Today we leave Shanghai, after a final morning of sightseeing. Then we fly to Xi’an, in north central China, during the afternoon. We are hoping that the 7.9 earthquake which struck Sichuan Province, in the region of Chengdu, yesterday at around 3 PM, does not affect our trip. We were thankfully far from the quake and did not feel any tremors (although office buildings in Shanghai felt the tremors and they were evacuated for a time), but Xi’an is much closer to Sichuan and we are wondering if our flight will be modified. We will continue to update readers as we receive more information.
A word or two about the food in China. Basically, we have not had a bad meal since we arrived although if you asked what we ate, we would have difficulty answering. The meals are all structured the same way, with several appetizers, followed by a medley of dishes which feature fish, pork, chicken and beef. There are always a large number of vegetable dishes to complement the meat. All the dishes are placed on a revolving tray (lazy susan) so that everyone at the large round table (our whole group) can share. There is no dessert (no wonder Chinese people are not overweight) but rather fruit finishes the meal. The beer here (pijiu) is excellent! The flavors of the foods are different and usually very interesting, since they use many spices that we are unfamiliar with. We were a little worried about the restaurants since we have been on some tour excursions where the restaurants were horrible. But Pacific Delights has obviously chosen quality places both to stay in and eat in — we’re very impressed!
A random thought that we learned yesterday from Connie, our guide: Shanghai has 2,700 buildings over 13 floors!! Imagine that!!
Before we left Shanghai, we drove down to the Bund, to see it and the Pudong skyline during the daytime. The Bund is basically a promenade along the Huangpu River, which is lined with Colonial European buildings which date to the days following the Opium War (around 1840) when Europe was of given access to China for trade purposes. These buildings are in marked contrast to the buildings on the opposite side of the river, the Pudong District. Here is modern Shanghai, symbolized by the Oriental Pearl Tower, a tall pink monolith, the Jinmao Tower, until recently the tallest building in the city, and the still-being-constructed Shanghai World Financial Center, which will be the third-tallest building in the world when completed.
When we left the Bund, we decided to take the Maglev Train to the airport. The Shanghai’s Maglev train is the fastest train in the world, traveling the 35 kilometer distance from the city to the airport in just 7 minutes. It reaches a speed of 240 miles per hour!! What a great diversion!
There was no alteration of our schedule — things seem to be back to normal throughout most of China since flghts at the airport to even Chengdu, where the quake happened, took off without significant delay. We have arrived in Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, and home of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty who was the first to unite China, piece together the Great Wall, and establish standard monetary and legal systems. He also was ruthless and spent much of the treasury on the construction of his tomb, which contains the Terracotta Warriors, probably the most important archaeological find of the Twentieth Century.
We finished our day with a lovely dinner and show at Tang Dynasty Dinner Theater. The show features an extravaganza of traditional Chinese costumes and music. The Tang Dynasty, which is the focus of the show, was a period of stability and peace for China and also a period which witnessed a burgeoning of the Arts and other forms of expression. We thoroughly enjoyed the show, although it was obviously very touristy. It was refreshing to actually hear and see examples of China’s past, since much of what we have experienced are all about China’s future and its emergence into the mainstream world community.