by the ten o'clock pick up time the overnight rain ceased completely with the bonus that the temperature was at a far more comfortable level too. First stop was the euphonically named Jade Buddha Temple, an active monastery where they have not one but two large Jade Buddhas. More interestingly there was a buddhist service in progress, not a richly festive as the Tibetan version but still pretty interesting. Our visit culminated(?) in a tea tasting and Mary bought a large packet of an unpleasant tasting herbal infusion claimed have healing properties that with luck will languish in the pantry for some time before being discarded unopened.
Next stop an 'Arts and Crafts Centre' where I, having a nose for this sort of thing, spotted 'retail' at the first object, a Jade carving the size of an automatic washing machine, with a price tag in excess of two million NZ dollars. I was in the wrong place but Mary loved it.
Escaping from the retail we were taken to lunch on the first floor of a somewhat out of the way hotel. All became apparent when we discovered that the days lunch was included in the tour and this was to be a tourist coach trip experience. Lunch was decidedly on the tasteless side. We'll be watching for that next time even if we don't manage to avoid it.
Luckily the afternoon hit the high spots. The Shanghai museum is excellent and only slightly marred by the jade gallery being closed. Chinese culture has been advancing for millennia and these chaps were making fabulous art works when my ancestors were daubing blue mud on their faces and grunting to each other about how chic they looked. The time here was a bit rushed and we could happily have spent the afternoon there but onward it had to be. The museum shop even boasted a phrase book (it was right next to Chairman Mao's 'Little Red Book' which we didn't buy, tempted though)
Last visit of the day was the Yuyuan garden, a two acre remnant of an imperial officials power and influance with ponds, mountains, wild carp and some fabulous follies. Although quite busy it's well worth the visit and the Lonely Planets 'premier site' rating. Despite that, the garden is unhappily located in a midst of a tacky souvenir paradise boasting such unique native Chinese ethnic attractions as Starbucks and Dairy Queen and memory plastic objects that regroup like the Terminator when thrown hard against the floor. The touts are fortunately less persistent than their Nepalese neighbours but still somewhat intrusive (“come and see the art exhibition from my school” seems to be a favourite). We spent an hour in the bazaar but 20 minutes would have been more than enough.
The only high spot of the bazaar was meeting a 70 year old professor of linguistics who told us (very loudly) about his journey to New Zealand earlier this year. He was rather fun and certainly attracted a small crowd.
After showering (again) at the hotel we went into the upmarket shopping plaza over the road (66) and had dinner where Bella had recommended at the 'Lu Lu Restaurant' (62881729). The General Manager, Mr Raymond Cheung, personally greeted us, found us an unreserved table, made us very welcome then came over at the end and thanked us for our custom. The food was excellent and despite not selling wine by the glass they found one for Mary. An unreserved recommendation goes to Lu Lu's even though they talked us into the once a year Dragon Boat special of sticky rice dumplings for which once a year would be once a year too often. The price was staggeringly reasonable too.
All this made us a little late to meet Bella but tonight the Shanghai Acrobatic show was just over the road next to the Hyatt so we were in good time. Essentially the show has the same heritage as the ERA but without live music and excellent presentation. It's simply set as a stage show although they had one very clever knife routine not included at the ERA. Basically the show lacked the immediacy and some of the more exciting acts. It is also firmly directed at tour bus parties. If you only see one see the ERA.
We walked back to the hotel via an excellent photographic exhibition in the 66 Plaza and jet lag saw us sleeping soundly by 10:30. Colour us old.