A Travellerspoint blog

Annual Tulip Festival

郁金香

sunny 93 °F

I had a very busy first week of April. After going to "The Cool Docks" and "Jing An Temple" on Wednesday, I headed to the suburbs of Shanghai on Sunday to look at the flowers. One of my friends knew that tulips are my favorite flower, so she told me that Shanghai has an annual tulip festival in the southeastern corner of the city. April the 8th, Easter, happened to be the only day that worked for all of the people going, so come that day, we piled into a couple of cars and drove about an hour and a half to see the flowers.

I have to say, living in a city of 20 million people kind of makes you forget that there's a world of natural beauty out there. It occurs to me that other parts of China have some pretty spectacular scenery, but there's also some fantastic stuff close by. I'm very glad my friend suggested this excursion - here are just a few of the 200+ pictures I took that day:

IMG_0029.jpg Three of my former students that I'm so lucky to call friends - from left to right, that's Cindy, Anna & Amanda. Anna was the one to think of and plan this day trip

IMG_0032.jpg Cindy's sister-in-law took this picture of me and my friends - the auto setting on my camera washes the colors out, doesn't it? I was using some of the manual settings that day, so I think the colors look better than in this picture. It was no fault of Jenny (Cindy's sister-in-law)

IMG_0050.jpg Amanda's daughter, Sunny is holding her bear in one hand and petals that had fallen to the ground in the other hand

IMG_0055.jpg Fabulous tulips - most of the pictures I took of the flowers look like they could be paintings

IMG_0059.jpg There were other flowers there, not just tulips. Here are some hyacinths

IMG_0061.jpg Sunny tossing the petals back to the flowers

IMG_0063.jpg Each of my friends has one child, so they brought them along to enjoy the flowers as well - I joked that I would bring my boys as well, but decided to leave the kitties home instead. That's Cindy's son Andrew, Sunny again and Anna's daughter Cindy (she used to be called Cinderella, but thankfully she changed her name so we had 2 Cindys that day)

IMG_0065.jpg I'm not as cute as the little ones, but still wanted a shot with this car

IMG_0068.jpg Anna & Cindy - I love this picture!

IMG_0086.jpg I don't know the people in this shot, but it looks like they were having a touching moment, doesn't it?

IMG_0089.jpg I told Anna if/when Cindy turns into a rebellious teenager, I'll give her a copy of this picture so she can remember her little angel

IMG_0100.jpg I really like the jagged edge on these tulips - it's just one flower but there's so much variety!

IMG_0102.jpg Andrew posing with a flower that had fallen (been left on?) the ground. He assured us that he hadn't picked it

IMG_0112.jpg Yes, there were even windmills there. I know we had to drive a while, but we were still in China, weren't we?

IMG_0142.jpg Look at all the pretty colors!

IMG_0152.jpg Andrew & Sunny on the carousel

IMG_0156.jpg Sunny again

IMG_0157.jpg Here, she's avoiding the bubbles that were coming her way

IMG_0160.jpg Another fabulous car, this time in white

IMG_0164.jpg What else can I say about these beautiful flowers?

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IMG_0181.jpg Andrew posing in the greenhouse in front of a replica of Shanghai's TV Tower (Pearl Tower), which just happens to be my favorite structure in all of Shanghai

IMG_0195.jpg Posing by the lake

IMG_0213.jpg A royal color for a regal flower!

Well, sorry about the long time from the taking of to the publishing of the pictures. I'm sure since you didn't know about them, you weren't anxiously waiting for an e-mail about the post, but it was weighing on my mind, knowing that I hadn't finished up my writing.

As I write this, I am in my first full day in, wait for it...CAMBODIA!!! I haven't been out to the temples yet. I didn't get to my hotel until nearly midnight last night and since the middle of the day isn't the optimum time for picture-taking, I'm taking it easy this morning and planning on having a late lunch, then I can try to get my first pictures in what Jeff (and other photographers) call the "golden hour" when the lighting is better.

I can't make any promises about when I'll get my next post published, but I can promise that it will be about my vacation in Cambodia. I'm extremely excited to be here and hope that my pictures and experience here will live up to my expectations!

Posted by feiheli 21:55 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Jingan Temple

sunny 90 °F

The afternoon of the morning that Jeff helped me with my photography, I went to a Buddhist temple called "Jing An Temple," which is probably the most well-known temple in Shanghai. It also happens to be just down the street from my apartment. I had been there once in 2008 or 2009 when a friend was visiting from Beijing, but that's the only time I'd been. Since the day of my second visit was "Qing Ming," China's day to pay respects to the dead, it was an opportune time to visit. (Plus, I already had the day off from work...)

I've had these pictures uploaded for at least two weeks, but haven't had/made the time to finish typing up my thoughts. Therefore, in order to get this blog out and not delay any longer, I won't say much other than the informtion I've attached to each picture. If you have any questions, add them in your comments and I'll try to answer them at some point in the future.

IMG_2542.jpg People laying down joss sticks (incense) - Buddhists light them to give offerings to Buddha (I used to light them in college because I liked the smell - let me be clear, mine were NOT offerings to Buddha)

IMG_2551.jpg Detail of a bell hanging from the roof rafters - the sound of the ringing bell supposedly liberates those who are suffering (both ghosts and live people)

IMG_2553.jpg Roof detail from the temple with a modern shopping center in the background

IMG_2562.jpg This young man was bowing with joss sticks in front of this 香炉 (the Chinese "xiang lu" is nicer than the English translation, "incense burner" - right after I took this picture, an older man made him leave this one and go to the more crowded one on the other side of the temple - maybe this one was reserved for special use or something

IMG_2569.jpg The lotus is a popular symbol in Buddhist temples - this one topped the balcony railing. The significance of the lotus is that even though it grows in mud, when it blooms it's very pure and clean. It's supposed by analogous to the pure Buddhist believers living in this dirty world

IMG_2570.jpg I'm not sure about the significance of the four-headed lion scepter, but my Buddhist friend told me that it's originally a symbol from India. When I first returned to Shanghai in 2008, this lion scepter was not here. Jingan Temple has undergone some extensive renovations in the past years and voila - now it's here

IMG_2580.jpg Another lotus newel post, this time with a 宝鼎(bao ding) in the background - it's just another place for people to bring offerings to Buddha, but nowadays people try to throw coins inside it for good luck

IMG_2595.jpg The silver Buddha inside the main hall of the temple

IMG_2598.jpg A small book where visitors could write down the amount of their donations

IMG_2604.jpg The "money shot" of the day - a monk walking next to the railing - I had to crop him a bit on the left to cut out the woman wearing a trench coat who was trailing him through the temple

IMG_2607.jpg Two more monks walking through the temple

IMG_2623.jpg Red strips of paper that are called 祈愿带 (qi yuan dai). Translated as "wish-making ribbons," you use these to write your wishes on, then they are hung up with all of the other wish-making ribbons

IMG_2624.jpg Another shot of the silver Buddha

IMG_2629.jpg A close-up of joss sticks burning on the 香炉

IMG_2648.jpg After leaving the temple, I walked home - this is a shot of flowers lining the street where I live

Before writing comments next to each picture, I asked a colleague who's a strong Buddhist to explain things to me so I could let you know about the different things in the temple. I think she was surprised that I asked her since she knows I'm a Christian. I had to assure her that I just want to know so that I didn't have to write something like "here's a tall thing in the middle of the temple that people throw coins into." Even though she knew she wasn't going to convert me, she was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions - thanks Rose!

Posted by feiheli 20:45 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

The Cool Docks

There's no such a thing as a free lunch

overcast 57 °F

Wednesday, April 4th was a holiday in China. No, not because it was my brother's birthday (Happy Birthday Jerm!). Wednesday was "Qing Ming Festival." For those of you who've never heard of that, it's translated as "Tomb Sweeping Day." That means on this day, families go to the tombs of deceased family members and clean them - think of it as China's version of Easter. Best of all, as a holiday, that meant our school was closed for the day, so every teacher had the day off.

I've mentioned my Canadian colleague, Jeff, in the past so you may remember me telling you that he's a great photographer. He's also a pretty nice guy, so he'd told me he'd be willing to help me improve my photography skills. It's been difficult to take him up on his kind offer, however, since his days off are Friday/Saturday and mine are Sunday/Monday. I approached him the week before Qing Ming and asked him if I bought his lunch, would he help me with my photography. Fortunately, he said yes, so these are the pictures I took that day.

Since he was the one doing me a favor, I told him to choose a place he wanted to see and he picked a place called "The Cool Docks," Lao Ma Tou (老码头) in Chinese. Wednesday was the perfect day to visit - as a holiday where people are supposed to head to gravesites outside the city, this location in the city near the river was astonishingly devoid of visitors! That may not be such a big deal to those of you living in small towns or cities, but as a resident of a city teeming with around 20 million people, it's a very rare occasion to go somewhere where you don't have to fight through crowds and figure out a way to crop them out of the picture (if you want a picture without people). Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the opportunity and think the pictures Jeff helped me take were much better than I could do on my own!

"The Cool Docks" is near the river, which you've probably already guessed, and although the river isn't actually visible from the main square there, it's only a 3 minute walk away. Take a look:

IMG_2433.jpg Standing at the base of a lookout tower in the small, old walled Chinese town that was Shanghai before all the foreigners arrived

IMG_2434.jpg Another view of the tower

IMG_2435.jpg I think it's cool how houses and rooms have been built right into the base of the structure - it's hard to find a wasted square inch in Shanghai!

IMG_2452.jpg This is 外马路, (Waima Lu) which literally means outer road, the road fronting the river that runs parallel to it. This is further south of the "Bund," one of Shanghai's most famous and most recognizable landmarks. I'll include pictures of the Bund to this blog at a later date. Believe it or not, this shot reminds me of some of the downtown streets in Winston-Salem, NC, right next to my hometown of Kernersville

IMG_2464.jpg A look over the central water feature to an updated warehouse (most likely) building

IMG_2471.jpg Another look at the water feature, this time with the Chinese name of the location

IMG_2489.jpg A reflection of a large sculpture within a sculpture - that's a traditional Shanghainese shikumen (石库门) house in the background - I would love to live in a shikumen but they're quite popular with foreigners (translation - too expensive for me)

IMG_2493.jpg Since I was both unwilling and unable to lay on the ground like Jeff, I gave my camera to him to get this shot for me. There were lots of these red sculptures at the Cool Docks - I like how this one was gazing across the way at the shikumen

IMG_2496.jpg I can't squat as well as her, but we were aiming for a mirror image (Jeff was the photographer, of course)

IMG_2503.jpg It seems that not all of the people living around the Cool Docks were displaced when the area was turned into retail shops and restaurants - this is what the sculpture was gazing at: a cute kitty in the courtyard outside someone's front door

IMG_2507.jpg As you'll soon realize, Jeff is somewhat of a character

IMG_2509.jpg More of the red sculptures

IMG_2512.jpg No, Jeff hadn't fallen - this was his pose (to be honest, I took a bit longer to take the picture than normal, just to see how long he could hold the pose - longer than you'd think he could!)

IMG_2514.jpg And my pose - check out how the wind was messing up my hair

IMG_2517.jpg This sculpture was kind enough to hold my water for me so I could take a picture

IMG_2520.jpg And Jeff again...

After lunch, I went to a Buddhist temple near the restaurant and just down the street from my house. Those pictures will be in my next blog entry. Maybe I'll have it ready to publish later today, but I should really get back to work for now.

Posted by feiheli 22:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

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