Shanghai: "Wandering The Galleries; Gardens; And Markets"

June 13, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,

Even with its pompous prose, sometimes, sometimes my guide book provides a colorful description to an eager traveler:

Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar:  "With its shaded alcoves, glittering pools churning with carp, pavilions, pines sprouting wistfully from rockeries, whispering bamboo, jasmine clumps, stony recesses and roving packs of tourists, these gardens are one of Shanghai's premier sights - but weekends can be overpoweringly crowded." *

(I may write to the author and make the same request of him that my cousin Jeffrey T. made of me two years ago: "Please send me a package of whatever it is you are smoking."  To be fair, "...roving packs of tourists..." is 100% accurate.  Yet, somehow I am able to wander off the main paths and  escape from the crowds to find an unexplored garden or a quiet pool.)

 Taikang Road Art Centre:  "This warren of shikumen architecture composing this art centre offers tranquil doses of genuine charm.  Also known as Tianziang, this community of art galleries, studios, pocket-sized wi-fi cafes, petite shops and boutiques is also a perfect antidote to Shanghai's out-sized malls.  With families still residing in neighbouring buildings and alleys, a community mood survives."  *
(What brand of tea is this guy sipping for lunch?  Boutiques?  Galleries?  Nah.  Mostly tourist posters and photos, unnecessary accessories, trinkets and chachkas.  Anyway, I stroll around and it was fun.)
I leave the art center, take a left turn to wander down the main street.  Wandering pays off.  I find a favorite attraction:  no tourists, no crowds, just local folks shopping at a neighborhood market.  To borrow a phrase, "a warren" of shops and stands, charming and chaotic, selling everything from candy and cookies to fresh fish (bloody), sea food (huge), meats (dead and alive), and hand-selected produce kind of  "premier sight."
After the market, I take another left turn, gawk at a few skyscrapers, and bump into a tour group.  They are from the USA and they are trotting along at a full-bore New York City clip.  I catch up to one large guy.  Where you from? California. Retired school teacher, he answers, breathlessly.  Ten day trip in China. Where you headed? Acrobat show.  He strides ahead to keep up with his determined  group.
Acrobats!  The guy flies across the Pacific Ocean through eight time zones, dashes through China, and catches his breath at an acrobat show! (I know, I know, they are very talented.)
I feel so lucky.  I'll miss the acrobats.  But I get to stroll, to wander.  If I make another left turn, who knows what I'll find?  Maybe the back alley entrance to the Art Center?  Catch my breath over a hot cup of Chinese chrysanthemum tea?
* "China"  Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd 2009 pg 250

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