As we had all adopted WeChat as the primary means of communications, groups started to emerge around what to do on our free day in Shanghai. I had been tossing the idea of flying to Xi’An for a day trip to see the terracotta warriors. What better way to immerse myself in the Chinese culture and explore its rich history. Quick look for flights, it seemed almost doable, until I was reminded that Chinese airlines are often delayed or cancelled altogether, and would jeopardise my ability to participate in company visits the next day should I be unable to make it back in time.
And also, Shanghai still had a lot to offer. With Dom, Rob and Satwick, we headed out to Jingan temple. Jing’an temple is a bona fide classic Buddhist temple set in the middle of a modern Shanghai, that it might easily look out of time. Its name stands for “Peace and Tranquillity”. The main attraction is the 3.8m jade Buddha that sits in the Buddha hall, and is the largest sitting jade Buddha in the country.
Image: Team mates potentially praying for better grades
Image: Authentic temple in a modern settings
At the temple, we witnessed religious ceremonies as well as well wishers throwing coins in the huge copper receptacle, for good luck. To immense ourselves in the local culture, we also participated in the activities as well as lighting incense sticks for good luck and protection.
Next stop, the marriage market. It sounds worse than it actually is. It is located in People’s park, and parents flock to the area to trade information on their unmarried children. The notes describe, age, qualifications, height, assets, income, and some even bust and waist size.
Image: lines of umbrellas, with an A4 note of the aspirant bride or groom
The umbrellas are a way for the parents to “mark their spot” in the park. In the Chinese culture there is a pressure on young people to get married, especially as you get closer to 30. The marriage market is where the parents go to look for love for their children, and you see hundreds of umbrellas and paper flyers around. If the parents finds a potential match for their children, phone numbers are exchanged. An innovative solution for an age-old “problem” in China.
After a stroll down Nanjing road, we ended up at the Bund for a photo op.
Image: Photo op at the Bund
By this time, it was well and truly past lunch time, and we still had last night’s noodles on our mind. Feeling adventurous, we walked around the back streets of Shanghai, looking for the next great noodle place. We did find one, but again, language emerged as a problem. They spoke no English, the menus were in Mandarin, Google Translate did not work and we were bent on eating there.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I hopped into the kitchen, pointed at the various ingredients (noodles, vegies, tofu, etc.), and the owner happily started to prepare me my custom meal!
Image: Overcoming language problems
After a very satisfying lunch, we decided it was time to sit back, relax and watch the sun set over Shanghai. A quick subway trip across the river, up to the 36th floor of the Shangri La, we sat back, enjoyed a few good mocktails and other drinks as we watched an amazing sunset and the city turning on its neon light, to welcome the night.
Image: Cocktails and Mocktails overlooking the bund at the Shangri La
As if to challenge our luck, when we caught the subway back to our hotel, we stopped by a local restaurant. You picked your own ingredients from a shelf into a bowl, they weighed it and the chef cooked a sort of Lakhsa with it, with loads of Schezuan pepper. If you have never had Schezuan pepper, let me tell you – it numbs your tongue and lips almost like an anaesthetic, inviting you to eat more as you cannot taste how hot it is.
Image: Vegie Schezuan Soup for dinner