Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Goodbye China!

I promised myself that my posts on China would be done by the end of August...and I'm proud to have completed that goal...23 posts later!

I really enjoyed my time in China and it really makes me want to travel to so many other places within the country.  My advice if you choose to travel to China is to buy a Lonely Planet, Moon, Frommer's, or Foder's travel guide.  Not only does it help you learn of some great places to visit, but the names and addresses are in Mandarin.  It is essential that you have this in Mandarin when you step into a taxi.  Just point to where you want to go and you are on your way.  While in China, you knew who were the Asian tourists because they were traveling in huge groups with travel guides carrying brightly colored flags.  You knew who was a western tourist if they were holding a Lonely Planet guide.

Eating in a culture that is vastly different from your own can be quite a challenge.  When I first came to Korea, I didn't know what anything was and I couldn't read hangul.  My first few weeks here, I ate a lot of ramen in the convenience stores and McDonald's.  I would eat as much as I could at lunchtime in school so that I wouldn't be so hungry in the evening.  In China, I kinda of felt that again...but not as much since I had already gone through this once.  Especially traveling alone, I didn't know if there would be English or pictures.  Even with pictures you can't always tell exactly what meat you are getting...and even with English--it can be so poorly translated, you still don't really know what you are going to get.  Or worse, there is neither English or pictures.  It isn't like a Spanish where you can just look it up in the dictionary.

My last night in Shanghai I had ate the best Chinese food (second to Peking Duck).  I stopped at Shanghai Grandmother's.  In Korea, it is really awkward to eat alone.  There is a local place where I get take-out.  While I wait for my food, the lady always brings me water---two glasses.  I just don't think she can quite understand the concept that I am eating alone...and especially waiting for my take-out alone.  It just isn't really done here.  I realized it is quite similar in China. 

At Shanghai Grandmother's or Grandmother Shanghai (not sure which way it goes), the couple next to me wanted to know who I was and why I was eating alone.  But they didn't speak English and I didn't speak Mandarin Chinese.  So after a rough game of charades, the table next to me was able to decipher to the couple that I was from the USA but teaching in Korea and traveling in Shanghai alone.  Then another table was getting into the conversation and I noticed a westerner...yes!  Someone to translate...until he said...parlez vous francais?  I said no...hablo espanol...nope, he only spoke French.  But being that Spanish is more like French than any other language, we tried.  So...here I am...with three tables wanting to know all about me...and none of us can truly communicate.  Through a mix of English, Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, charades and sign language...we got it all figured out and the couple asked me to join them at their table and eat dinner.  The best part of the story was that I saw the couple on the street the next day and they were so excited to see me.  I left Shanghai with warm fuzzies!

My last morning in Shanghai, I desperately wanted to eat at Shanghai Grandmother once again, but didn't have time.  I was VERY happy to find a Gloria Jean's.  When I was in high school, I fell in love with coffee at the Gloria Jean's in the Apache Mall in Rochester.  Soon, it went out of business.  When I went to college in St. Cloud, I was stoked to see a Gloria Jean's in the Crossroads Mall...and then it quickly went out of business.  When I moved to SUWON, KOREA...there was a Gloria Jean's in my local Homeplus!  I couldn't believe it!  And I also can't believe it already went out of business since I've been here.  Soo...seeing on in Shanghai made me very happy.  What a delicious lunch and what a way to leave China (it would have been better with Chinese food from Shanghai Grandmother...but this was almost as great!)

I hope you have enjoyed my posts on China.  I had a great time!

Shanghai: Longhua Temple

The Longhua Temple has been one of my favorite temples I have visited thus far in Asia.  It was extremely active and I was the only tourist in sight.  It made taking photos difficult without being disrespectful...so I just took some quick shots.  It is the oldest and largest monastery in Shanghai.  Although much of the temple has been restored, it dates back to the 10th century.  The pagoda that is pictured above is 44 meters high (7 stories) and was originally built in AD 977!  Longhua refers to the pipal tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment.

Temple Entrance
The animal in this window is very popular in China.  At the Jade Temple, it was explained to me that many Chinese put statues of this animal near the door to their home.  This animal likes to eat gold and money and has no "bottom" so it's belly stays rich.  It is supposed to bring you good fortune and business.  There is usually a male and a female...to keep things in feng shui.  Remember that you can always click on the photos to make them larger.
Burning incense outside.
Monks' dormitory.
I absolutely loved the detail

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shanghai: Martyrs Memorial

In my sightseeing ventures in Shanghai, I was either among hundreds of people or completely alone.  This was another one of those "completely alone" visits.

The Martyrs Memorial had beautiful manicured lawns, gorgeous flowers, and statues of soldiers and workers who gave their life for the cultural revolution.  You could find community members enjoying the park by doing taichi, or playing cards or mah ja dong. 

But what I was most interested in was the fact that these grounds were part of a Japanese internment camp and airfield during World War II.  I guess it is depicted in the Spielberg film, Empire of the Sun, which is now on my list of movies to see.  To the corner of the Martyrs Memorial is the site of the old Kuomintang Prison where 800 communists, intellectuals, and political agitators were executed between 1928 and 1937.
I always enjoy taking pictures of signs.
Not sure what this is...can't read Mandarin Chinese...
I've seen plenty of tree-lined sidewalks...but never a bamboo-lined sidewalk...loved it!
Peaceful Martyrs Memorial
haha...I guess he didn't see the sign.  But the craziest part is...here enters me being completely alone with no one in sight.  Who does this car belong to??
Kuomintang Prison...looks welcoming...
I walked in to take a peak...but I stayed pretty close to the door.  It was kinda eery...
There was a museum (that was completely empty as well) next door that explained that the communists that were held up in these rooms actually continued the movement within these walls.  They had their own branch here in the prison and were able to organize several things to keep the movement going.
Women's prison.  Supposedly some very famous people stayed and were executed in this prison.  If I had studied Asian history instead of Latin American history in college, maybe I'd have some better information.  I didn't recognize any of the names.
Does anyone know what these are?  I found them everywhere with no information next to them.  I'm guessing maybe solitary confinement?  But there is no front door...and several windows????
Next to the prison was an underground tunnel that took you to the execution ground.  I walked around the area for a little bit trying to:
A) Find a foreign tourist that would go down in the tunnel with me
or B) gain enough courage to go alone.
I ended up going with choice:
C) skipping it and going back to the hotel.
I really wanted to check it out...but there was no way I was going in an underground tunnel all alone, where no one was to be found...to an execution ground.
I took only one photo in the museum.  The patriotism to communism in the small prison museum was ringing quite loudly. 
They must have had a hard time finding a native English speaker to proofread the articles for the museum...

All-in-all, another good find in Shanghai.  I am glad I was in Shanghai alone, because I think it would have been hard to convince a friend to come along with me on these excursions.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shanghai: Jade Buddha Temple

The Jade Buddha Temple is a hot spot for tourists mostly because of it's 6.23 ft tall Jade Buddha.  Although it is full of tourists, you will still find many people praying and practicing their religion at the temple.  My favorite was watching parents show their small children how to bow down before the deities and pray.
The Jade Buddha Temple is one of few Buddhist Temples in Shanghai...most are Taoist.  It was built between 1911 and 1918 in Song Dynasty style.
The laughing Buddha.  You are supposed to rub his belly for good luck.
So...I did.  Someone working there insisted they capture this moment with a photo.
A small Jade Buddha statue.  We were not allowed to take photos of the 6.23 ft Jade Buddha.  Here I bought a few jade necklaces for my family.  Jade is supposed to symbolize a peaceful journey.  Jade is compared to the Chinese as a diamond is to westerners.  You can tell it is real jade by looking at the light, inside should be cloudy and it should cut glass.  There are several vendors around that try to sell fake jade.
This man was making these beautiful paintings with using only his palm and fingernail...no paintbrush!  It was amazing.  I was torn between these and some painting made on ban-yan tree leaves.  I chose the leaves instead.
I sent this one to Amy.
I loved the detail around the Deity.
This is a close-up on the side of the Deity from above.
This is reclining Buddha.  This one is just made of stone.  Again, we could not take photos of the actual Jade Buddha that was sooo beautiful.