Day three – what an adventure! The day started off with a tour of the urban planning museum in the center of the city near the “People’s Park.” The museum was interesting in that they had a scale model of the downtown area which allowed us to really wrap our heads around how large the city really is. The tour guide mentioned that within the city of Shanghai there are 20,000 buildings over 24 floors! The museum also spoke to the future goals of the city and what the next steps are in achieving those goals. During our time in the museum we briefly watched a film on the future of Shanghai, “Better city, better life.”
After the Urban Planning Museum, the group piled back into the bus and headed off to the Yu Garden and Chenghuang Temple in the heart of old-town Shanghai. This was by far the most historical place we have visited so far in China. The temple dates back about 500 years according to our CEA guide. The architecture and landscape work in the garden and temple were absolutely breath taking. Once we walked through the grounds, it was time for some food and shopping in the local stores surrounding the temple. It was here that students dispersed going in all directions in search of souvenirs and food. Probably the best part of our free time in the area was when Rachel was asked to hold a Chinese baby and pose for a photo – three times!
Once our casual dining and shopping experience was over, it was time to move on to The Bund. The Bund is the architectural leftovers from colonial times on the bank of the Huangpujiang River that runs through the center of the city. It was the location of colonial power in Shanghai and according to our CEA guide, one of the darkest time periods in Shanghai’s history. When I asked her why the government did not destroy all of the buildings after the revolution, her response was quite moving: “[The Chinese] cannot destroy our past by destroying those buildings, we must use them to learn from them and teach our children.”
Afterward a long walk along The Bund, it was back onto the bus and off to the Tian-zi-fang Shopping Area. This shopping area was unlike anything we had ever seen. The shops, that were once traditional housing for the Chinese, were tucked into a maze of allies. The stores were filled with eclectic items: coffee shops, leather goods, pottery, artwork, clothing, fresh foods, restaurants, bars, etc.
Finally, after a really long day of walking, shopping, and eating the group topped of the evening with a river cruise on the Huangpujiang River through the center of the city. The lights and skyline of the city were breathtaking!
Even though the day was jam packed with events and adventures, it was a remarkable learning experience. We learned so much about how to barter with the local shop keepers for good deal, how to improve our chop-stick skills, and the future goals of Shanghai. Tune in tomorrow to hear about our first couple of company visits!
FUN FACT: It is an annual tradition for parents to host an event in the People’s Park in the center of Shanghai which is essentially a marriage exchange. Parents from all over essentially bring a dating profile to the park and arrange for their children to either date and/or marry on another.