Saturday, September 09, 2006

Shanghai Day 5: July 31, 2006

(written September 9, 2006)
Okay… so it’s a little late.
I ended up sleeping in fairly late again. I guess I was still exhausted from the previous day’s adventures.
I started my day by heading for the Longhua Temple (the oldest and largest monastery in Shanghai) and the Longhua Pagoda (originally built around 977, but reconstructed several times). There were not many people around when I went. Maybe because of the heat, or maybe because it is a bit out of the way. I don’t think it is on the standard tourist agenda. There is a very fancy, fairly new looking shopping complex across from it, but it seemed a bit empty.

The Pagoda is really cool, as is the fat laughing Buddha in front of it. The Buddha has little people all over it. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything but look at the pagoda and take pictures. I would have liked to have gone inside. Oh well.
The temple complex is beautiful. I am glad that I decided to go out of the way to see it. It is always nice to go to places that aren’t overrun with tourists, or any people, for that matter. Crowds are annoying when you are trying to take a good picture.After I spent some time wandering around taking everything in, I headed for the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market. VERY interesting. The first thing I noticed was the strands of little woven basket like balls, containing crickets. Crickets from movies popped into my head: the cricket in Mulan, the cricket in The Last Emperor, etc. A lot of the shops were cricket related. Cricket cages, cricket food dishes and houses, etc. I bought some of the little dishes: some for me, some for gifts. They would be good for something, I suppose; a ring dish, maybe? I also bought a pottery cricket container. A guy said something about it being a cricket house. And showed me how the dishes would sit in it. I kept thinking… that is strange to put it in a solid container with a lid. I didn’t really think about it, though. Once back at the hotel, it came to me, that it is probably a tomb/casket type thing for the crickets after they die. Funny. Some of the dishes they were selling were quite intricately painted, and not so cheap. Others, you could tell were quickly done, and mass-produced. There were crickets being sold all over the market. I have a full set up for a pet cricket. Now all I need is the cricket. I would have bought a cricket there, but I figured they wouldn’t let me on the plane with one so I decided against it.

[One of the tables along the outside of the market. The hanging woven balls contain the crickets. You can see the round pottery cricket "houses" and other cricket accessories on the table.]

There were also lots of stands selling fish and birds. I also saw some selling rabbits and kittens. It made me sooooo sad, though, as they all looked very sick. I am pretty sure that there was even a dead one in one of the cages, with other kittens. They were all flopped down on the floors of the cages, not moving. Most of them, you could only see their chests rise and fall from breathing. It was soooooooooo hot in there. I kept thinking I wish I could buy them all and take them home. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. The shops also sold cat toys and food. The dogs that were being sold at a few places in the market seemed to be in much better condition. They were in somewhat enclosed rooms, with fans blowing on their cages. They looked relatively healthy.
I then wandered around the corner to an antiques market; basically a long pedestrian street with little stands set up the entire length of it. They sold a wide range of things… jewelry, coins, boxes, knives, pictures, books, etc. I only bought a couple of things: a necklace pendant and a mahogany cricket cage. Not sure what I’ll do with the cage, but it is really cute. A lot of the things being sold were obviously not antiques, but were being sold as such. I guess some people believe what they are told, and will spend the money thinking they are getting the real thing.
I didn’t do much else that day. MONEY!!! I basically ran out of money. I had enough for dinner. I ended up just having the Shanghai Rice at the hotel. Something safe. Something cheap and tasty.
An early night.

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