China Day 7 – Shanghai

A day in Shanghai. Breakfast was an elegant affair, and we made a new friend, a talkative waitress who gave us advice on where to go. The weather report on the iphone didn’t look promising for Shanghai. “Maybe it’s wrong though!” chirped the ever-positive Vero. She was right – it turned out nice. The sun was poking its head through the grey sky, and Shanghai was warming up and suddenly seemed more colourful. We walked down the Bund. Marvelous views of what looked to be a vision of the future, gleaming and flexing modern muscle.  A couple were having their wedding snaps taken, the bride in a Western-style white dress.  We took a ferry to the other side – The Pudong side –for 2 RMB.  From here, we walked to a big shopping mall and Starbucks, where we energised, then visited the third tallest building in Mainland China, Jin Mao Tower – an incredible piece

of architecture, like the Empire State building for the Year 3000. The Observatory is on the 88th floor, and offered cloudy but impressive views of the skyline, including the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower. I bought Vero a lovely pearl necklace, and the pearl  was opened live in front of us. We walked to the subway, which we took to People’s Park in Central Shanghai, which is just south of the famous shopping street Nanjing road.  It is a tranquil  spot in the chaos of the city, but full of youths trying to gain your trust before offering to take you to a tea house to rip you off. They are easily spotted – the only friendly (perhaps down to language barriers most Chinese appear very indifferent towards foreigners) Chinese people – and they all speak English. They have the same lines they repeat again and again and again and again and again and again.   The park was also full of old Chinese men playing cards and gambling, in a scene that looked like a stage with old church towers behind and behind them monstrous modern architecture looming high above like alien beings….like the beginning of the end.

We walked the length of the pedestrianized Nanjing Road after a lap of the park.  Wide and packed to the brim with a generous scoop of consumer chaos, noisy, brash, entertaining. Dusk came, the neon lights of Shanghai began glowing, and with them the untold promise of the night.

We stopped briefly for a beer, then walked all the way to the Bund where we could appreciate the beautiful night time views. We saw the landmark Peace Hotel, old-fashioned glamour with a twist of modern, and then headed back to the equally glamorous yet far more reasonably priced grand old dame Astor Hotel.   We changed and headed to Richard’s Old Bar to do some research into where to go tonight. Edgar Snow, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein may have sat in the very same bar thinking the very same things.  I think we put more effort into researching night time activities than day time ones. We went to Maoming Road first ‘the place to go for a fun night, and Blue Frog for delicious chilli cheese fries, 5 beef skewers and a cobb salad.

We caught a cab to Hanson Road, and walked down to a place called Soho, where we met a guy outside called Ivan, an Aussie Chinese, who was celebrating St Paddy’s day.  He gave me a green bow tie and a green top hat. Vero got a cool green wig. It was 100RMB in, all you can drink till 4am. That’s $20 Sing. About a tenner. Who said Shanghai’s expensive? It was a great club. Singers, dancers, magic shows, clowns making balloons. It was more mardi gras than Paddy’s Day. So this is how they let their hair down in Shanghai. You’d never see people letting themselves go like that in Singapore.

We met a big group of people in green, all of them English teachers – a really nice gang.  Real people, no need to pretend.  We got a cab to the historic Fuxing Road in the French Concession area and Park 97, to a sophisticated-looking club called Muse. It was heaving. Where there was a fishtank with jellyfish behind the bar and DJ decks in Soho, in here sharks swam in a fishtank behind the VIP area. It was like something from a Bond movie. People were pushing and shoving…people are very self-centred in Shanghai – but that’s what living in a big city full of people does for you – politeness won’t get you far. We got hit and bumped about all over the place – in England a bump of a certain intensity = a fight, but here bumps are almost a greeting. I wasn’t sure how anybody could have a good time in such a loud and busy place. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I prefer a quiet bar for a chat anyday. We left after a time to go back to Astor.  It had been a great day and night in Shanghai.

Author: Neil

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