It could have just been the jet lag, but after landing in Shanghai everything seemed bright and blurred. Choking smog and flashing lights, words and symbols that made no sense to me. The world was spinning and I felt the full impact of culture shock. There was an astonishing beauty to it all, a harmony that I did not yet feel acquainted with. The vehicles and pedestrians worked together like clockwork, moving rapidly beneath a grey sky. However, wait just a few hours after sundown and bursts of color take over the night. The side of the Huangpu River bustles with life as people make their way down the Bund.
The Yuyuan garden changes with the time of day. When the large your groups flood through, the narrow corridors and bazaars become alarmingly crowded. The winding streets become threatening for those who suffer from claustrophobia. When the fray begins to calm, however, the garden becomes a serene place where one can enjoy a cup of tea in peace. Empty or full, the architecture of the garden is stunning. Red and white buildings adorned in gold flank the bustling market and open courtyards. This is a must-see destination for anyone interested in the history of Shanghai and classical Chinese culture.
The Longhua Temple is the oldest in Shanghai, preserving Buddhist traditions and Song dynasty architecture. A towering pagoda greets visitors entering the large red gates. First constructed in 242 AD, this Buddhist sanctuary sprawls over several acres of land, making it Shanghai's largest temple space, and serves as a perfect place to take a break from the pace of the city.
One element of Shanghai that I did not particularly enjoy was the weather. When I visited in early summer, the air was hot, humid, and smoggy. During the day, the buildings looked dull, dreary, and monotonous. Through the viewfinder of my camera, it appeared as though I was drowning in a grey ocean. As night approached, however, the character of the city transforms. Like a butterfly out of a cocoon, Shanghai bursts into new life in a frenzied explosion of color. Neon lights decorated the skyline and spotlights cut through the cloudy night sky.
Whether it’s a peaceful stroll through a misty park or a trek through one of the busiest cities in the world, Shanghai does it all. The city is both fast-paced and relaxed, noisy and quiet, hardworking and creative…a harmony of the past and the present, history and modernity, skyscrapers and teahouses.
Shanghai is an incredible city. Sometimes I feel as though it is a living creature with a mind of its own. The concrete jungle can be an intimidating and sometimes lonely place. The tall buildings, noisy intersections, unfamiliar faces, and afternoon smog are certainly parts of the city’s character, but there is so much more to it. The boats drifting on the river, the steam pouring out of restaurant windows, the temple bells ringing in the wind, and the brilliant light displays that dominate the night sky are all too a part of the moving city.
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