Saturday, November 17, 2007

China Odyssey, Day 3 - Shanghai

Day 3 Shanghai
Saturday Nov. 17
Yuyan Garden, Senior Center, and Home Lunch

Our tour guide Scotty is excellent, and his English is almost flawless. He is a young man who recently graduated from Shanghai University with a degree in Finance. He told us his work as a tour guide is a lifestyle choice. He is by his own words atypical of most young Chinese, who are workaholics and whose primary concern is making money. He is recently married and is grateful to have found a wife, as there are many more men than women of marriageable age in China. This population imbalance is thought to be an unintended consequence of the one child policy.

We began our day with a trip to Yuyan Garden. In ancient China, the residences of rich and important persons were situated in elaborate gardens such as Yuyan. The garden is located in the center of a maze of many interesting shops. It is massive and took 40 years to build. There are many interesting animal sculptures on the roofs of the buildings. These are intended to ward off any evil spirits and protect the family. There are also 8" doorsills to step over when you enter a room in the house. It is believed that evil spirits cannot enter across such sills.

Yuan Garden Goddess

Evil Spirits Beware!

Our Garden trip gave us our first exposure to beggars and street hawkers. They are everywhere, selling everything from 75 cent umbrellas to $10 fake Rolex watches. Our guide told us that you never pay the asking price. Bargaining is expected. The American dollar is equal to 7.4 yuan. Fortunately the yuan is the only currency we need to learn on this trip. We have been advised by Scotty to only give exact amounts of money to street vendors, as they are infamous for giving back counterfeit change.

Overseas Adventure Travel tours specialize in cultural immersion. We had 2 of these experiences today; a visit to a local community center, and a home hosted lunch. Our second stop of the day was the Community Center, located in a Shanghai neighborhood. We were served tea and given an informative talk by the woman who runs this center for a “neighborhood” of 90,000. Most of people using the center are senior citizens who are engaged in a variety of handicrafts - all of which are for sale.

After we made our purchases and donations it was time for lunch, which was in a private home. Lunch was prepared by an elderly couple who live on the 23rd floor of a high rise condominium. Their home is modern and the rooms are very large. As we entered, we were given large colorful booties to put on over our shoes. Lunch was served family style in small 6 inch plates. Food was taken from these community plates with chopsticks and placed on smaller 3” personal plates, then eaten with the chopsticks. Every place we have eaten we have been given a choice of 4 beverages- bottled water, coke, sprite or beer. Tea also is served to everywhere. Diet soda is unavailable.

Welcome to Our Home!

Please Protect Our Beautiful Floor

A Delightful Selection of Savory Dishes

Familiar Shape, Strange Writing

After lunch, Kathy passed around her "Brag Book" of grandchild photos. Needless to say, all seven grandchildren were much admired by all present.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and fell asleep. On the way back to the hotel we saw several cars decorated with flowers. We were told that Saturday is wedding day in China.

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