Longhua Temple

Longhua Temple 龙华寺 is a complex that preserves the architectural design of a Song Dynasty monastery of the Buddhist Chan sect. It is the largest, most authentic and complete ancient temple complex in the city of Shanghai. A great place to chill out and relax from the hectic city outside. Buddhists tend to be peaceful and there is none of the shoving and jackassery that occurs in the metro rush hour. The main event is bowing to the various deities with your incense sticks held outstretched. Free incense with admission , yes!

I will definitely head back to check out the yearly temple festival that coincides with the Martyr’s Memorial Park’s (near the temple) peach trees blossoming.

Alrighty , let’s try this Flickr thing out seeing as how I am still unable to load pictures directly into WordPress. Sucks you only get a 300 mg monthly allowance for the free Flickr. I really don’t want to pay. These photos took up a 1/3 of my month so you’d better enjoy them!

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Happy New Year!

Ah , a nice refreshing 3 day break from work (Jan. 1st-3rd), now it’s Saturday morning and I’m on my lunch break. What? This must be a typo! Lunch breaks are not needed on the weekends. Surely in China one must be able to choose a time and place to eat on the weekends? This break must refer to the amount of effort it takes to get up from the couch in between pirate DVD episodes of “Game of Thrones”! No , no , no you must pay for that three-day holiday by working two days on the weekend in addition to the next week. Tuesday , Wednesday , Thursday off , and Friday to Friday on. The Chinese holiday schedule is not content with , you know, actually cutting people some slack. Great. As much as I loved those days off , it just doesn’t seem worth it with 6.5 more days looming ahead on the horizon. ( rainy, snowy, cold next 6.5 days) Happy New Year! WORK MORE.

On a happier note , the days off were really great! The first day of the new was the warmest it’s been in weeks, and the sun was shining! I took this opportunity to get out of my smelly little box that serves as an abode and ventured far off into the never never lands of Songjiang District.The end of metro line 9 is a long, long way from downtown. I rode all the way to the new terminal station (opened Dec. 29th), Songjiang South, looked around , and then hopped back on the subway one station north to the also newly opened Zuibai Pond station , home of Shanghai’s oldest classic park Zuibai Chi (醉白池). The 醉 means drunk. This garden was the retreat of a famous poet who liked to come , drink, and write poetry. Awesome.

From there I walked to the other touristy places in the area, Xilin Pagoda , Songjiang Mosque , and Square Pagoda (fangta) park . I was the only non-Asian I saw all day which incidentally made me a tourist attraction as well. After all was said and done it was getting dark and cold , time to take the nearly one hour subway ride back home. Let on the “Game of Thrones” marathon begin! I’m late jumping on the bandwagon but am glad I did. I would love to read the books but sadly Season 1 and 2 on pirate DVD come up to a whopping 72 rmb ($11.42 USD) while the real editions of the books (only ones I’ve seen at the Fuzhou Lu foreign language book center) hits the wallet for more than 100 rmb a piece ($15.80+).

When dawn broke it was time to venture out again. This time I went to one of those place you hear about and always mean to visit , to be a tourist in your city again, Longhua Temple. This complex is located close to the city center and is totally worth the visit. It’s a peaceful oasis from the outside gray area where intense construction of the middle portion of the metro line 11 has the ground all ripped up, and safety walls erected everywhere.

Admission is 12 rmb and you get a free pack of incense! Everyone is just strolling around and bowing before the various deities and shrines. The temple interiors are quite impressive. I like Gods with hundreds of arms and swords. I would like to think the Gods were pleased by the pomelo and apple sacrifices. (I certainly would be). Comparing these shrines to their Vietnamese counterparts ,however, makes me wonder why the Vietnamese offer fruits , beer, and liquor to the heavens while the Chinese don’t give booze to the mighty ones above. Maybe drunken Gods have a mean streak in China?

After blissing out in the temples , and petting the fat temple cat , it was time to a nerd and ride the brand spankin’ new metro line 13 just for the sake of riding it. The terminal station’s , Jinyun lu, surroundings are a barren wasteland. A giant shopping mall looms above the surrounding low rises , a center of sterile fun in a bleak gray world. Billboards abound with messages about the great new west city business district that will have sprung up like a weed and pictures of vast green lawns are interspersed with shiny glass towers, the skies are photoshopped blue, and the people are way to happy to be in a business district. I certainly do not smile like that on my approach to the office. More the like inverse of that. My smile proportionally decreases with the proximity to work.

One cool thing in the area (maybe the only) was that you could see the Bottle Opener (Shanghai World Financial Center) Shanghai’s tallest building looming from the misty (smoggy) distances like the eye of Mordor. That was intense. OMG! Reference to an intense medieval fantasy epic , must return home for more “Game of Thrones”….

Day three was cold and little flakes of snow floated from the skies. Curses from the Gods for not receiving their alcohol rations (doesn’t snow in Ho Chi Minh does it?!?). Twas a day for cleaning, preferably in the 1 foot radius around my radiator. Sigh , now back to the work marathon.

Back to Work

Yup just like that it’s over. Back to work , clock in clock out , grind time once again. I know I already went on a little rant before but I’m seeing all these TGIF whoa awesome plans for the weekend on slavebook (aka facebook) as I’m sitting in my office during lunch break. Waaahh! Saturday , Sunday , and then Monday thru Friday of work. Waking up on Monday I will already worked for two days so going with the normal progression of time it should already be Wednesday by that time. So then the next day should be Thursday and almost the weekend but in reality it will be the other dreaded T – Tuesday! Nooo!

But enough complaining , having 7 days off in a row (even though they really only give you three days off because 2 are already because of a weekend and then you use the next weekend to cover 7-2-2=3) is really nice. Before, I forgot to mention I went to a Dj Shadow concert on the first Friday at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Pudong. Awesome venue with a great sound system even though it’s a little far away from things and late shows equals no metro home so either a long bike ride or super expensive taxi back home. Unless you live in Pudong and then wow aren’t you just super cool?

After the video game spree I spent the next days riding around the city checking out some bars and restaurants. If you have the chance I say check out

Barbarossa – Moroccan style lounge in People’s Park is pretty cool (pricey)

Shanghai Brewery- Excellent home brews and food on Hongmei Rd

Also found one of those pirate book vendors with loads of good books each for 20rmb but  we bargained down a little bit since we bought 14 books. They look really good too some it is quite hard to tell they are pirated. The back price above the bar code is still even listed in US dollars haha. Ah I love Pirates. China has really good ones too!

Thursday night was spent at a fireworks show in Century Park. Entry to the park for the show was 70rmb but due to vast crowds we waited (along with what seemed like thousands of other people) on an outlying street by the park and watched the show for free. Seriously didn’t matter we didn’t make it inside we had a perfect view from the outside! There were also three other firework nights and each lasted over an hour. Just like the 4th of July except that we are celebrating the anniversary of the Communist Party! I have certainly been missing the 4th of July celebrations the last few years so next year go check out these fireworks if you feel a bit homesick!

The last day was spent at the Shanghai Zoo which actually is quite nice. I had heard it was a bit depressing with squalid cramped conditions for the animals but for the most partwas nice. The zoo is set in a very nice green leafy space with plenty of room for people on wide grassy spaces.You can take Metro Line 10 to the stop named (wait for it! Guess!) Shanghai Zoo.  Initially the plan was to head to Chongming Island but due to late waking up , time restraints , and going to the wrong bus station the plan was scrapped for another weekend.

I also managed to not get very much blog writing down during the downtime but will crank out the remaining summer places very soon. Weird how having a schedule ,other work, and being busy motivates me to write more, draw more, etc. Why can’t I just get it done in the huge expanse of empty space provided to me?

National Day Golden Week

Ah the golden week for October 1st’s national day. Every October 1st we have a 7 day holiday to commemorate the founding of the People’s Republic of China ( current ruling party). We have October 1st to October 7th off. You may notice that there should be two more days the following Saturday and Sunday off. Oh I wish that were so. We do get 7 days off in a row but then we must “trade” 2 days and work the following weekend. Yes next Oct. 8&9 instead of my usual weekend time off it will be the start of a 7 day workweek. Great 7 days off then 7 days on. Grrrrr so silly(stupid!!!). Just give us the extra two days , please!

For this Golden week I don’t have enough cash to leave the country. If you don’t have enough cash to see another country for a few days then good luck traveling within China. Since almost everybody in China (1.3 billion) has this week off most return to their hometowns or take the opportunity to go sightseeing. My girl reported back that rest stops for the buses were insanely crowded and the sheer amount of people led some girls to peeing right on the floor in the middle of the restroom in the middle of the crowd. Hearing this affirmed my plan of not leaving Shanghai.  Train tickets get sold out almost instantly from the second they go on sale and if you are lucky enough to grab a ticket I hope you booked your hotel months in advance and hope you plan on seeing more of the crowds than the actual sites you intend to see. This works out well enough for me just staying in Shanghai. Due to many people leaving to go back to their hometowns traffic in Shanghai is wayyy down. Rush hour during the week was barely even like “slow hour” in usual Shanghai schedule, awesome for me riding my bike around! I imagine the typical tourist spots in Shanghai are even busier than usual but seeing as how I’ve been to these a multitude of times it’s no problem for me. Another thing to notice is the amount of fireworks randomly set off for the celebrations. Chinese love fireworks and I always wake up to them blasting off right outside of my window. National Day golden week is nothing compared to Spring Festival but still everyday I manage to hear some fireworks going off in the city.

Right now it’s about halfway through the holiday and I haven’t really accomplished much but it’s okay. The first 3 days I kinda just stayed indoors (we did have a cold snap!!) and caught up on some reading , cleaning , and played a good amount of PS3 ( woo hoo Fallout New Vegas!). Today I rode my bike 10km(and then 10km back) to get to the Hongmei pedestrian street which is where the most awesome Shanghai Brewery is located. Spent the day drinking Shanghai made micro-brews and finishing some books I’ve working on for a while finished up. Three more days to go and I have a trip to Chongming Island planned , a revisit to the Hongmei Pedestrian street , and (sigh) getting kindergarten lessons for next week hashed out. Maybe I’ll even get some more writing on the blog whipped out too! Woo hooo!

Happy Belated Mid-Autumn Festival

Well everyone its past that magical time of the year known as the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Also known as Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival. This fun festival has come and gone. I wanted to write about it before the weekend so I could brag about how I have a three-day weekend to all of those who enjoyed labor day last week. But alas we are all on the same page again. Although I do have the national Oct. 1st 5 day long holiday coming up soon! I’ll tell you some funny things about how that holiday works out. It’s truly bizarre. (I’m building suspense! Make sure you tune in around that time! mwhaha)

The weekend was pretty good , not super eventful but It was filled with bicycle riding around the city, everyone’s favorite snack ,mooncakes, random exploration via motorbike , and relaxing in parks just soaking up the beautiful weather. The best weather in Shanghai occurs in the fall , the all too brief fall. We have blazing hot. humid, summers , humid cold soaking to the bones winters , and two very enjoyable time slices known as spring and fall(or autumn).

The origins of this festival stretch back more than 3,000 years , was driven underground by the commies in 1949 , and has been reinstituted by the capitalist/commies in 2008. It is a celebration of the autumnal harvest and is a period for lighting lanterns and watching them float away , eating mooncakes , matchmaking , and a time to gather together with family and relax. I did have two mooncakes this year , one peach , and one apple. Little did I realize that these tiny cakes pack a whopping 1,000 calories each! They are supposed to be cut into eighths and split amongst the family. 2,000 calories too late I realized my mistake.

I enjoyed the perks of my new job this weekend as well! Friday we had a teachers day dinner at a nice Sichuan restaurant. 3 fully packed tables of people all paid for by the school. Each table received around 30 dishes apiece! I was soo full long before the dishes stopped arriving but each one looked so good I had to sample at least a little bit. After dinner I didn’t really have anything to do so I decided to find my home from work. This is a six metro stop 2 hour walk back but I did it! Woo hoo! If you just take the metro all the time you can’t really get to know the city.  I also got a coupon for a free Haagen Dazs gift set of mooncake shaped ice creams. Also delicious!

Ok , I leave you with a few pictures and a good link about mooncake economics and how they are becoming the Chinese version of fruitcake from a fellow Shanghai based blogger.

http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2011/09/13/on-moon-cake-economics