Shanghai

After visiting Beijing, the Great Wall, Xi’an, Chengdu, Leshan, the Panda Bears and the Terracotta Warriors, it was time to visit Shanghai.

Without question, not only is Shanghai the largest city in the world, it is much different than other Chinese cities.  I can see now why it is so popular.  The architectural flare and design differences quickly hit you as soon as you enter the city.

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We were fortunate to secure a room with a view right on the Bund river at the Waldorf Astoria.  The lights, the enthusiasm, the energy of the people is quite a site to see at night.  Very unique and very safe.

It is hard to say whether the evenings or the morning sunrise is better.  The Bund hotels are awesome,  It is not like anything else in the world.  It tops both Times Square in NYC and the Las Vegas strip.

You could not ask for a better place to run in the morning.  I actually found local runners in China for the first time!  I thought running was not popular in China for some reason.

When running in the morning, you see the waves of people working the 1 mile long strip along the Bund to fix and change flowers before the sun arises.

The road is also updated before anyone wakes up to keep the fancy shopping district looking 5 star.

I don’t know if anyone knew, but they have the same Wall Street bull on the Bund strip.  Made from the same artist and there is a guard to protect it 24×7 — even in the middle of the night.

and of course seeing the run rise in the morning is a delight.  The picture is a little fuzzy as the pollution is clear (no pun intended) in this city.  It is very overcast with smog, but at the same time, we have not encountered ant breathing problems.  I took this picture from the old 1920s bridge which was famous in the Empire of the Sun movie.

Running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

After breakfast, we walked across the street to walk along the Bund.  What a surprise delight – the military patrol boat welcomed us as visiting dignitaries as soon as we got on top of the walkway!

We then got tickets to take the tunnel ride under the river to the other side of the city.

I know this intrigues everyone, so I took a video of the Shanghai Tunnel experience for you!

Once on the other side, we got a great view of the TV tower.  It is right outside the tunnel exit. Amazing design!

From there, we went to visit the second largest building in the entire world.  The Shanghai Tower.

The elevators are also the fastest in the world.  You can go up 118 floors in < 1 minute!  Some of the views are amazing.  Check out the Wandering Earth movie as it will give you a different view of Shanghai.

As you can guess, the views are incredible, but the pollution makes it hard to see far or take clear pictures.  That is why they must constantly clean the windows. Somewhat scary and somewhat hilarious, while we were visiting, one of the window washers was leaning out with a suction cup to clean a trick corner and then…the suction cub slide away and he almost fell out of the basket.  Everyone laughed and clapped (including him) when he recovered.

From there we went to visit the “old town” area of Shanghai to compare it to the new town.  Here is a great picture of both the old and the new in the same frame!  Lots of fun shopping in the old town area.  Highly recommended.

One thing that stood out to me in Shanghai compared to other cities in China is the volume of government messages and billboards promoting guidance and other messages.  Quite prominent here in this city.

OK – off to lunch and maybe a little shopping.  Check out the model I saw getting pictures taken by paparazzi when she got out of her pink Ferrari!

Check out the next post when we explored historic areas of Shanghai.

 

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Rural China

We flew into Guilin, but we are staying in a resort near Yungshou which provides for interesting places to run of course!

It looks like a wonderful place to do some hiking, but we unfortunately did not have enough time. I was only able to sneak in a run or two.

East of the village is not rice paddies, but fields full of sugar cane.

What I found when running through the area is many local stands of people selling the sugar cane. Many people stop and buy the sugar cane to take home as fruit or to make juice.

The other cool thing about running around the world is you get to see some of the local tradecraft and activities. This was pretty cool to see a lady making cement blocks all by herself with this machine. Pretty industrious!

Running around the world is always fun.  Some of my other favorite spots:

Today, we spent most of the day checking out the local scene and getting the pulse of this rural community that is so different from the massive cities in the east.

The best way to start out an early morning is to walk through the local market. Very popular for locals and a great place to get some very cheap delicies. You do have to be careful with the dough based snacks as they are extremely greasy.

Here is a surprise treat that is not easily found in most Cafes. Anyone know what this is??? Guess!

We spent a good chunk of the morning walking through the very old and historic village of Fuli. The traditional style of all doorways on this area is to have the red calligraphy above and to the sides of all doors.

It is amazing what you can see in some of the abandoned homes and apartments. Check out this old Mao communist poster!

Another surprise delight was to see a local blacksmith working on making some tools. Quite amazing to see how he built a forge out of an old oil barrel.

Tonight, we went to see the famous Impression Show. This is a huge event that is held every night with 600 local performers and is fully packed every night. Check out the views of the mountains in the backdrop!

It has been running since 2004 and was created by the famous director and choreographer from the Beijing Olympics.  I think his name was Zhang Yimou.

The picture above is a famous singer or dancer I think, but I did not catch all the details.  The h is impressive to say the least.  Here is one of the videos I captured.

It is quite a show and a must see. Our pictures are a little distant, but it was amazing to see this wave of Imperial Stormtroopers for the upcoming Star Wars movie being released in December. We felt safe since we had VIP seats on the suites up on top and could escape easily.

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Mountains of China

It was a gorgeous sunrise this morning from our top floor room at the St Regis in Chengdu. The top floor was thanks to being a Titanium Elite in the Marriott Bonvoy program with a complimentary upgrade 🙂

Today, our plan is to fly south to Guilin.

But of course we had to relish the idiosyncrasies of the Chinese airport culture. For some reason, men do not like getting close to urinals, so they all must be encouraged to not pee in the floor and actually pee in the urinals.

It was a short flight (< 1.5 hours) down to Guilin, and I must admit the scenery was quite unique when flying into the cloudy mountains. You encounter short cloud breaks and then observe all the windmills that are actually at the top of the mountains. Quite tricky to fly into this area…

Since there were no crowds and waves of tourists, we hopped on a flat bottom river cruise boat to explore the Li River and mountain scenery.

We ended the river cruise near the Yangshuo village which is centered in the mountains.

It is definitely a tourist town with gorgeous scenery and a business that thrives on people cruising the river.

We found a great place to stay in the area that is just outside the Yangshuo village area. Very much a resort style hotel that is close to the river and has a lot of luxury amenities and activities.

The banyan tree yangshuo resort is pretty impressive.  Pools, river access, large fish ponds and wild peacocks which they will give you food to feed if they will pay attention to you 😉

Stay tuned to this channel for an update on the local report!

 

 

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Largest Buddha in the World

Today, we ventured west to Leshan China to explore a rare site. We took a train, but you can also take buses or private cars. It is about an hour and a half away from Chengdu. One important thing to remember is that you need your passport or citizen ID card to get into train stations. Your ticket must match the ID or passport number or they will not even allow you to get into the station. Only one door is open for the entire station for security checks and the queues to get through the one metal detector and x-ray machine can get a little feisty.

Now, once we got into the city, I do not recall anything very memorable and there are not many large hotels or restaurants catering to foreigners. The city itself is not that interesting, but we wanted to visit the ship port on the Min river.

Like many rivers, it is a bit polluted, but there is some awesome historic scenery if when you take a public or charter boat ride on the river.

There are a lot of boats and offers available…no worries there. The quality of the boats and the amenities may be a little questionable, but I digress. Hint: use the public bathrooms at the port and never depend on the bathrooms that (may) be working on the boats…

so what was the goal and highlight of our adventure today after hours of bus and train rides? There are some enormous red cliffs along the river which are quite popular with locals, hikers and tourists. I estimate that they are 400 meters high and the narrow steps are quite steep.

It is hard to take a picture of the Buddha because it is so large..even when you are at a distance on a boat on the river. Take a look at the eyes. They follow you and watch you from whatever angle you move. He is watching you!

Apparently, this was built around or near the 1st emperor in China and took almost 90 years to carve out and complete. It is carved out of the granite of the mountain next to the river.

On each side of the Buddha are the two protectors. One is quite worn down, but this one must be 100 feet tall to his side.

It is bit of the way and in the far west of China, but is a once in a lifetime location/site everyone should go see.

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Panda Bears!

We took a day trip outside Chengdu to visit the Dujiangyan Panda Base. It is about 1.5 hours by bus outside of Chengdu.

You have two choices:

1. You can walk up the big hills to explore some of the large enclaves where individual pandas live and eat (mostly eat)

2. You can gear up into sanitized suits to go feed a panda by hand.

You can guess our choice!

I never realized that I am not sure I have ever seen a panda bear in real life before.

And then, all of a sudden, the opportunity to meet and see at least a dozen appeared! There are actually less then 2,000 pandas living in the wild or captivity in the entire world.

Yes, pandas love to eat. That is all they do. They eat like 40 pounds a day as they only retain about 15% of the bamboo they chow down every day.

They are pretty much lazy to conserve energy. But the youngsters can sometimes be different like most kids around the world. Here was two young pandas that decided it was WWF wrestling time and wanted their show to go viral.

Pandas mostly like and eat bamboo, but when they get a chance to eat a Michelin star carrot dish, they cannot resist the opportunity!

Who can resist being hand fed by a famous chef from television? Just like in a modern kitchen, you have to be careful, sticking your hand into the cage is like sticking your hand in a hot gas stove. The panda may get confused and try the hand carrot as a potential dessert!

The hidden gem of this research base was the opportunity to catch a view of a few red pandas sneaking around in the trees. They are very shy and stealthy.  Interestingly, they are called pandas, but they are really more related to raccoons. It was still a fun way to see some rare wildlife without being in a classic zoo with all the restrictions.

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First Day in Chengdu

Today was mostly a travel day to get settled in a new city.

Apparently, Chengdu is very similar to Seattle. It is almost always overcast, lots of light drizzle and it almost never freezes. Notice the similar space needle?

The St. Regis Chengdu hotel is a fantastic choice in the middle of the city near shopping and many attractions within walking distance. See – – it is just like Seattle. There is a Starbucks on every corner!

and every night they take a samurai sword and cut open a bottle of great French champagne to kick off happy hour!

Of I had to sneak in a run. It was a little challenging with all the downtown traffic, crowds, bikes and cars that ignore all traffic lights…

Oh yes, the traffic is bad. Not sure who is going to succeed getting this one remaining parking spot…16 million people and 6 million card!

But the trick for overseas runners is to find a river or water as there is likely to be a biking or running trail. Bingo!

After checking into the hotel, we got a chance to go visit and pray at the WenShu Temple and Monastery which is quite famous in the Sichuan province.

Out of respect, we do not take any pictures of Buddha or the individual prayer halls. I did capture a shot of the famous wooden fish though…

At the end of the day, we got to spend a little time walking down Jinlixi street, explore the older style area and then go visit the The Sichuan Opera scene.

We went into the Shu Feng Ya Yun teahouse.  It was was quite fun and entertaining.  A great mix of dancing, opera, and the famous mask changing characters.  One of the unusual side benefits of this tea house is you can either have your ears cleaned or get a chair massage on the sides.  I passed on this one, but many people do not!

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Xi’an Muslim Quarter

Today, we had a fun opportunity to take a stroll through the possibly famous or at least popular Muslim Quarter and market in Xi’an.

Very friendly, very safe, very colorful and entertaining area.

The hardest challenge in the market was to not purchase or sample some of the local delicacies.  Xi’an is known for its noodles and this was one shop that was hard to pass up, but we did not want to spoil our dinner plans.

Once in market, you can take a side street and go visit the famous Great Mosque.  It is certainly quite old, but represents a lot of history for the large Sunni population in Xi’an.

There are about 4 rings/walls or layers in the compound which are full of architecture and historical buildings.

You cannot enter the mosque, but it is setup for daily prayers for approximately 1,000 people.  You can see that they have prayer rugs for everyone and you do not need to bring your own.

Unfortunately, we were planned to only spend 2 days in Xi’an which is disappointing as it is a really nice city. We were really enjoying trying out some of the local foods.  Since we are taking a high speed train south tomorrow, we went to the local supersized grocery store to pick up some tasty snacks for the long ride.

The train station in Xi’an is massive in size.  There are not any shops or stores in the station like you would see in Beijing, but there are few local food stands if you are hungry while waiting for your train.  Unfortunately, we were so early, the popular “duck neck” shop was not open so we missed out before boarding our train.

I have to admit, the bathrooms on the train were actually decent in size and quite clean.  You are gently warned before using them that since they are sterilized, you MUST use them at ease!

Stay tuned to tomorrow, will be having some surprise updates planned!

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