Our final port! What a stunning morning we had. I was aware of city lights long before the sun began to rise, Shanghai is a very, very big city. Anyone up for breakfast moderately early was treated to this view:
Impressive until you realize that the haze is not going to burn off as the sun comes up, the pollution is bad – you can smell and taste it in the air, and there’s no such thing as a clear view or sharp picture. This was as good as I could manage:
Today we were whisked away to Nantong, which I think was a good three-hour drive out of Shanghai, to meet Janet Chen of Shanghai Queen Wool Yarn Company. Although the air was thick in Shanghai, you can tell that they’re trying to clean it up. By morning, the litter is gone, and the streets have been sprayed (presumably with water). Not so farther out into the country, where you can see piles of trash alongside the fields of crops. No trash in this picture, but you can see that the polluted air is still all around:
Where the houses were closer together and nearer the road, I could see that they are covered in little tiles – you can just make out the patterns and the detail atop the roof in this picture:
Different building materials interest me. I noticed that this scaffolding is made of bamboo:
There were a lot of trees around the cities – finally, I see one in bloom:
This is a street in Nantong. You would think that having three distinct areas, that pedestrians, cyclists, and cars would all be in their place, but it was still a challenge for us to safely navigate ourselves from the coach to the restaurant:
The drive really did seem long, and the farther we travelled the more foriegn I felt. At the gas station, the toilets were not designed for us Western gals. Travellers washed themselves at sinks attached to the outside walls of the bathrooms. These people had been on the road a long time….and from the way they stared at us (and their children giggled and tugged on their parents’ sleeves to look our way), I’m guessing they had not seen many tourists. I was hungry and excited by the time we arrived at our lunch venue:
This is impressive, but only about a third of the appetizers have made it to the table so far – the dishes just kept coming
So good – some dishes were reminiscent of food I enjoyed with a Chinese family I worked for in England (don’t ask me how many years ago); some were completely new to me. I’ve always like seaweed as it is a local delicacy near my hometown, here I got to try seaweed served with barnacles. I didn’t know you could eat barnacles!
We had a very interesting conversation with Janet Chen over lunch. She owns a big yarn producing company and pioneered “fancy” yarns in China. She studied and worked in several countries before returning to China to start this business. We were taken to her yarn store, which was packed with bargains for us. This is yarn was not the luxurious silk and cashmere we were treated to in Beijing. However, the yarn was of good quality (such as 80% Merino lace weight) in stunning colours. I understand now, why her yarns are successful in the Chinese market, where apparently, only plain yarn in basic colours were available to knitters until Janet came along.
After we loaded up on yarn, we visited Janet’s home office. Here, we saw samples of cashmere sweaters she produces, it looks like this is a showroom for visiting retailers. The details and quality were stunning, and we were advised we could buy them at wholesale prices. I tried on a jacket, and asked if there were other sizes…this was the largest size they produced for women (it was only one size too big for me, and I’m a petite 5’1″). We asked why Janet did not make larger sweaters for the US market, and she responded that she wasn’t sure her designs would be appealing – I hope after our encouragement she finds a way to export these garments as the quality was far superior to any cashmere sweaters I have seen in US department stores. I bought myself a jacket, and we all chipped in to get Lily this chic jacket. OK, not good light for a picture with my basic camera, but I had to show you how delighted she was with her gift:
The drive back to the city did not seem as long – maybe because I was petting my new cashmere jacket. The city of Shanghai was lit up by the time we arrived. They have an astonishing number of high-rise buildings lit up with lights that change colours. Of course a still photograph won’t capture the changes – you’ll just have to go there yourself. This is a restaurant in which I believe I counted five huge floors of diners:
Even the freeways were lit up. I really liked the continuous lights under the roads, much easier to see where you are going than with conventional lamps, and cool-looking too:
At the end of this very long day, I was disconcerted to find that I was booked into a different hotel than the rest of my group. Same name brand, different location, and no, they couldn’t change our reservation. Poop! SisterFriend took care of Tokyo, I had Shanghai, and its messed up. Our coach driver got quite distressed when asked if he could ferry us to the other hotel. He could not go anywhere other than originally instructed. Fortunately, a cab turned out to be a better experience than I’d expected, and the hotel we checked into was huge, CLEEEEAN, and closer to the airport. I was content to settle for the luxury of room service in a very nicely appointed room with a 16th floor view of the city.
One more look at my photos – seems like so long since we left the ship, did I really take this just this morning?