Last Day in Shanghai ( We thought )

Today is our last day in Shanghai or so we thought when we awoke. Stephen and Mr. Wae await us at 9:00am sharp. We are off, at a snail’s pace,through the traffic to the train station.It is only going to be a short ride of 20.5 miles from Long Yang Lu Station to Pudong International Airport. It is a trip of only 8 minutes on the train. This is the fastest time ever for ground operated mode of transportion. Your body can feel the pressure when you hit 431 kilometers per hour. You are startled when the trains pass each other going in opposite directions with a resounding WHAM. I let out with a loud Yelp as I didn’t expect what happened. We arrive back from the airport on our magic carpet ride to find that the sun is breaking out so we decide to ride up in one of the new tall skyscrapers to look around over the city. The Pudong, or east side of the river, is the financial district. It also houses the high end residential buildings and lavish shopping areas. Many of these stores are at the base level of the high rise office buildings which are reaching to the sky. Stephen selects the Jinmao Building. We go up 88 floors in 9 seconds and I am still trying to get my internal organs back in place from the train ride only to have them jostled again by the super fast elevator up to the 88th floor. The top 44 floors of the building is a Grand Hyatt Hotel. You can look down from above into the cylinder of open space around which the hotel rooms are arranged. It resembles the scene from the famous Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker light saber fight in the original star wars movie. Looking outward we have views of the city across the river. We travel back across the river, this time on one of the many bridges that link the east and west parts of the city. We head to an older section of town where the famous Jackie Chan raised money to go with his own contributions to restore this now high fashion, hip area of two story traditional buildings. Here we find the dealerships for Mercedes, Bentley and Rolls Royce. Stephen picks out a restaurant that serves good typical Shanghai lunches. Now we are stuffed. Now, off to the temple which houses the Jade Buddha. Here we are greeted by a profusion of fragrant incense and hundreds of gleaming gold leaf adorned lanterns which set off the 1882 era wooden buildings. Inside are gold leaf covered Buddha figures. Some are angry looking and some are serene. But what we have come to see is in a building all the way in the back. Here, up the stairs, we find the jewel encrusted Jade Buddha. This is a Buddha likeness after he has received the enlightenment. It is carved from a massive single piece of jade which was brought here from Burma. One hundred monks reside here in the Temple. A group of them are busily removing the offerings from the donation boxes and putting them in sacks. No financial controls are in evidence here.
The heady incense is peaking and I am beginning to experience sensory overload so it is time to head back to the ship. We take a side trip through China Town. Here brigades of scooters rule the roads. They are carrying everything imaginable with a balancing act worthy of Circ-du-Solie. It is a very busy area and shops line all the streets selling fruits, clothes, shoes, scooter repairs ect. Above the first level are cramped living quarters with the balconies draped with drying laundry hanging from every available hook or catch. It is often referred to as the Chinese Flag.
We have found the people that we have meet to be very busy and generally happy with the recent increase in their standard of living. Prosperity has flowed down from the top to the lowest levels of social classes in a way not seen for generations. I hope their contentment lasts because there are soooo many of them.
Back on board, we head to the balcony for some last minute departure photos. We wait and wait but the time for our departure comes and goes. The Capitan comes on the intercom and announces that today’s warm Shanghai weather has been transformed to dense fog on the river and we have 40 miles of it before we would reach the open sea. While our ship is equipped with the latest in radar and location technology, the hundreds of barges and smaller ships on the river have no such equipment. We have been delayed by the Chinese Port Authorities for an indefinite period until the fog clears. Tonight we are able to get some of our best photos of the illuminated skyline while awiating the fog to clear downstream.
It is nearly 2:30pm of the next day before we get the clearence to depart. It was amazing to see the effect of the all clear signal from the Port Authorities. Up until that moment the river traffic had been all but nonexistant. Immediately the river is choked with innumerable ships and barges of all sizes and we push out into the middle of it all with the help of two tug boats. The Captain manages to turn us around in midstream and away we go. Our sister ship has been anchored at the mouth of the river for the last 36 hours awaiting our departure so she could come in and tie up in our spot. We hope to see her as we go by but, we cannot.
The Captain announces our first Japanese port of call will be the next stop. Unfortunately, the planned stop at one of the Ryuku Islands will not be possible. Sadly the time lost in Shanghai makes a stop at this location, known for its beautiful waters and coral reefs, not possible. So its on to Okinawa.
That night we pass through several rain showers and we are now some 250 miles off shore. This is a major birding flyway and we are rewarded with many swallows, a pair of woodpeckers, and other weary winged travelers who drop in on the ship to get a drink of fresh water and a brief rest from their journey. I am delighted and I watch them for several hours. I marvel at how resorceful these brave little travelers are.