The on-ship wait for Chinese immigration processing took longer than expected, but we were finally off the boat by 11:00. We wound our way through streets in the general direction of the Bund, which we finally found. To me, who has long taught about Shanghai at the Mouth of the Dragon (the Yangtze), opium wars, treaty ports, and Special Economic Zones, it felt almost like a pilgrimage to finally see the famed waterfront and Pudong rising across the Huang Pu River. Before we knew it we were hungry and in need of a place to eat. We ventured off the Bund to see what we could find. Not much, so we consulted the Lonely Plant which mentioned a good steamed bun (one of Shanghai’s specialties) restaurant so off we went in an unplanned direction leaving the Bund half explored. The steamed buns and dumplings plus a side of Szechuan beans and steamed Chinese cabbage hit the spot for all of us.
We then visited the interesting multi-story Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, which has some great exhibits about Shanghai’s growth. We just missed the 4:00 entry deadline for the Shanghai Museum so we decided to see how successful we would be in riding the subway northward for an evening performance of the ERA Acrobatics Show. The subway was pretty straight forward (especially after I found an English language subway map at the info desk) and even easier to machine-purchase tickets than Tokyo. When we emerged from the Shanghai Circus World stop on the red line we bought tickets for the show and then found a mall with many restaurants. I was all excited when we found and agreed on a Malaysian restaurant only to then have to give up after waiting and waiting (first for a big enough table and then because they forgot about us). Plan B was quick KFC! The acrobatic show, with it bicycling girls, hand walking, hoop tumbling, pottery balancing/flipping, plate spinning, teeter-tooter flipping to towers of men, running on outer and inner loops of a large hamster-like wheel (one of our favorites), flying through the air while wrapped in ribbons etc. etc, was amazing and even better than I remember from the first time I ever saw Chinese acrobats on the Ed Sullivan show. It was a three-line ride home on the subway.
Next morning we were up extra early for a pre-planned SAS Field Program called Sunrise Tai Chi. Our family plus five students were bussed to the central People’s Park where we met a 20 year old Tai Chi master (he has been studying for 15 years). I had pictured us being taught by an older man with a white beard (ala Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid), instead we got the kid. He was very patient and worked individually with each of us to get the moves right. He seemed to like to pick on me. It helped when I finally figured out (after he showed me how easily he could pull or push or twist me) that the moves are based on what you would be doing in combat with another person. It was a cold but fun outing. The only unusual part was that I had pictured us doing this in a park where other groups of mostly elderly people would be doing similar types of exercise. Not so. The only other people were three park sweepers and a few other passer-byers who found us westerners to be great entertainment. Perhaps we didn’t see others because we were in a far corner of the large park up on top of a Starbucks! The wooden boardwalk had some loose boards so we had to Tai Chi carefully lest we step on one and have it flip up and us fall down. The nice thing about being atop Starbucks is that afterwards we all went in and had some warming cocoa or coffee.
We returned to the ship to then re-load and head out for a final day in Shanghai. We walked the length of the Bund to old town (our original destination yesterday) where we had more buns and some noodle soup for lunch, visited the City Temple (Taoist), and shopped in the adjacent bazaar (wristwatch for Will, solar powered waving cat for Joel, and some gifts for Sarah’s Sinophile friend Sally). We then took the ferry across to Pudong where we enjoyed a trip up the Pearl Tower—the clear Plexiglas floor on one of the observation decks was a bit nerve wracking. Surprisingly interesting was the large Shanghai museum on the ground floor of the tower. It had great life size dioramas depicting life in Shanghai through the centuries. The forecast called for sunny skies today but thick smog kept visibility low and wreaked havoc on all of our throats. We bought face masks to use for tai chi but they fogged Marie and Joel’s glasses. Sarah wore hers all day. Interestingly, our first day was cloudy but had much greater visibility. Took the subway back across the river and then walked the rest of the way back to our ship. No long line this departure (most are off traveling over land/air via Beijing to Hong Kong) so we had plenty of time to spare. At 6:00 we all awed from our river front mooring as we watched the colorful lighted buildings of Pudong come alive. After dinner, Joel, Will and I went up top to watch the amazing sight of our ship backing down the Hung Po until traffic cleared enough for it to do a 180 degree pinpoint turn (with the help of tugs). I then stayed up top in the lounge and on deck watching (20:00-22:00) until we reached the confluence with the Yangtze.