW, albeit without the light show, for a fraction of the price.
Everywhere we saw people we called ‘sprout heads’ wearing these little clips with small plastic plants sticking straight up. We had to partake in the fad! Not just girls, but boys and young men and women were seen sporting the sprout straight out the top of their heads!
As for our single room, after walking around the city, it felt like camping with all of us together. Fiercely read The Penderwicks to the twins, Cleverly wrote letters to friends, I wrote and Papa read quietly. It was a lovely, peaceful evening.
The next day, we went to a sculpture garden in the same area near the Bund.
Wherever we went, people wanted to take pictures with the kids, especially the twins!
We walked around Yuyuan, an area with pagoda-style buildings filled with shops, restaurants and craftspeople. It was possibly the most crowded place I have ever been in my life! Because of the holiday, it was crowded everywhere but it always felt safe, friendly, and upbeat.
I liked this vertical flower garden:
Our last day, we wanted to go somewhere close. The major attractions near our hotel are the Shanghai botanical gardens and Longhua temple, an active temple with a 1,000 year history. We chose the temple and we were very happy with it! Many locals were praying and burning incense in the several buildings housing shrines with golden Buddhas and large statues of other gods and goddesses.
Visitors were discouraged from burning incense, since it contributes to air pollution, which led to this interesting sign: