Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 11 of 11 › view all entries
January 28th, 2006 – by: Clarafina
It's 10:45pm here in Shanghai, China, and the fireworks and firecrackers have been going non-stop since 6pm and apparently won't stop till after 2am! It sounds like the city is under seige and I keep getting distracted from emailing by the beautiful colours exploding right outside my window (we're on the 21st floor and they're letting off some of the fireworks right beneath us!)! The reason for all this is of course Chinese NYE, as I guess most of you would know. Tomorrow is the Year of the Dog and tonight is when the major celebration is, when families reunite over a huge dinner, and when red packets of money are given out. I've just never heard anything like the fireworks display outside - it never ends - I'm almost getting used to the constant BANG! CRACK! outside! There is a Variety Gala on TV tonight with all these acts from around China, but unfortunately I can't understand most of what is being said.The dancing, singing and costumes are great though.
Anyway, guess I should go back a bit as I haven't written for a while. On the 20th Jan. Mich and I travelled nearly 3 hours from Beijing to Huanghua, or the Wild Wall. This place was absolutely fabulous, definitely the best place I visited in China and amongst the best of the whole trip (if not number one). There were a couple of signs saying it was closed for renovations, and Lonely Planet mentioned that there were plans to make it off-limits to hikers, but we didn't let that stop us. As a result, we were the only ones there - not another soul. The place was just full of natural overwhelming beauty. The Wall was overgrown with prickly bushes and plants which made it all the more charming.We even had to climb over crumbling old watch towers. Looking down at the frozen rivers below nestled amongst the towering mountains I felt as if I were looking down on the frozen fjords of Norway...it was simply stunning. The air was also very crisp and clean and wholesome which was a nice change. We eventually hit the 'end' (where the wall basically disappeared into nothing until it restarted on the opposite side of river in a sort of avalanche down the mountainside!) and turned back. The Huanghua section of the Wall was built during the Ming dynasty, masterminded by Lord Cai. Each inch of the Wall represented one labourer's whole days work, and when the Ministry of War heard of Cai's extravagance Cai was beheaded. Years later a general judged his section of the Wall to be exemplary and he was posthumously rehabilitated.It is a testament to his work that his section of the Wall still stands as it did hundreds of years ago without modern fix-ups (at least for now).
In the afternoon Mich was tired so headed back to the hostel but I wanted to make the most of Beijing so I went to the Temple of Heaven park. It was lovely, 267Ha of peaceful gardens that were a quiet and wintery landscape. I only had 1.5hrs before I had to meet Mich again to catch the train, but I could have spent a whole day just sitting in the park in peaceful contemplation and reflection. It originally functioned as a place for solemn rites performed by the Son of Heaven, who went there to pray for good harvests, seek divine clearance and atone for the sins of the people. Within it is a 5m high Round Altar, constructed in 1530 and rebuilt in 1740.It is composed of white marble arrayed in 3 tiers, and its geometry revolves around the imperial number 9: odd numbers were considered heavenly and 9 is the largest single-digit odd number (duh). The top tier, thought to symbolise heaven, has 9 rings of stones, each composed of multiples of 9 stones, so that the 9th ring has 81 stones. The number of stairs and balustrades are also multiples of 9, and apparently there are over 500 examples of multiples of 9 contained within the architecture - very clever! At 4:30pm I left the Temple of Heaven, leaving ample time to catch a taxi the short distance back to the hostel by 5pm (my legs were buggered after so much walking, and it was COLD!). Well, that was not to be. I got a taxi easily enough but he proceeded to take me the exceedingly long way back and we got stuck in a terrible traffic jam.I was inwardly cursing my lack of Chinese language and the lack of useful phrases such as 'This is the long way!' and 'You're cheating me!' in the phrasebook, and you could definitely feel the frustration on both sides due to the fact we couldn't properly communicate. Anyway, I got back to the hostel at 5:20pm (should have taken at most 15min!) very pissed off...
The following night after arriving back in Shanghai we had a delicious Japanese buffet. Now, I am not one to say I like Japanese food but this really was yummy. You could have unlimited things off the menu plus there was a whole cabinet of desserts to choose from too, all for Y150. Not too bad. Apparently its the most famous Japanese place in Shanghai. I really liked the tempura, sushi and fried icecream.When walking back to Belle's place afterwards we heard a strange noise that kept repeating itself over and over. Eventually we saw what it was, and the tiny pitiful head of a ginger kitten poked its head out of the bushes. It was all alone and looked very scared. It kept running along after us and ducking back into the bushes when we stopped. I felt so bad leaving it there but I had to be realistic and logical - there was nothing I could do for it in the long term. Even if I fed it while staying in Shanghai, as soon as I left it would starve to death. So I left it there, with a sad and heavy heart. I can't wait till I have a place of my own where I can take as many animals as I like, and actually have the skills to look after them too (only 3 years to go...)!
For dinner the next night a Swedish-Chinese couple came over.It was quite fun to use my minimal Swedish to talk to them as it's a lot better than my minimal Chinese! They both live in the south of Stockholm for work but come back to China when they can. Both were educated at Swedish universities I hadn't heard of, in IT.
The next day Michelle was ill so Henry, Will and I headed to Nanjing for 2 days without her which was very unfortunate. We stayed at the Fine Arts University there which was pretty cool, although the food was awful. The first day was a bit disappointing - the Nanjing Massacre Museum was closed and a huge 1537Ha garden we visited was very very run down. We had dinner at Jack's Place, listed in Lonely Planet, which was really nice and the meals were huge.Afterwards Will and I were channel surfing on the TV and found one English channel that was playing 'Home Alone', so we decided to watch it despite seeing it heaps of times before. Watching it, for the first time I really felt myself missing Christmas. It was strange.
The following morning we headed to Sun Yatsen's Mausoleum on Zhongshang Mountain. Sun Yatsen is largely considered to be the father of modern democratic China, and his tomb lies on the slopes of the mountain at the top of 392 steps. The whole complex was designed by a 33yo Chinese architect in the shape of a bell, apparently some reference to something in Sun Yatsen's will. After that we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Museum which had been closed the previous day. It was the best thing I saw in Nanjing, and ironically the only free thing.It was very well done, and very very sad. There were very graphic pictures of burnt bodies, women after being gang-raped, piled-up corpses etc. What I didn't realise until the end was that the actual site of the museum was a mass grave for around 10,000 victims, and in the late 1980s archaeologists had partially excavated 200 of these poor people, which they left where they had been discovered, all piled on top of one another in a corner of the complex. Accompanying the skeletons were detailed photos explaining how they had met their gruesome end - nails hammered into their heads (even tiny toddlers), bullets, decapitations, and some had even been buried alive...horrors too terrible to truly imagine. You couldn't help but be moved by it, and I'll have the image of all those skeletons burnt into my mind forever.
After a quick lunch Will and I headed to the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Museum while Henry went to the Presidential Palace instead. The place was huge but we were too cold to appreciate it properly (just like the Forbidden Palace in Beijing); Will was visibly shaking with the cold!
After returning to Shanghai that night nothing much of interest has happened; we've just been relaxing and watching DVDs and taking walks outside when it's warm enough. I'll be home in less than 4 days - time to rejoin the real world!
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