This blog tell about my travels all around the world, discovering islands, lagoons, active volcanoes, cities and meeting people.

17 mars 2009


In the eastern part of central Shanghai, was in the past the Chinese city. To protect itself from possible invasion, a wall was surrounding the city.


It survived, while the foreign concessions in Shanghai settled. In 1911, during the revolution it was destroyed and later on replaced by a road that is easily recognized on the current plans of the city.


During the bombing of the city after the last war, the old city was virtually destroyed with the exception of the Yuyuan Garden. Rebuilding after war was concentrated in a small area around the Yuyuan Garden.

Today the place bustling with a multitude of boutique has become a popular site for tourists.


One attraction is the bridge Zizag and tea house



The visit of the old town followed by the unescapable Yuyuan Garden. This garden has an area of 20000m2, established within the old town dates from 1577. It was built by a dignitary of the Ming Dynasty (Pan Yunduan) to house his parents during their old age.

During its long existence, the garden had to endure some abuse; destroyed at the end of the Ming period, then rebuilt by new owners, it was again devastated during the Opium War in the 19th century. The garden as we see it today is the result of a restoration of 5 years, started in the late 1950s

Upon entering the garden, we are faced with a rockery, which is called the Great Rockery. It is the oldest rock in the region south of the Yangtze River.



Cuixiu Hall is located at the foot of the rockery. It is a quiet place with trees but at this time of year we cannot admire the flowers that line the place.


There is also in the same group of buildings some small shops where you can buy prints or jade.



A little further, you reach a room with these rather curious furniture to say the least.


Then we have a succession of galleries, finely paved alleys and squares decorated with fountains.






This garden very popular for Shanghai inhabitants is a must. But for a foreigner, it is absolutely necessary to have a guide to discover the history of the place. And aloso it must be noticed, the best time to visit it is probably in the spring when everything is in bloom.

For sure,I will return and spend more time in this place


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11 mars 2009


Today, if you do not know THE BUND, you do not know Shanghai. This is a place where you can almost grasp the entire history of the city.


First the BUND word meaning "muddy dock" itself gives an idea of what could be Shanghai to its origins. Located in the alluvial plain at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Shanghai has developed into a flood zone where the soil may collapse under low loads. Despite this discomfort, its location offered it a wide opening on the inland China. The location was ideal for developing trade.

THE BUND is considered as a cornerstone of the Shanghai’s growth.

After the first Opium War, with the establishment of foreign concessions, commercial development was considerable. Banks, business centers, headquarters of major import export companies settled on THE BUND. In one hundred years, Shanghai became the largest city of Asia's, and a worldwide recognized business center similar to London or New York; the Shanghai Stock Exchange had become the "Wall Street" of Asia.

Nowadays, when we look at the 1.5 km of BUND, we have on the opposite side of the Hangpu River, PUDONG which is the actual business center of Shanghai, in particular we can see the famous pearl tower, where are settled the Shanghai TV offices.




On the opposite side of the river where the Bund is located, we can see an alignment of around fifty beautiful buildings of various styles ranging from neoclassical to Art Deco. Each of them was built at different times, but they nevertheless constitute a harmonious entity, especially at night when everything is illuminated.




In the evening, THE BUND is very busy. Located at the end of Nanjing Road, the Chinese like to linger there after their shopping. One can watch Pudong and its buildings


and take photos of the never finishing traffic of boats abhorring huge advertising board.



All along the walking strip, street vendors offer all sorts of utterly useless gadgets that the Chinese love, and you can get snack or drink coconut water, served all along the year in small stands all the hundreds of meters.




The most fortunate will go to “the Bar Rouge”, the trendy place of Shanghai sets in one of the buildings overlooking the Bund and the Hangpu River, and take drinks and meals at huge prices as per Champs Elysées in Paris.

In short, THE BUND is a MUST in Shanghai


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07 mars 2009



After the Opium War, this part of Shanghai belonged to the British Concession, then to the International Concession. Nanjing road became the commercial thoroughfare where any goods for inland China, mainly Nanjing were transiting.

So, it’s quite naturally that this road has become over the years, the Mecca of Commerce in Shanghai.

In the eve of Chinese New Year, Nanjing Road is booming and is full of all its finery. It must be said that this street is a bit like the Champs Elysees in Paris, the Nevsky Prospect in St Petersburg, or the 5th Avenue in New York. I decide to walk on its the entire length of about 5 to 6km, from Jingan Temple in the west to the Bund in the east end.



In fact the street is divided into two parts, the western part from Jingan Temple and people park and then go east until Bund, with a large pedestrian area.


There are shops of all kinds in this street, from supermarkets to small shops through the shops with the most prestigious international brands represented.

nanjing_road_019 beijing_road_028

There are also office buildings, large hotels, theaters and museums


I invite you to discover in a few pictures, some remarkable place of that street of Shanghai.





Sometime, there is also some unforeseeable show on the road, like this student trying to clean the motorcycle of this policeman. As you can imagine the Chinese policeman are not fan of this kind of joke and he will put the young student on the straight line immediately.


My description would not be completed, if I did not speak about People Park which adjoins Nanjing Road, where I attend gatherings around hardened cards games.

people_square_385 people_square_045



Particularly in the West, it is also very interesting to go into small narrow streets perpendicular to Nanjing Road, the entry is almost always controlled by a safety guard.


Here, the show is different, no big illuminated buildings, but squalid buildings dating from the era of concessions, with old shops.


fish drying at the entrance of houses


and clothes hanging in the windows.


These are the two faces of China !!!!!


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04 mars 2009


In the old City of Shanghai, an attraction is the Zigzag Bridge


and the tea house in the middle of the lake, where you can attend a tea ceremony by Chinese custom which seems nothing to do with Japanese one.



The teapot is then filled with water and the chosen tea brewed according to your preferred taste.



Then we can smell and enjoy the fragrance permeating the small bowl and only then we can drink tea.


During my visit I have had the opportunity to test and 8 different varieties of tea and I must say they were excellent to my taste.



Obviously, after that ceremony, it is possible to buy teas that we have the most appreciated.

Then the cups are prepared by several rinses with warm to hot water. In principle three; It is here that the tea is poured into the cups.

The cups are then covered with a small bowl; and all together return three times.


During my visit, I participated in this ritual.

It must be said that tea is enjoyed in China as the great wines in France.

The mistress of ceremonies heated water in a kettle on a stove when it is close to boiling, pouring water over the teapot ready on a wooden grating to put it at the right temperature.


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28 février 2009


China is undoubtedly the leader in the production of freshwater pearls, it must be said that Chinese history refers to the use of pearls since more than 2200 years BC.

In Shanghai, jewelry displays offer necklaces and bracelets which always attract the visitor attention. My curiosity leads me into one of these stores near the Souzhou Creek in the north of the city.

Upon my entrance I'm greeted by a salesperson who offers me a little game

Advising a tray containing a few freshwater oysters, she asks me how much the one she intends to open contains pearls.

I doubt that this is a trap. I visited in Polynesia pearl farm and I knew Tuamotu oysters did in general, one pearl formed around a nucleus, but how it was for that Chinese pearl?

Thus, I answer:

- Certainly eight.

- Why 8? she said.

- Oh just because the number 8 is lucky according to Chinese tradition.


She began to smile as she opened the oyster under my eyes.


In fact, the mollusk contained twenty pearls whose size ranged from 2 to 5 millimeters in diameter.


Then she explains the differences between the freshwater pearls and seawater one, so called:” Akoya pearls”.

The freshwater pearls are unlike the Akoya pearls, made from 100% nacre without the need to introduce a nucleus. The only human action is to incise in several places the mantle of the oyster and to house and these incisions a small piece of mantle from another oyster.

This process made several times explains the large number of pearls harvested. When the operation is completed, the shellfishs are replaced in the water for 2 to 6 years, a period necessary for the get the pearls. More time will be longer, more bigger the pearls will be.

We understand that this method leads to pearls made up exclusively of nacre. The consequence of the absence of core would be a greater irregular shape since the growth is not guided by the nucleus shape. These pearls are rarely perfectly round and usually smaller.

The productivity of freshwater pearls is more plentiful, it is also why their price is lower.

All those considerations have contributed to the under-evaluation of Chinese pearls. However they have recently, considerably improved the quality produced, and now Chinese freshwater pearls rival sea water ones

Then, she get me initiated to identify real pearls. First, the noise when the pearls clinking together noise should not be too acute, but the most significant test is to rub the pearls in between them. If a light powder is formed, it is true pearl, with plastic or other synthetic compound, no deposit is formed. Making the test, I succeed this time to identify the real from the fake necklace.

After all this information, I will continue visiting the shop


and I will purchase these bracelets with various colors, of course after having verified the authenticity of the pearl with the tests previously learned.



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25 février 2009


When you visit Shanghai, our attention is inevitably drawn to the shops and stores exposing all kinds of objects in jade with colors ranging from white to dark green. There is a Chinese proverb which say:”we can value the gold, but jade is invaluable”. It perfectly symbolizes the attitude of the Chinese vis-à-vis the material.
My previous visit to the museum in Shanghai also revealed interest in jade since ancient times. So in China we are talking about the Jade Age, as the Iron Age in western countries.
So I ventured into one of these jade shops. On the ground floor, an entire room is devoted to objects often large sizes and colors which vary for the essential light green to dark green, but near-white colors are also visible.



As a seller quickly approached me immediately, I asked some technical explanations on the different color, value and quality we associate with.


I fell on an expert. He explains that the jade is a silicate of sodium and aluminum.
Burma and Guatemala (see my previous article on Antigua on “soif d’ailleurs blog”) are the main producers. Hard stone and translucent can have color varying from creamy white to dark olive green depending of the proportions of iron and chromium oxides. You can also find amber or reddish color.


Geologists classify jade in two types: the jadeite and nephrite, the latter being the most common .
The jadeite considered as the true jade, is characterized by a green much more sustained and greater translucency and is the so-called imperial jade.
I am therefore initiated! And I will, may be, now able not to accept what unscrupulous sellers say!
In China, jade is an outward sign of social status and it was the symbol of imperial dynasties and the supreme power.
Throughout his explanation seller show me the wonders of his store a few pieces up to several meters in length.


Advising a large sculpture of a dragon, it will start again in a detailed explanation about the beliefs on this legendary animal: the Pixiu.


Its morphology is unique, with a dragon head, a body of Chinese lion, feet of Qi lin. It is sometimes dressed in wings and it has no anus.
This mythological animal is described as the 9th child of a celestial dragon of the Emperor of Jade. Having violated the laws of heaven, he was punished on a rather special way imposing a diet consisting only of gold and silver and its anus was removed.
Thus the Pixiu symbol in Chinese tradition, wealth, piles of money. Feng Shui uses this animal largely by giving it as many powers to protect his masters of evil powers, attract good luck, fortune and wealth, the protection of car accidents, to facilitate negotiations with customers. It is also an animal mascot for the casino players.


After this successful demonstration, the salesman took me to the top floor where shelves full of objects and jewelry of all sizes some of them representing the famous Pixiu.
After such conditioning, I had to be very tough to avoid having to purchase the complete store. Seeing my reluctance to buy pieces of large size, he offered me objects successively more and more modest. Finally, to his dismay and to avoid losing face, I hand over a jade pendant that I bargain, drawing on the lessons he taught me a few minutes before.



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21 février 2009


Now I walk in the streets of the French Concession.

I discover here an atmosphere quite different and I understand the reasons, when a guide explained to me the history of the place, that I would return to you, here in a condensed form.
The principle of the foreign concessions in China, and Shanghai in particular, was born in 1843 at the end of the first Opium War.
To briefly explain the context: the British East India Company had ceased its business, it left the field open to independent businessmen. At that time, the Western Countries were buying much more to China than the contrary.
To balance this trend, the Westerners were strongly developing and organizing the opium trade. Then Chinese demand reaching such point , that the country's trade balance was destroyed.
As at that time the monetary system was based on metal (especially silver). The country was beginning to ruin; the economic depression and people drug degradation were gaining the basements of the country.
In response, the Chinese authorities banned the import of opium, which creates the anger of Westerners making their fortune while on the traffic. A military confrontation was sparked in the wake of the destruction of a cargo of opium by the Chinese

Due to their inferiority, the Chinese stopped immediately the fight and signed a treaty allowing the establishment of foreign concessions in the country.


The first concession was therefore, that of Great Britain in 1845. Initially with an area of 199 ha, then extended it until 1899 in the north of Shanghai in association with the American Concession, forming the so-called International Concession.
The French wanted to remain independent of the International Concession, and they agree with the Chinese authorities, granting them in 1849, first 66ha. Successive extensions from the west will lead to cover 1000ha in 1914.

Both concessions would evolve independently and on a complete different way. International Concession was more open to foreigners if their country was represented by a consul, while the French Concession favored its own representatives. Moreover, the geographical location of the two concessions clearly shows a wider opening of the International Concession on the outside with an outlet on the river Hangpu more than eight times greater.

Along the time, and as a result of the foregoing, the International Concession will become an international business center and the French Concession, a residential area instead.
The first signals of an end of foreign concessions came after the First World War. Of course, foreigners had somewhat exceeded the rights granted them by the original treaties.
These deviations were widely used by Japanese propaganda denouncing foreign interference.
During the Japanese occupation of World War II, the concessions found themselves totally isolated and then moved that a serious crisis, the French authorities in 1943 decided to waive their rights to the concession.
During the Maoist period, Shanghai who kept the image of a capitalist cradle was put under the extinguisher and it is only since the opening of China in the Western world in the 1980s, Shanghai has taken over some management autonomy and a place in the country's economic life. It followed the boom that we know with its huge buildings uninterrupted set up.
There were concerns then that all traces of the past would disappear. But recognizing that this led to total destruction of the memory of Shanghai, the municipality has decided to preserve what remained of that era concessions. In particular, the French concession, where residential beautiful homes were still there.


Today a vast rehabilitation program is undertaken. Shanghai is reclaiming its past. The French concession has become a place of residence wanted by the rich Shanghainese.


With its small buildings, pavilions, shops and restaurants in the streets lined with plane trees there is an atmosphere which we are familiar with and along the way, I find myself imagining the life of yesteryear in these streets or Joffre Lafayette, today renamed.




Finally we feel proud to discover 10000KM away from our home, a small territory with French atmosphere, getting a chance, thanks to the local Chinese authorities, to withstand to pressure of the modern urbanism. Like the small “Asterix Village” in the country of Celestial Dragon!!!!!


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18 février 2009


This temple is located north of Shanghai and is an active monastery where you can see some monks busyshanghai_map_01_01

At the time of the Qing dynasty, between 1875 and 1908, an abbot from mont Putuo went on pilgrimage to Tibet and joined the Burma. There, a Chinese installed in this country, gave him 5 jade statues representing Buddha. It carries two in Shanghai where he had built a temple with gifts, but shortly afterwards he died.

In 1911 during the popular uprising, the temple was occupied and largely destroyed bet, then the statues were moved.

Later, around 1918, another priest who had received land as a gift, built a new temple in place today. Its construction lasted 10années. The temple was a place for lectures and conferences

In 1956 was celebrated in this temple the 2500ième anniversary of the accession of
Gautama Bouddha in Nirvana

In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, the monks no longer receiving grants, they were living selling crafts.

In 1983, the Institute of Buddhism was founded in Shanghai in the temple, and later, returning from a pilgrimage, the monks took their lectures and meditation sessions.



The visit starts with the room of 4 kings, the statues represent the 4 cardinal points with their symbolism of good and evil in eternal opposition materialized in the face of statues, sometimes smiling, sometimes angry.





At the center of the room, throne Maitreya, the smiling big belly monk.


Then the great hall with: first three golden Buddhas with at the center Gautama Buddha


The statues of 20 gods of paradise, covered with gold are lined up on the East and West side of the Great Hall



At the north entrance of the main hall, there is also the statue of Guanyin, the goddess of Chinese mythology, with his side sculptures representing his 53 teachers.



In the floors of another building, we finally discovered in two separate rooms both famous white jade Buddha that is unfortunately forbidden to photograph.

One is sitting and is almost 190cm tall with a weight of 3tonnes, the other with a length of about one meter, is reclining Buddha (actual position of the peaceful death)

Another statue, reply of the previous reclining Buddha, but in white marble was offered by Singapore. Its dimensions much larger than the Jade Buddha sometimes create confusion, but it is not that of Burma, make no mistake? However it may be photographed.


The visit will terminate in a shop where a patented calligraphy writer made for me, on the occasion of this new year of the buffalo, a dedication on rice paper.


He will also sign a book stating, I suppose, his capacity as official calligraphy writer.



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14 février 2009


This evening the hotel concierge recommended me to watch the spectacle of theater YUN FENG located 15mins walk from my hotel on Beijing Road.


Currently, a team of young acrobats makes a representation and knowing the ability of the Chinese in this type of exercise, I will not hesitate a second; it must be very spectacular and it allows me to blend into the crowd of Shanghai people.



At eight PM, the show starts and here below, are some self explanatory pictures









And I let you appreciate the final show, quite impressive

La sphère infernale de Shanghai
envoyé par spiritofaloha

Of course, I recommend this show if you go to Shanghai in the coming days.


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12 février 2009


During this stay, we had planned to spend one or two days on Ilha Grande, a small island south of Rio, known for its beautiful beaches and the ban of cars, which gives it a perfectly cool atmosphere and scenery. Unfortunately the weather was too hesitating thios early December and we have renounced.

We therefore, replaced this island tour, with another much more modest, but nevertheless in the same region, Itacuruça.


Since Rio, our bus led us hundred kilometers south on the Costa Verde, to the Itacuruça village, nestled beside a bay protected by a coral reef.


The bay is dotted with a few small islands and away we can see Ilha Grande. On the wharf, a small schooner is waiting for a very quiet trip around of Itacuruça Island.



Rocked by Brazilian music, we follow the island on a sea of oil. The granite rocks that border it are rounded and smooth as those of Seychelles,


here and there, beautiful small villas with soft colors, are planted on rocks or near tiny white sand beaches.



Apart from these small properties, the island is uninhabited, rocks and dense vegetation took possession of the territory up to the summit 242m above sea level.


We will make some stops near beaches for swimming. Too fresh for my taste; 15 ° is really too low! However, the group of Russians who accompanied us will find nothing wrong, and it is with unconcealed glee he took pleasure of these baths.


To recover after this cold bath, the crew will give us a strong Caipirihna

At noon break, the Schooner reach the wharf of a pleasant resort, the “Hotel Pierre”.


Housed in a magnificent tropical garden, the hotel has a small private beach, swimming pool and a fitness center, in short everything you need for a cool journey.


A typical Brazilian buffet prepared, of course with rice and black beans was waiting for us; this was delicious


and a nap was of course a must before the trip back.


We could not leave Rio without testing the atmosphere of carnival. Starting from December, the samba schools have entered a phase of intensive training and must also finish preparing the decorated trucks for the Sambodrome Parade. The municipality of Rio has therefore created in the old docks, a place dedicated to this preparation; Samba City.


On approximately 100000m2, Samba City includes assembly workshops, decorating trucks and a huge hall show.


Each week you can immerse the space of one evening in the atmosphere of carnival.

It all begins with a concert featuring guitar, percussion, saxo and other instruments with the traditional music of Carnival.


During this warm up, canapés and drinks are served to the tables, and rapidly everybody is plunged in the frenzy of the samba.


The atmosphere will go crescendo when the public is invited to dress up with the most fanciful headdresses


Then the show this year called "the power of nature." starts with thunder and lightning, and that is the unleashing of a series of 6 sceneries featuring beautiful dancers in costumes extraordinary wearing or just a few feathers.



At the end, the artists invite the public to join them for a mini parade to the sound of drums and with decorated trucks in the enclosure of Samba City. This is the total swing.


Better than this description, this video will put you more in the mood of the evening.

Samba show in Rio
envoyé par spiritofaloha

This concludes our Brazilian journey. Although the weather was not perfect, we go back very satisfied with this trip, there are so many things to do and see in Rio and its region, we could not even visit other sites or as Petropolis or Parati which need to be discovered.


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