I never bother asking people where to go in a city. The online research is enough to sort myself out because my interests don't coincide with most. Still, the friendly comments trickle in. It's like how I never intended to visit Jing An Temple (静安寺), but because it's got a history of 17 centuries, so many people suggested a visit till I was like, fine lah, I'll go look at it just so nobody will say anything about it anymore. So this required sitting in front of the Mac with a vengeance to chart the itinerary for the day.
I flipped through the lunar calendar to make sure that the 11th day of the new year doesn't require devotees to pray or offer thanks. I have no wish to be squashed in the middle of a crowded incense-filled chamber. I stared at the Buddhas and deities and stone lions in Jing An Temple, as well as the Jade Buddha Temple (玉佛禅寺). I came away slightly dazed. There was also alot of gold, and other shiny things. I think I've seen enough temples for a long while. Unless they're like Angkor Wat, I'm NOT stepping into another temple anywhere else. But I'd like to see a small village's ancestral hall; that's quite different.
I didn't just stop at temples. Might as well continue with the theme. I strode to St Ignatius Cathedral (徐家汇天主堂) and the nearby park and tried to understand the development of the religion versus the political landscape then, and how the area's name taken after Xu Guang Qi (徐光启). Putting aside the cathedrals in Europe, the spires of the cathedral and the red bricks which form the walls somehow remarkably brings to mind Ho Chi Minh City's Notre Dame Cathedral.
In the afternoon, I trotted off to HuXi Mosque (沪西清真寺). Mindful of the practices, I only wandered around the outdoor premises, poked my head into the prayer halls, but didn't enter. I understand that every Friday, there's a bustling Muslim market on the next street that serves up halal food with strong Turkish and Mediterranean influences.
The day was turning colder, and smoothly ended with a long visit to the Ohel Rachel Synagogue and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum (上海犹太难民纪念馆, previously Ohel Moishe Synagogue a long time ago). Recently refurbished, I decided to see it before it might be pulled down should there be any sudden urban decisions taken.
Today, the driver was probably royally confused by my determined focus to circle significant places of worship in Shanghai. I didn't just hop in and out of the car. There's no point seeing a place and not walking around to check out the nearby sights and sounds. After each stop, I had to call the driver to come find me at some random road junction. Heh.