China Chronicle – Day 4 (Beijing and Shanghai)

         We woke up today to rain. This, plus the fact that I’m upset that I will not be able to see the Temple of Heaven while in Beijing. Because this is the day of our flight to Shanghai (at 2PM this afternoon), the day is rather complex and Zhao is afraid that traffic might prevent us from linking back up with them. Instead, we are scheduled to have a pedi-cab ride through a hutong (an old-fashioned neighborhood in which the small houses are connected together on narrow lanes) — big whoop!! Oh well, as I have said before, flexibility is a requirement when you travel.
        It was rainy in Beijing but we managed to complete our tourist agenda anyway. We drove to the Drum Tower where time was announced in the old days of Beijing. Nearby we began our pedicab (basically a rickshaw using a bicycle instead of feet). Our driver took us through one of Beijing’s few remaining hutong areas to give us a flavor for "old" Beijing. Then we stopped at a house and met Mrs Wong who hosts groups like ours to allow us a glimpse into typical Chinese family life.  I’m not sure how typical Mrs Wong is because she had a picture of herself with Oprah on her sitting room wall. It really was very nice, however, and she was sweet and answered all our questions about life in a hutong.
       Next we climbed the Bell Tower (many steep, tall stairs!!) and got a nice view of Beijing although the rain and fog made it difficult to see very far. We had lunch at a noodle restaurant called The Loft (very good and different) before heading for the airport and our flight to Shanghai.
       Shanghai is very different from Beijing. Besides being a huge city (over 20,000,000 people) it is much more modern than Beijing. Its architecture is positively amazing! — hundreds of tall buildings with unusual features. Our hotel, the Le Royal Meridien, is one of the most distinctive. 
       After a buffet dinner at our hotel we took a walk down Nanjing Road —  certainly one of the glitziest neon jungles in the world. It reminded us of Freemont Street in Las Vegas. Much of Nanjing Road is pedestrian-only. We walked all the way down to the Bund, a promenade along the Huangpu River lined with interesting Colonial era buildings which look more like Europe than China. Across the river we got our first glimpse of the Pudong, a city district which is the business and financial hub of the city. Here we saw the distinctive Oriental Pearl Tower, a pink spire with an observation area, and the Jinmao Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world.


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