Cruise Report # Seventeen – Day 24 – Monday, October 15, 2007

At Sea – Yellow Sea

From the Ships Navigator

This morning we will embark the local pilot at 5:00am. Thereafter we will sail on a westerly heading towards our berth. The total sailing distance towards the dock is 51 nautical miles. The weather calls for an outside temperature of 64 degrees and breeze blowing from the north-northwest with a force of 5.

Welcome to Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

As you may have noticed, I skipped a couple of days as we were in transit from Xingang (Beijing) to Shanghai. What I hoped would be time to catch up, did not seem to be there. As stated before there is so much to do, it is easy to let time slip away, but that is what cruising should be about.

Situated on the banks 0f the Yangtze River Delta in East China sits beautiful Shanghai, the largest city of the PRC and seventh largest in the world. Shanghai is also one of the world’s busiest ports, becoming the largest cargo port in the world in 2005. Originally a fishing town, Shanghai has emerged as one of China’s most important cities. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Shanghai was the third largest financial center in the world, after New York City and London, and the largest commercial city in the Far East. Its beauty and mystery has led to the city having various nicknames including “Paris of the East” and “Queen of the Orient”. Before the nineteenth century, Shanghai was not considered a major city of China and compared to other major Chinese cities, there are few ancient landmarks to be found. Shanghai’s importance grew in the nineteenth century, as its strategic position at the mouth if the Yangtze River made it the perfect location for trade with the West. British forces temporarily held Shanghai during the First Opium war and when it ended in 1842 Shanghai was opened for international trade. From the 1920s to 30s Shanghai was a so-called ‘sin city’ as gangsters wielded a great deal of power, running casinos and brothels, but bringing enormous profits into the city.

In anticipation of world cruise lines scheduling stops here, Shanghai is in the process of completing construction on a modern cruise ship terminal on The Bund, near the heart of old Shanghai. However, the ms Amsterdam and it’s deep draft, and slack tides prohibited docking there for our two day stay. Instead we were relegated to the container port some 45 minutes away. For passengers wishing to ‘go it alone’ into the city, hourly shuttle buses to the Julong Silk & Craft Exhibition Hall were provided free of charge. From this point fairly inexpensive taxis could be taken to more shopping and attractions, or some were within easy walking distance.

Barbara and I opted for guided shore excursions both days. Traveling separately the first day, I opted for technology while Barbara went for history and the old town garden. Shanghai has a MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) transportation system connecting its modern subwa

y system to the airport. This is the only commercially operated MagLev Train in the world, and I could not pass up the opportunity to ‘go for a ride’. It only covers a distance of 20 kilometers, but reaches speeds of 430 KPH (do the math for MPH) for two minutes, of the 8 minute ride. The ride there and back was fantastic, and the starting and stopping was just as impressive. We re-boarded our buses for a ride in to New Shanghai or the heart of this massive building boom. Our next attraction was to what used to be one of the tallest buildings in New Shanghai and a ride up 88 floors to the observation deck. This elevator ascended at a rate of 9 (near 30 ft) meters a second. Another great ride and the views were amazing even though there was quite a bit of haze in the air. Our ticket ‘to ride’ this modern marvel included a free pearl fresh out of the shell (I watched – so I know it was). Since this was the last attraction on the tour two friends and I opted to get off the bus and make our way to the shuttle pickup point to do some shopping. I had lugged my laptop on this tour in hopes of finding an Internet café, as the ships internet was “locked out” while we were in port. After a harrowing 15 minute taxi ride ($4) we arrived at our destination only to be told there were no Internet cafes in the area, so I opted to take the 5 PM shuttle back to the ship.

Shanghai – 2nd Day

Barbara and I had a restful morning as our tour did not leave until 12:30 pm. After a relatively short ride into the center of the city we were dropped off at the temple of the white Jade Buddha. It was interesting to once again to witness how other cultures worship their deity, preferring to use incense, coins, and prayers written on small ribbons and tied to bushes or trees within temple courtyards. This particular temple featured a white Jade sitting Buddha which, is apparently, very rare. (Photographs were not permitted) One thing that was hard for me to get used to were people going through their worship rituals with tour groups present, and the guides talking loudly, some with personal amplifier systems. I guess the worshipers can tune out the distractions around them.
It is amazing to witness what our bus drivers have to go through to get us to the various stops on our tours. Sometimes there are large parking lots (usually full – with room for just one more), and at others parking in the street to allow us to get off then finding a wide spot to park and wait. The patience of the Chinese and Japanese through all this is astounding. Not once have we seen rage against anyone, drivers or pedestrians. This just seems to be a part of the flow of life in these cities. I imagine that this patience is brought on by having to live within areas of high population density, and having to share living spaces with two or three generations of the family. I don’t think that someone brought up in a western society would survive for long living here.

Our favorite event of the day came next; a visit to a section of the old city. From the bus parking lot it was about a fifteen minute walk along the outside of the “People’s Park”. Here we set upon by the most aggressive “Hawkers” and beggars we had encountered thus far. By now we were old hands of dealing with this segment of the Chinese society, and were able to proceed without much delay. Upon entering an extremely narrow covered alley, we were not bothered again, as though an imaginary boundary had been crossed. On both sides of the “alley” were “stalls” selling just about everything one could imagine, but they were not shabby businesses. Each seemed to specialize in one or two items, and all seemed to have three or four clerks in attendance. Since we were on our way to a lovely garden and home, we were not permitted to stop and shop – that was to come later. I did spot a shop selling belts and wallets that I wanted to return to that Barbara and I later managed to visit. The belts that the well dressed Chinese men were wearing were particularly appealing to me and I wanted to see about getting one. After dealing with more crowds at the garden, we were given 30 minutes to shop – and we were successful – with two minutes to spare. Then we had to troop back to the bus, and run the gauntlet once again. Here in the Orient there is one dish that is very popular, in fact there was a shop with a huge line waiting to buy “steamed buns”, which are dumplings filled with a variety of seafood, etc. Nearby was the shop selling the belt that I was looking for at around $8 US.

Footnote: In most countries we visited there is no welfare system and the poor must dig out a living using what ever skills they have. As I was waiting for our tour group to “join up” in front of Starbucks, (see photo above) I watched this young man disassemble a microwave over so that he could clean (or repair) it for a local business. Amazing!

We made it back the ship in time for dinner, and the evening’s entertainment. I would have liked to have stayed up for the midnight sail-away, but was just too tired.

The big disappointment in Shanghai, for us, was the ship having to dock so far from the city. There would be no interesting after dinner strolls ashore, and no beautiful city skylines to view. We have come to enjoy just being with the local population after dark.

I am finally finding the time to write this report after spending two wonderful days in Hong Kong – now there is a city worth writing home about – that’s next!

Till time then, we send our regards as we sail south through the South China Sea on our way to Singapore.

Jack and Barbara

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