Friday, June 20, 2008

The Sights of Shanghai

During our whirlwind stopover we only got a very blurry glimpse of Shanghai. When I look back on those few days, I catch little snapshots of what happened so it feels as though I'm watching a few photos rather than a fluid film.


We headed first for the downtown shopping epicentre of Nanjing street, where the masses of people in a fast paced consumer frenzy were dwarfed but huge shiny buildings. The shopping mall was filled with every designer and high street name you can think of, at prices that you don't want to think about. Heading one block off the main street, however, we encountered street stalls selling hardware, bric-a-brac, and food... lots of it! It was really impossible to walk on any street around there without the aromas of something delicious hitting your nose. Little dumplings, buns, noodles, deep friend bread sticks, cakes-I was permanently hungry! The shops are dark and dingy, with clothes piled up inside, on the pavement and hanging on the walls so it gave the impression that the shop was stuffed so full it burst out onto the street.


Next, we travelled via the "Tourist sight seeing tunnel" to the Pudong area, a recently developed block of land sprouting skyscrapers all over the place. About the tunnel, there wasn't really much sight seeing to be done on the trip- I mean, we are underground and all. It's basically a slow moving train (much like the Turin metro) with some flashy fairy lights hanging in the tunnel. It really should be called "Tourist ripoff tunnel" and labelled unsuitable for epileptics or people with better things to do with their money.


Pudong is nuts! There's the pearl tower which look like three fishballs on a satay stick. Then jinmao building (which we heard the tallest residential building in the world- info still to be confirmed), it looks like a giant shiny beer bottle opener- it even has the hole at the top for the purpose. There are so many glass and steel buildings here, the glare is just blinding on a hot Shanghai summer day.


Then in complete contrast we headed to the french concession district where we were being hosted by Alicia and Britt. The main streets have posh shops and eateries. On a little side street behind Alicia and Britts apartment the french colonial buildings house workshops, fruit and grocery stores, open air restaurants and a morning market for breakfast goodies.It feelt as though the Chinese took over Paris. I walked down the streets expecting to find a boulangerie or patisserie around any corner at any moment...


We had heard that Shanghai was a good place for technology shopping so we managed to pack in a morning of camera shopping for a new lense for Davide. Apparently there are little shopping hotspots for any kind of thing you want to buy in Shanghai - from toilets, to shoes to electronics. We were expecting bargains to be bountiful but after walking around 5 storeys of camera shops, we realised nobody was that keen on negotiation- what you see is what you got. How very strange and un-Chinese! Still we managed to trade in the old lense and got a relatively good deal - so you should be expecting some nice pics out of Davide soon!

Now that boys shopping was done, I insisted on visting the Yuyuan markets. At one end, it's very touristy and the "traditional" chinese shops are a little newly painted and kitchly decorated. Still very nice but it looked somewhat like a caricature. There were some lovely teapots, silk dresses, paintings, souvenirs and all sorts of things I wish I could buy if I only had a magic bag that makes its contents less than the 20kilo aircraft limit. At the other end of the market, it was still touristy but it was all about shoes... SHOES!! Believe it or not, I resisted and it was Davide who walked out of there with a pair of new leather sandals.


Thrown in somewhere here was a visit to the Shanghai Museum, a beautifully curated collection of historical Chinese artefacts.


Lastly, we couldn't leave Shanghai without visiting the Bund- a famous street or so I'm told. So we braved the rain and the slippery pavements to see English style buildings on onew side, the river on the other and the best part is that the skyscraper lights on the other bank of the river were mostly switched off to save energy. What a surprising and remarkable statement on energy conservation.


Phew! It was exhausting and exhilarating... can't wait to return!
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