Our last day included a visit to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. At 468 metres, it is the tallest TV tower in Asia and the third tallest tower in the world (after the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada and the Ostankino Tower in Moscow, Russia). It’s a stunning building full of Chinese symbolism. The two big spheres that you see in the picture right give the appearance of pearls, and in fact there are 11 spheres in all, big and small. It is said that from a afar the tower gives the appearance of twin dragons playing with pearls. Construction of the tower began in 1991 and was completed in 1995.
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower was the tallest structure in China from 1994-2007, when it was overtaken by the spectacular Shanghai World Financial Center, which you see in the photo right. Despite the tower’s height, its double-decker lifts (holding up to 50 people) take only seconds to reach the observation deck, travelling at speeds of 7 meters per second.
From the financial center we made our way to the airport for the final leg back to Thailand, after five exciting days in fascinating China. My thanks again to all who made this trip possible, including our guides and driver, and especially Meta and STV.
Our penultimate day was in Shanghai proper. And this was where we met Haibou, whom you see on the right. Haibou is the mascot for the Shanghai World Expo 2010. Haibou is everywhere in Shanghai (and probably world-wide soon), and his (her?) name apparently means “Pearl in the Sea”. (Hai meaning sea - as in Shanghai - and bou meaning pearl, I think, but Chinese readers may correct me - please!) The World Expo (a large international trade exhibition), which runs from 31 May to 31 October next year, will have an expected 70 million visitors. The site for the exhibition occupies a vast area of land on both sides of the river in Shanghai and is still under construction.
Our last stop this day was the Shanghai World Circus (seen right), where the current show, ERA, bills itself as a “multimillion dollar stunning production”. And having seen it I can confirm that it is a pretty stunning multimillion dollar production. A mixture of acrobatics and multimedia effects, ERA is a love story through past, present and future (”intersection of time” says the publicity), complete with live orchestra (more…)
Shanghai is known as the “Paris of the Orient”, and about one hour to its west is Suzhou, the “Venice of the Orient”. Although China has several other towns crossed, like Venice, by streams and canals, the most famous such “water town” today is certainly Suzhou. Although it has existed much in this form since before 1100 AD, it was only late in the last century that it became a tourist draw. And so it was one of our destinations on our third day; and we took a gondola along one of its canals, through the arches of ancient stone bridges.
Our second day in China included a visit to the site that hosted the World Buddhist Forum 2009 at Wuxi, in Jiangsu Province. At the entrance is a show that depicts the birth of Buddha. The show is set in a circular fountain surrounded by nine dragons to protect the little Buddha. At the centre of the fountain is a lotus flower, from which the new-born Buddha emerges. When the musical fountain show starts, water begins to jet out in all directions. Slowly, the lotus flower opens to reveal the little Buddha. As the Buddha emerges, the flower rotates in a clockwise direction. Some distance behind the fountain is a huge statue of Buddha, towering over the whole scene.
As you can see from the photos, there were many visitors to the site, with people coming from all parts of China and the rest of the world.
A train without wheels - 21st century
We were an “international” group (11 Thais, 1 Japanese and 1 Brit) travelling from Bangkok to Shanghai and its surrounds. And our “handlers” took care of us every step of the way. In coming posts I will tell you something about our experiences during this brief trip to the fascinating country of China - albeit we saw only a tiny fraction of this vast land. Here I wanted simply to introduce and thank the team who looked after us so well. I have never been on an organized tour in my life, and when I was invited by some friends I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see for myself how the English language is faring in China. And I have to say that this tour was quite an experience - well managed, smooth, an easy way to see so many exciting and (more…)