Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We had hoped to got up to the top of the JinMao building in the Pudong District and glean another fantastic view of the city, but the smog was too heavy making visibility poor.

All bamboo scaffolding

We chose to make the 5km walk to the magnificent (and absolutely FREE) Shanghai Museum to view their vast collection of Chinese art and crafts. I’d struck out in my coffee search that morning so was ecstatic to see a European style café just inside the entrance where I quaffed a cappuccino and drooled over the western style menu. The western bathroom was practically drool-worthy at this point in our bathroom adventures, too. Toilet! Hot Water! Paper Towels!

Shanghai Museum

We pledged to visit all the exhibits in the museum and started with Ancient Chinese sculpture. We were wowed into silence at the predominantly religious statuary- intricately detailed Buddhas and the like, from 400BC onwards.

Buddha on dais, 400BC

Next, we oooohed and aaaahed at over 400 bronze vessels, weaponry and décor dating from the 18th century BC. The intricate carvings were enchanting. The designs and patterns provided surprise inspiration for future tattoos (don’t worry Mom, it’s just a thought).

Bronze cow wine vessel
Bronze dragon weapon head
Tattoo ideas- bronze collection patterns

Set of bronze bells- used to mark time

Next the entire second floor was dedicated to ceramics- not surprising since porcelain is one of China’s most revered gifts to the world. As we progressed through the ages, you could clearly see the evolution in technique and artistry. I certainly learned a wealth of interesting information about porcelain, and will now regard my Sears stoneware with some disappointment in comparison to the treasures seen here.

early porcelain dragon
Porcelain pillow- yes they slept on porcelain and stone pillows
Ming Dynasty red underglaze vase
Ming Dynasty vase- fantastic colour and patterning

Museum fatigue was starting to sink in, but we pressed on—two more floors to go.
The Seal (chops) Gallery was fascinating. The artistry and politics behind official and personal seals was very intriguing.
Next we were wowed by Chinese calligraphy- I didn’t know there were so many schools and styles of Chinese characters (4 main types, including Official Script- used in most public buildings, signage, advertisements, written publications etc).
Salmon leather ceremonial dress- yes, salmon leather, and yes, I want some salmon leather boots
Intricate jade carving

The fourth floor housed a number of smaller collections- a touring collection of Faberge and Russian jewellery, then Chinese currency, fabric and furniture. It was all starting to blur by now and we were exhausted after our three and a half hour culture binge.

early Chinese coins- shaped like garden hoe heads
Early sword-shaped coins- easily strung together but still not very practical
gorgeous red lacquer furniture set

Pastry to the rescue!
David and Helen had spotted the third floor snack shop and rejuvenated themselves with carbohydrates immediately. We had heard that pizzas could be had nearby and hatched a plan to walk or take a cab to this mythical place to stuff ourselves on cheese and dough.
Each local waved (Chinese don’t point- its considered very rude) in the general same direction every time we asked Pizza??? followed by eating pizza motions (not exactly my star moment in international relations but it was indeed a near emergency). We took this consensus as a good sign and kept walking.
Random Shanghai building

We ended up at a Chinese brand mall with thankfully a Starbucks where I could get a solid English speaker. It sounded almost too good to be true when the barista informed me that there was a Papa Joe’s on the bottom floor.

another ultramod building, Shanghai

Unfortunately, it actually WAS too good to be true as it was closed for renovations. Luckily, it was right next door to THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD (or so it seemed at the time) where the entire menu was western and had just about every western food item you could think of.
Suzanne and I ran the menu with salads, spaghetti, tropical fruit smoothies and narrowly missed a big collision with their 5 page dessert menu.

We noticed many of the locals around us were eating their entire meal (including melting ice cream sundaes) at the same time as the rest of their meal. Maybe this is because they are used to eating communally and everything at the same time? But it seemed so weird to see someone take a bite of chicken tetrazinni, then dip the same fork right into their yogurt parfait. But we seem weird to THEM so I guess we are even.

I snagged a salad doggy bag (don’t ask for that here---could have an entirely different meaning…) that I could eat later on the night train and we waddled quickly back to our hotel to get ready for the last stop on our trip—Beijing.

Spaceley Space Sprockets? Shanghai

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