Thursday, 9 April 2009

Shanghai Surprise

We arrived into Shanghai in the pouring rain, everyone was tired from a long train journey and our initial excitement of seeing Shanghai was thwarted by the miserable weather. On the first day we saw nothing of the legendary Bund skyline, visibility was so poor you could barely see the other side of the road let alone the other side of the harbour. We spent the afternoon wandering around the bizarre which was a sea of Asian tourists jostling for bargains with umbrellas annoyingly levelled at the perfect height to poke your eyes out.
We handled the disappointment of a rare “off day” in China by treating ourselves to an evening meal in a decent restaurant in a swanky part of town. After 3 weeks of rice, noodles, non-descript meat, more noodles with a side order of noodles, or rice lightly garnished with some noodles….
We had no shame in tucking into the biggest , most succulent juicy burgers we could find.


The following morning there was a cloudless sky and glorious sunshine. I decided to take to the streets of Shanghai alone and see some sights. Shanghai is an international city that centres around its port, the most famous part of which is The Bund. The port is the gateway to the mighty Yangzi river which I’ve been cruising just a few days before. In the early 1900’s Shanghai became an international hub for trading, finance and commerce. The city grew and expanded rapidly and almost all wealthy European countries had corporate buildings around The Bund. This is why the Bund has such a spectacular skyline. Both sides of the river are littered with skyscrapers and futuristic buildings reaching into the sky, interspersed with French and European style buildings from the 1920-30’s. Neoclassical and Art deco architecture is abundant, the contrast from old to modern is stark. People studying European architecture still come to Shanghai to see the buildings as most of the original buildings in Europe were bombed during WWII. The buildings oddly complement each other and wandering around the streets I easily got trigger happy with my camera.

Whilst flicking through my pictures I noticed on one of my many ‘long arm trying to get myself into shot’ photos that my hair badly needed cutting. I looked a cross between the wild man of Borneo and a gay tv quiz host. I was going to have to have my first foreign haircut in Shanghai.

Trying to describe how you like your hair cut to a Chinese hairdressing student who speaks no English was a challenge. Am I going to be coming out of this salon with a Mohican? After the guy had washed my hair (in the chair), cleaned my ears with cotton buds and strangely massaged my head for 10 minutes I was ready for action. Thankfully a much more proficient and professional looking lady appeared and she seemed to be able to understand my nervous sign language of “just a trim”. During the cutting I was surrounded by about 6 more hairdressing students who stared intently at the whole process which was just a little bit uncomfortable. Thankfully I walked out of there without major embarrassment.

The view I most wanted to see in Shanghai was the skyline at night. Unlike New York which has a far denser concentration of skyscrapers in one area, Shanghai is more open and spread out, which means you can really see each building clearly. I joined some of the guys from the group and we went for a Mojito in the worlds highest bar. Sipping a cool cocktail on the 89th floor overlooking the Bladerunner skyline was a great moment. The panoramic view was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
I took this photo from the top of……….

….this building!

In the evening we went to see an acrobatics show. The show was a little disappointing for me although the others seemed to enjoy it. It was the kind of thing you might have seen on the Paul Daniels show.
I found it more entertaining watching the small Chinese guy in front of me who was sitting behind an old lady with a huge ginger afro trying to watch the show from the edge of his seat.

I enjoyed Shanghai and found the Skyline fascinating, however I think 3 days is probably a little too long.

Next stop…. Beijing where I’ll walk through the Forbidden City and along the Great Wall of China!

1 comment:

  1. I am jealous, lots of pics of the forbidden city please xxx