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Garden of Happiness

January 17, 2017

Our second day in Shanghai was an outing to the Yu Gardens and its surrounding market. Our first day showed us the modern shops and skyline of Shanghai and the Yu Gardens was an experience that felt much more like China. The garden is over 450 years old, but with Shanghai’s turbulent history I think most of the structures have been rebuilt in the last century. This did not detract from the experience.

The garden was only a few stops away from us on the Metro and getting in the general vicinity was pretty easy because we just followed the signs for Yu, but when we got closer it wasn’t clear how to get to the garden entrance. We were not the only ones trying to figure this out and we stopped on a street corner with a couple of other tourists trying to figure it out. We said we thought it was straight ahead and they were off. Our group of five takes a little longer to get going and by the time the light changed again we decided it was actually a left turn. The left turn was the correct way, but we missed the next turn because we didn’t know you have to enter the side streets of the Yu Market to reach the garden entrance. We followed the outside wall of the garden and with minimal backtracking and shopping we eventually arrived at the entrance and bought our tickets.

The garden is a (mostly) one-way maze of stone structures, walls, courtyards, ponds, wooden buildings, and the occasional bridge. It covers over 5 acres of land and we hit our 10,000 steps well before leaving. I don’t know enough about architecture to describe the buildings, but some of the other features included large porous rock  structures some of which had paths over and through them, a longs walls made to look like a dragons with elaborate carved dragon heads at the ends, and a many arched doorways great for taking pictures.

[These pictures don’t begin to capture the garden, but I need to post with something.]

We stayed in the garden for several hours exploring all of the nooks and crannies. Definitely worth the visit. We exited the garden and before shopping decided t get a little sustenance in the Yu Market there is a large food court that is looks even bigger when you walk in because the back wall has a mirror. It was a chaotic place with almost zero English, but Melanie and Kira picked some random items and brought them back to the table I had managed to find. They chose some fried wontons with mystery green stuff in them and some dough balls with mystery red stuff in them. They were both interesting. No one was really hungry after our brunch that morning, but you have to grab food before you get hungry on these trips. We also bought two fruit drinks from a cart that came by our table. The first was mango , which the cart woman told us in English, but when I pointed to another drink on the cart that was white with black speckled foam at the top she apologized for not knowing what it was called. I picked that one. It turned out to be dragon fruit which I had decided I liked at the brunch earlier in the day.

After our snack it was time to shop. If anyone wanted a souvenir from Shanghai we were not going to find a better place. The shops were a mix of tourist kitch and local crafts, with perhaps on emphasis on the former. But it was an interesting place to spend time. It was crowded, but not as much as the Nanjing had been the previous day and there were lots of interesting side streets to explore. Michael bought a pocket watch with a Captain America shield painted on one side, Melanie got a Shanghai magnet to add to her collection. She didn’t have any of her own money converted to Yuan so she asked if she could also buy a shot glass. I declined with the thought that I don’t have a leg to stand on, but I also don’t have to encourage her. In one of the larger courtyards of the market we discovered a confectionery that to our knowledge doesn’t operate in Japan, Dairy Queen. “I haven’t had a blizzard in forever.” Blizzards were had despite the aforementioned not hungriness.
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While the kids stood in front of the Dairy Queen eating their Blizzards we attracted another beggar. She was more polite than the women from the previous evening, but still insistent and made the comment of “three babies.” We took this to mean we must be rich because we could afford to have three children. And by global standards we are rich, we just haven’t figured out how to give money to one beggar without being afraid of attracting tons more so it’s easier to just do nothing. Looking back I feel like a jerk for not giving anything, but at the time my thoughts were, “please get away from me.”

After the ice cream we looked through a few more shops and then made our way to a Buddhist Nunnery at the edge of the market. It was a peaceful retreat after the hectic market. Lonely Planet suggested we take an alleyway near the Nunnery which would take us back towards the end of the market by the metro station. We took the alley. It was deserted and creepy with boarded up buildings and a million wires hanging down. This is when I began to wonder when the Lonely Planet author had been in Shanghai last.

Even though we had plenty of steps in for the day Melanie said she would be up for walking back to the hotel (about thirty minutes) just to see more of the city. I was good to walk too. Kira and Sarah quickly agreed to walking as well and Michael decided he would rather walk with us than ride the Shanghai subway by himself. We did walk for about a half an hour or more, but I think it was worth it. I got this great picture of a butcher shop and we got a close up view of the Shanghai Grand Theater.

We got back to the hotel well before dinner time, but were too tired for another adventure that day and ate at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel followed by a great dessert in the lobby. When I went to get the kids for dessert ehy were watching Chinese televsion. mostly flipping channels, but it was on Chinese MTV when I entered. No one had any clue what the song was, but Sarah is learning Kanji and she could read that it was the “most popular.”

[Note: I meant to work this in somewhere, but forgot. The first thing we noticed when we woke up on the second day was how much more smog there was. It made me wonder if they shut down factories on the holidays. Whatever the reason it made us grateful for the views and pictures we got the first day.]

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