I’d put off visiting the Jade Buddha temple in Shanghai for several years. Six months earlier when The Family and I had passed through Shanghai twice, we decided to visit other parts of the town. Now that I had half a day in town before catching a flight back home, I decided I must repair this oversight. How do you get there? The simplest way for me was to catch Metro Line 13 and get off at the Jiangning Road station. There are very useful maps inside metro stations telling you about the neighbourhood (I’ve painted the temple in pink in the map here), and I figured that I needed to take exit 3, walk back a little and then walk back west a bit until you hit the first cross road, and then take it two blocks south. In any case, the temple complex is visible as soon as you walk a few paces, so there is no worry about not finding it.
Temple walls are easily visible in China because they are often painted in the bright ocher colour that you see here. Online guides had been a little confusing about whether you can take photos inside, but I figured that this was China. People take photos constantly. I passed the wonderful red doors that you see in the featured photo, paid up my small entrance fee, and walked in. Families were busy taking photos. I felt quite at home taking a large camera out of my backpack.
The temple was first set up in 1882 CE to house a gift of two Burmese white jade Buddhas from the Jiangwang temple. It was abandoned after the Republican revolution of 1911, and restored by 1928. It took me some time to find the reclining Buddha. It is the smaller statue in one of the last halls in the north. Interestingly, it is not even the most prominent figure in the room. I left off searching for the other figure, which is on an upper level. I’ll definitely pass through Shanghai again, and this is as good a place to come back to as any other.
We decided to spend a couple of days in Bangkok imagining a relaxed time in a large city on the way back from Myanmar. We did manage to relax, but in taxis stuck on the road. On one memorable occasion, during the evening rush hour, our taxi took more than half an hour between two successive traffic lights. According to a year-old article, during the evening peak hours, Bangkok’s traffic moves at one-tenth the speed it would have on a clear road. On the average the traffic moves at half the speed that it would have on a clear road.
One sure sign of bad traffic is multiple layers of roads and flyovers. In the featured photo of Bangkok (taken near Sukhumvit) you can see the road, then the pedestrian walkway from which I took the photo, a flyover for road traffic, and an elevated corridor for the metro. This photo was taken a little after three on a weekday. Two hours later, the traffic was a standstill. I’ve seen such multiple layers of roads in China before, and they are now coming up in India.
Some claim that Bangkok’s traffic has become worse since the government decided to refund the tax to first-time car buyers. Mumbai had prepared us for Bangkok. When we were stuck in traffic, The Family and I tried to take it as an opportunity to spend some quality time talking to each other. When we couldn’t bear the incredible joy of being thrown into close contact with each other for long, we took the sky trains. The coverage of the city is minimal, but at least it can be used to reduce the distance you have to travel in traffic. Another joy of travelling by metro is that you get a view of really kitschy hoardings meant to cover up construction sites (above).
We left Mumbai precisely at 1:30 in the morning, local time. I fell asleep immediately and woke up groggy in 6 hours, just before our plane landed in Chengdu. The ticket gave us a single flight number, but China Airlines made us go through immigration and made us wait a couple of hours till we got on to a domestic flight to Shanghai. Strangely, in Pudong airport we were herded together into the international terminal again, where we collected our bags and went through customs. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, local time.
Shanghai Pudong airport is a busy international airport with a maze of corridors. As soon as we got out of the customs, we started looking for an ATM. There was a bunch of four right outside the exit. One of them was occupied by a young harassed-looking tourist whose card had been eaten up by the machine. We tried the next machine, and it would only allow transfer of funds to another card. The same thing happened with another machine in the row. The Family went to look for information on other ATMs while I stood there with the luggage cart. As I watched, another Indian went to the fourth machine, the one which we had not tried yet, and extracted cash from it! The Family was back looking dejected by now, but she perked up at this sight. We finally got our cash, and were set to venture into town.
How? A bus to the hotel was quickly ruled out. We could take the metro all the way from the airport to the hotel, but that could take almost two hours. So we decided to take the maglev (cost 50 RMB) and then switch to the metro. For only 5 RMB more, you can add on a ticket which gives you a 24 hour pass on the metro. This is a good deal, because it takes 3 RMB for a single journey on the metro. We rushed on to the train. The maglev accelerated smoothly to its top speed of 300 kms/hour, and in 7 minutes took us to the other end of its journey. We took an escalator down to the metro station.
In the Shanghai metro you have to put your bags through a scanner when you enter. We’d just done that, when a very helpful local told me in English, ” If your bags are heavy, come with me. There’s an elevator to the platform”. How nice and helpful! We walked across the station to the elevator, where he murmured a complaint about bad design. He was going the same way, so he helped us on and told us to listen for the announcements, which come in both Chinese and English.
All through our stay in Shanghai we kept meeting people who would realize that we needed help, and come forward to help us without being asked. Not too many people spoke English, but those who did (and many who didn’t) were very helpful. What a delightfully friendly city we had discovered!