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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The heights of Shanghai

It was only a matter of time.

After the Chinese cities of Harbin 哈尔滨 and Běi​jīng 北京 found themselves in the news recently for their severe air pollution, it was Shàng​hǎi's 上海 turn to be enveloped in smog. While conditions here weren't nearly as bad as they were up north, you could literally both see and taste the air today. Though atmospheric conditions were hardly ideal for outdoor pursuits, they didn't stop us (though in retrospect they should have) from going out for some exercise on the city's one and only "mountain", Shéshān 佘山. It's only a hill just 328 feet (100 meters) in height, but in extremely flat Shanghai, that's high enough. Sheshan is a relatively close drive from our home, but it was obvious today that we should've waited for the kind of clear day (the likes of which we've had many times since arriving in Shanghai in early July) by which the view of the surrounding area could be truly appreciated.

We couldn't see Sheshan through all the haze until we were almost upon it. We eschewed parking in the main lot, and drove around to the western side of the hill to a quieter access point.

From where we parked our car, it was a short walk before we entered a small bamboo forest, which provided us with some much-needed negative ions to combat all those cigarettes we were inhaling today.

The view through the haze. Just enough could be made out through the soup to make a return visit on a clearer day something to mark down on the calendar.

My daughter and I at the top. Unfortunately, the Shanghai Astronomical Museum 上海天文博物馆 turned out to be closed until next month while some kind of renovation work is going on.

Fortunately, the Sheshan Basilica 佘山琞母大殿 was open for business today. Sheshan has been under Catholic control since the 1850's, and this charming church dates from 1935. 

Those visiting the interior weren't particularly observant of the signs admonishing them to keep quiet and to refrain from taking photographs, but then again, neither was I. I knew that Shanghai is China's most "Westernized" city, but so far in my short stay here, I've seen more Catholic churches than either Buddhist or Taoist temples. 

The road leading up to the basilica supposedly represents the Stations of the Cross, and every May local Catholics make the pilgrimage up to the church from the road. Which means that might be a better time to visit. 

Finally, something more indigenous. According to Lonely Planet, the Xiùdàozhě Pagoda  秀道者塔 stands 66 feet (20 meters) high and goes back to the 10th century, a fact which didn't seem to have deterred Chinese visitors from writing graffiti in black ink on the pagoda's base. China...

For a mere 5 RMB (80¢), a family of three could ring the temple bell. My wife, naturally, gave it the hardest of whacks.

Amber wasn't so impressed with the pagoda or the bell. Other things drew her attention.

This view of the Sheshan Basilica from ground-level actually looks clearer after having been cleaned up on the computer than it did in reality.

On the drive back home, the smog became thicker the closer we got to central Shanghai. The traffic also got denser as we crawled along on the G50 expressway. Pictured above is the view along Hóng​qiáo Road 红桥路. Lost in the haze are some high rise buildings.

Dinnertime, including a much-needed IPA to wash down the grime

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