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Published: November 16th 2014
In the middle of the night in Shanghai and refusing to pay double the price for our cancelled hotel room booking meant we had to find somewhere nearby to sleep. We were close to East Nanjing Road which is the wide pedestrian mall which leads down to the Bund so I left Jerry with the bags and set off to find a room. Turned away from a couple that were full I eventually found a small room in a very Chinese budget hotel. It was clean, though we had to go through a maze of corridors to get to it, but it gave us a bed for the night. Next morning though we ended up finding a comfortable room in the Jinjiang Hotel in East Nanjing Road. We bought the Jinjiang hotel chain discount card to get a cheaper room - it had comfortable beds, plenty of hot water and good towels. We ended up staying at a few more of their hotels before we left China - the rooms were all the same and at a reasonable price. Our hotel in Shanghai was next to Shanghai No 1 Food Store, today full of fascinating and frightfully expensive traditional and imported
Cranes, the Shanghai Financial Centre (nicknamed the bottle opener) and the currently being constructed and soon to be tallest building in China, the Shanghai Centre Tower (nicknamed the screwdriver)
food items, but it was once the first department store in China.
After settling in we caught a taxi to the Yuyuan Gardens and bazaar. The gardens were first developed in 1559 but were unfortunately bombarded and virtually destroyed during the Opium War in 1842. Today, after being they are one of Shanghai's premier tourist attractions and always full of tourists. However we enjoyed wandering the many small pavilions and pathways which surrounded the many pools - strange to see modern China over the walls whilst in the midst of the relative peace and quiet of the gardens. I confess though not being a real lover of Chinese gardens - they contain too many grey rocks - and did expect these gardens to have more open space. We did enjoy the stage area where we listened to a group of musicians perform traditional music on instruments made entirely from blue and white porcelain. The stage they played on had an amazing internal domed wooden ceiling which glowed with gilt paint.
We walked out of the gardens into the bazaar and left almost immediately - it was another pseudo old town and was absolutely crammed with shops and people.
Coming out we spotted a hop on, hop off bus tour and decided to escape the crowds by purchasing a ticket for the tour of the old Expo site as we wished to visit the China Art Museum that has been established in what was originally the China Pavilion at 2010 Expo. The whole area is under reconstruction, leaving only three pavilions which are to stay permanently. One was the Saudi Pavilion with it's row of date palms growing on the roof, another the. Mercedes Benz pavilion which looked like a enormous silver flying saucer and the Chinese one - a stunning enormous red lacquered building in the shape of an ancient Chinese crown. Costing 220 million yuan when it was built it was the tallest (and probably most expensive) building at the Expo. You entered via an expansive set of stairs and looming in front of you is this vivid red triangular shaped exterior in which you can see a series of really long escalators going into the interior. Once inside and looking up more levels of escalators rise way above your head. It was super impressive and it appeared that most of the people there were, like us,
visiting the building and not actually the art it held. Though we did see some of the art...
Later that afternoon we caught the metro to the Pudong area. This area of the city, over 350 sq kilometres in size, was once boggy farmland. Today it is a sea of skyscrapers, high end shopping malls and upmarket residential blocks. It is on the opposite side of the river from the historical Bund and is therefore a total contrast. One side of the river is lined with European style buildings (many with striking art deco features) which were built in the early 20th century and on the opposite bank are skyscrapers in all the amazing shapes and colours in which they are built today. We enjoyed watching all the evening lights come on before making our way to the Jinmao Tower where we eventually found our way to the 87th floor to the Cloud 9 bar atop the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Just finding our way (in fact I doubt we would have found it if not for a couple of locals heading the same way) was an adventure as we had to negotiate dimly lit corridors lined with beautiful art
pieces before we found the lift. An ear popping ride upwards took us to a window seat in the bar - WOW - what a view we had! And all for the cost of a cocktail or two. They weren't cheap but it still cost us much less than the price of the viewing deck above the Oriental Pearl Tower - and it allowed us to see the changing neon light show of that particular tower. There is also a viewing tower on the floor above the bar we were in, but it also had a hefty entrance fee. The Jinmao Tower is currently the second highest building in the city and the third highest in China but has already been far exceeded height wise by a building currently under construction close by. This building will be 121 stories high and with the Jinmao Tower and adjacent Shanghai Financial Centre they will become the world's first adjacent grouping of three supertall buildings. The Oriental Pearl Tower is a tripod TV tower with a globe (pearl) on top - rather ugly actually - but it is the symbol of the city and does look amazing when it is illuminated every evening.
We arrived back to our hotel late that evening to find East Nanjing Street ablaze with neon lights, thronged with tourists and alive with atmosphere. We went to sleep with the sound of karaoke broadcast from a large TV screen opposite our hotel. Next morning we wandered the length of the Bund, stopping off to admire the decor of the art deco Peace Hotel, a building once owned by a Jewish man from Baghdad, who made his fortune out of selling opium and used it to buy real estate in Shanghai. As with all 5* star hotels in this city you still need a fortune to stay at them today. In it's day though the Peace Hotel was the Raffles of Shanghai. We caught the ferry across the river to the Pudong area where we wandered the streets around the Oriental Pearl Tower admiring whilst walking around a large circular above ground pedestrian walkway. In fact many of the buildings seemed to be connected by similar above ground walkways. It's a great idea to keep pedestrians safe and the road traffic moving. Being a bit of a tech geek I had to visit the large Apple store as well....
Back on the sightseeing bus we caught it to the French Concession area. It's a very pretty part of the city as all the streets are edged with trees and lined with solid old residential blocks and art deco apartments. Lots of tiny shops full of fun products made it an interesting area to stroll around. We visited the Tianzifang hutong area and explored all the narrow alleyways. Today it is full of small shops and cafes which cater to locals and tourists alike. We spent an interesting hour at the Site of the 1st National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party which was founded here in 1921. It was hung with red and yellow hammer and sickle (worker and farmer) Communist flags. Mao was present at the first meeting of the party. We finished the visit to that area with a foot massage each. Another late afternoon before we went back to our hotel - mercifully the karaoke was absent that evening.
The Shanghai Museum was the highlight next day. Our hotel was very close to People's Square (once the site of Shanghai Racecourse) and from there it was an easy walk to the Shanghai Museum. Set
in the midst of a green area and surrounded by sculptures and flower beds it is shaped like one of the ancient bronze vessels it houses. We concentrated on only a few of the galleries. We were blown away by the exquisitely carved jade (I didn't realise it came in so many colours) pieces and there was the best collection of early Chinese ethnic costumes and jewellery we have ever seen. We also loved the furniture gallery from the heavy mother of pearl inlaid pieces through to the finer .............
The MRT took us to one of the more traditional areas of the city where we visited the Ohel Moishe Synagogue which was built in 1927. A small building which today houses the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. The exhibitions there are beautifully presented and we spent a long time there. It displayed the sad history of the Nazi Death camps and the stories of some of the 20,000 Central European refugees who fled to Shanghai to escape the Nazis. The streets around the museum were interesting as they were full of old houses from early last century - all were a bit grimy and had a well lived in
look. Lots of washing hanging out of windows and housewives going about their daily lives.
I wanted to visit the Shanghai Blue Nankeen Museum to see their display of hand dyed blue and white fabric. The Chinese name for this cloth means 'blue printed flower cloth' and it is a traditional peasant indigo dyed fabric in geometric, floral, bird and butterfly patterns. I have some pieces as I'm interested in anything in blue and white colours. It was a little hard to find as it was in the middle of a residential courtyard area which was a maze of narrow alleys. The whole area is currently being renovated (very tastefully and probably by the residents themselves) and Jerry enjoyed the sunshine in their pretty courtyard garden whilst I had an enjoyable hour browsing and purchasing!
That evening we spent in the cool of the Bund waterfront enjoying the view of the high rises from the other side of the river. The buildings in Pudong are covered in neon lights which constantly change colour and pattern and that combined with the garish LED lights which covered the tourist sightseeing boats made the whole waterfront a kaleidoscope of colour. Another
late night - they are never early when you are travelling as every evening you have to find somewhere to eat! Next day we were going to go to Suzhou, one of the canal towns (now enormous city) near Shanghai. We had originally planned on staying a night or two there but when we realised that it was 40 minutes away by train we decided to stay in Shanghai instead.
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