There was a huge medical conference in Shanghai at the hotel that Contiki usually stays at, so we were upgraded to a 5 star hotel. Given this, the beds were the softest and the pillows were the fluffiest they’ve been during the whole trip! We all slept like babies which was good because we had to make up for lost time and do Shanghai in a day!
We headed downstairs at 8:00 AM for breakfast. The hotel had a wide variety of options, but I had a bowl of fruit (I have no idea what it was, but it good) & potatoes with onions.
Contiki also arranged for a tailor to meet us during breakfast so we could get measurements for custom suits and shirts. I was going to just buy 5 shirts, but I decided to pull the trigger on a suit as well. The shirts came out to just under $50 each and the suit cost $250. I’ve always wanted a custom suit and it fits like a glove!
The Silk Road was operated for thousands of years in an effort to cater to the West’s obsession with silk. During this time, the process around the production of silk was a heavily guarded secret so the Silk Road was the only way for Europe to procure silk. Europeans finally were able to spy on the process and take silk worms back to their countries to produce silk by themselves which rendered the Silk Road obsolete.
Silk is made from the silk worm‘s cocoon & one cocoon can make over 1,200 meters of silk! The lifecycle of the silk worm is just 45 days & it spins the cocoon at the end of its lifecycle. We also learned there are two types of cocoons – single with one worm and double with two worms. Single cocoons can be used for things like ties and scarves because there is one thread. Double cocoons can only be used for the filling of silk comforters & pillows because there are two intertwined threads that get tangled up. The threads of 8 single cocoons are twined together to make a stronger material that can be used to produce ties, scarves and other clothing. The double cocoons are stretched and layered on top of each other to create the filling for pillows and comforters. Also, the actual body of the silk worm can be used for makeup or hand cream. The Chinese also eat it – it supposedly tastes like a peanut!
The jars illustrate the different phases of the lifecycle of a silk worm
Machine that twines the silk together to make it stronger
Making a silk comforter
After they tried to sell us anything and everything made out of silk, we headed to our next stop, Little Shanghai. Nestled within one of the most modern cities in the world, Little Shanghai can be considered the “Chinatown” of Shanghai. The buildings were traditional Chinese buildings and it was very fun to explore.
Our first stop was to have “soup dumplings” which are dumplings with a pork and soup filling. The line was 25 minutes long, but they were worth it!
After the dumplings, we strolled around and took pictures on one of the bridges in Little Shanghai.
Another picture from the bridge
Then, I split from the group to go check out the Baiyun Guan Taoist Temple in the heart of Little Shanghai. It was an amazing cultural experience. In a nutshell, Taoists believe in honoring their ancestors. This religion can be used in parallel with other religions. To honor their ancestors, they burn incense and bow 3 times to different statues.
Large statue that many of the Taoists bowed to
This is the location the Taoists lit their incense
Bowing to the statue
Smaller statues some of the Taoists prayed to
After the temple, I walked around Little Shanghai before catching up with our group
Our next stop was the observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower. Situated on the 88th floor, it gave us a great birds eye view of one of the most modern cities in the world.
Shanghai World Financial Center
Jin Mao Tower
Oriental Pearl Tower
View from Jin Mao Tower
Inner core of Jin Mao Tower
After the tower, we headed to the “Copy Mall”. We passed a few cool things on the way there!
Once we got to the “Copy Mall”, a lot of the group set out to buy fake handbags and some electronics that “may have” fallen off the back of the truck, but I set off on a search for a rolling duffel bag, I only took a backpack with me to Asia and needed a suitcase to fit my souvenirs and the suit I ordered earlier in the day. I was able to negotiate the price for a large duffel bag from $60 to $25 (with help from one of my fellow travelers)! The best deal anyone got was 5 Beats by Dre headphones for $150!
After the “Copy Mall” we went to the French Quarter. We learned that as the “New York of China” a lot of expats have lived in Shanghai over the past century to facilitate trade. The expats set up small districts where people spoke the same language and had similar likes. The French Quarter is no longer residential, but it felt like it was straight out of Europe with narrow walkways and al fresco dining along the sidewalks. I didn’t eat anything, but enjoyed walking around very much.
We also saw the house where Mao Zedong first met with his lieutenants to start the Communist Revolution in China
After the French Quarter, we ate dinner at a restaurant run by one of the local minorities. The food was the standard fare – Kung Pao Chicken, Shredded Beef, Rice, Soup, Vegetables, etc. I even tried Chinese Fire Water with snakes in it!
After dinner, we went to a show, Era, in Shanghai that puts Cirque du Soleil to shame. Words cannot even describe it, so I bought the DVD so I can show people what I witnessed. The show culminated with 8 motorcycles in a sphere that was no larger than 25 feet! After that, we stopped by a bridge to take pictures of the Shanghai skyline at night. It was picturesque and beautiful!
Then, we headed back to our hotel to try on the suits we ordered. Yes, they made my suit and 5 shirts in less than a day! The suit fit perfectly, too.
We then changed into nice clothes and took a taxi to a club in Shanghai. When we got there, they would not let me in because I used crutches and it was too crowded. Despite my insistence that the rest of the group go in, they all refused to do so. It was a really nice sentiment as we all got dressed up and took cabs to the club only to turn around because I used crutches. It was, like everything else, a cultural experience.
While I would have loved to go in, I understand that there is no “Americans with Disabilities Act” in China and it makes me appreciate what I take for granted every day. Despite the fact that China has come so far over the past 50-100 years, they still have a bit to go. Maybe they will never get there, but if China was just as Western as the places I’ve already been I would not be enjoying the new culture I was introduced to over the past two weeks.
We all got back to our hotel and wound up at a local bar that was actually very cool. It felt like we were in a speakeasy – one bartender making fancy drinks while we sat, had a conversation and listened to old music. We also met a group of Chinese people and they took a picture with us with a Polaroid camera. That picture is now up on the bar’s wall!
We called it a night around 2:00 AM since we had a flight early the following morning and had to depart the hotel at 6:00 AM.