Rice wine containers at the distillery, Wuzhen
Drove 2 hours this morning before arriving in Wuzhen
, a lovely old-world water canal town on the way back to Shanghai
. We wandered through the old streets and buildings, the town being like a living museum where people still live and work and produce the old products such as rice wine and dyed calico. Another interesting exercise in extremes when you look into the houses which have centuries old facades, lino on the floor and plasma screen cable TV inside! Visited a Taoist temple, a rice wine distillery and a calico dying plant, Melissa even had a go at weaving the calico - she's not very good at it! Lunch was in a canal-side restaurant and featured much more local-style food, which we loved but was not so popular with much of the rest of the group.
Dyed calico being dried, Wuzhen
We were also treated to a shadow puppet play and some impromptu Chinese opera in the town square before taking a canal boat back to the entrance for our 4 hour drive back to Shanghai. Dinner tonight was in an embroidery centre in the city - beautiful works but very expensive. The embroidery was done by hand in silk thread and is spectacular, but a bit out of our price range.
Had a bit of a sleep in the next morning, before heading off to the Children's Palace. This was not at all what we had expected, but was a former house in the British manor style with lots of pokey rooms. The children were taking classes in drawing, dancing, music and all seem to be quite advanced for their ages! The school is designed to educate the youngsters in the more traditional areas that mainstream school does not provide.
Talented youngsters at the Children's Palace, Shanghai
Our guide said the students tend to be from the wealthier families as only they can afford the fees, but the Palace guide said there were no fees, so not quite sure what the story is. Next stop was the Jin Mao Tower with an observation deck on the 88th floor and a lift that zooms up at 9 metres per second! There's no real sense of movement, but your ears start to pop as you get going. The view is not great because of the "fog" but you can look down through the centre of the building to the atrium below which is quite an unusual feeling. In the afternoon we visited the Yuen Bazaar, an old market area which has been restored. We went straight into the Yu Garden which once again would have been lovely except for the hordes of people inside. Lots of decorative dragons and ponds and meandering pathways.
Yabby at the bottom of Jingmao Tower, Beijing
With our one hour free time we headed straight out of the restored section to the market streets outside to try and escape the crowds and the workmen still renovating the bazaar itself. We bagged a few bargains (we think!) and got our 3yo niece a "flat pig" which she should really enjoy - you throw this squishy plastic pig at the ground, it splats into a flat shape when it hits and then bounces back into a pig shape. Even if Sarah doesn't like it, we will! Dinner tonight was supposed to be at the hotel, but they said it had been cancelled, so we ended up back at the hotpot restaurant. This time we were in the main hall so we got to see an acrobat show featuring a very flexible little girl who was flung around by a very flexible lady. It was quite funny to see the little one wander off after the show with her school backpack on and carrying her school books.
The Bund at night, Shanghai
The night ended with a cruise on the Huangpo River, which almost didn't happen due to the extremely heavy traffic. We sat for ages at a set of traffic lights with a policeman letting everyone else through except for us and the neighbouring couple of lanes. After about 15 minutes, a cavalcade of black cars drove through straight over to the dock, no doubt local officials being "more equal than others" as they say. The policeman then just walked off the intersection and left our driver to fend for himself in the melee. The view from the boat was lovely, the lights looked spectacular, but also showed quite clearly why China is a massive user of energy.