nightly game of checkers outside of our hotel
Shanghai is possibly the smoggiest place I have been so far. I don’t really know what we did for the last few days besides marvel at the futuristic looking buildings and variety of shopping malls. And we walked a lot. It was like being in the Jetsons with Flintstone transportation.
We checked out a couple museums while in Shanghai, the Shanghai Art Museum and the Shanghai Museum. The art museum had a couple exhibits that were somewhat memorable; overall, though, I found the place unremarkable. One of the exhibits that I did enjoy, however, was a collection of photographs taken over a few decades of the photographer’s wife and her three sisters. The only stipulation for the annual photo was that the sisters be positioned in the same order. Hair style, location, clothing, and expression changed from year to year, and it was interesting to see the progression of the family through time. The Shanghai Museum, in contrast, showcased a stunning overall collection including: ancient landscape paintings, ancient Chinese pottery, and minority arts and crafts. Not to mention that admission was free. There was, however (or perhaps consequently) a long line to get in. A highlight at this museum for me was the pottery section. I have seen Chinese pottery displays at museums throughout this past year, and almost wanted to skip it but since Matt was going, I followed him into the wing. After viewing a few cases of artifacts I quickly realized the obvious: pottery inside of China is way better than what is shown outside the country. The collection at the Shanghai Museum stood out from others in the quality of the pieces—beautiful colors, playful hand-painted patterns, and some (notably the figure) were just impressive by their size. One type of piece that I found particularly curious were the pillows in shape similar to this one:
Matt recently commented, “It doesn’t seem that China has a whole lot to see (relative to its size),” I must disagree and agree. China does have a lot to see, I think we just don’t know about a lot of it because 1.) It’s our first time here and we didn’t do a whole lot of research before coming, therefore we are reliant on our guidebook to tell us about the country. I truly believe that our Lonely Planet book is a piece of junk, and even if it were written better, it would be hard to adequately cover such a large country in a limited number of pages. 2.) There are some regions we cannot go to due to government (and time) restrictions. But my main point is, 3.) It’s not that there is not “a whole lot to see,” just not a whole lot that we care to see. We don’t want to go to every pagoda, museum or mausoleum. We don’t really care to go to every “ancient city” along a lake or all the scenic parks. Terra cotta warriors? I plan to see them in Santa Ana when I go home, hopefully for a closer view than I would get in Xi’an. So there are plenty of things to see, but due to personal preferences and where we’re at in the trip, we chose not to. We’ve seen some pretty cool stuff, and I feel satisfied with it. Even though I think it’s beautiful, I don’t really want to go see another exhibit of Chinese pottery. And Matt has had his fill of karsts, limestone cliffs and caves (best locations: Khao Sok (Thailand), Nong Kiaw (Laos), and Southern China (as seen by train—the landscape is amazing)…Ha Long bay is seriously overrated and that’s not just because we had a bad experience on our boat). My point is, if a sight doesn’t sound particularly interesting, we don’t feel compelled to go. Instead, we’ve been spending more time walking around, just wandering and (my favorite) people watching. I’m just a traveler. I’m not “touring” every place I visit. I feel satisfied with our travels.