The Mists of Shanghai

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Asia » China » Shanghai
May 28th 2008
Published: June 7th 2008
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Our hotel in Shanghai was perfectly placed on Nanjing Dong Lu opposite The No1 Department Store. Finding the front entrance through a tailor’s shop under a side arcade was a little challenge on arrival and we had to get the boys’ room changed as they were required to literally walk through a construction site on the third floor to get to their originally allocated bedroom.

Shanghai differs markedly from everywhere we have visited so far in China and is much more ‘Westernised’; no doubt reflecting its’ history as a trading and commercial outpost of Western Empires - the British and the French primarily. We welcomed the opportunity to capitalise on this and ate our first pizza in China not quite living up to Shanghai’s opulent reputation, but we had a good time!

Everything in the city was shrouded in mist / smog. We could not be sure which it was, but the tops of all the tall buildings in the city could not be seen and we prayed for better weather, so it poured with rain.

There was another ‘taxi incident’ when we became separated on our trip to Yu Yuan Tea House and Bazaar but we eventually found one another, relying on a unique whistle the boys use to attract one another’s attention! We ate some superb dumplings whilst watching a team of ‘stuffers’ in the kitchen next to us and Hilary & then visited the absolutely stunning Yu Gardens (the best corner of which is easy to miss, so take care to see it all if you visit) whilst the boys did some more shopping.

Our visit to ’The Bund’ was something of an anti-climax, possibly not helped by the approach on foot along East Nanjing Road which is a little ‘down at heel’ awaiting redevelopment. The famous Peace Hotel was dirty, run-down and closed so there was no opportunity for a glimpse of its’ pre-war atmosphere. Pudong (the newly developing city centre on the east bank of the Huangpu River) was again grey and misty with several buildings, including the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower obscured from view.

We took the river trip and saw the huge extent of progressive redevelopment. Already China’s largest city with 16m inhabitants, it is hard to imagine how it is all going to hang together when you see the unattractive and already densely populated city fringes which run for miles.

After the boat trip we went under the river in the new and expensive monorail train which incorporates a weird and pointless light show as part of the journey - avoid it and take the cheap cross-river ferry further downstream. Pudong was interesting and the sky cleared for a while as we struggled to find somewhere to eat lunch.

On our final day we visited Renmin Square where we chatted with some charming young Chinese teachers and students, round the corner to People’s Park and on the ‘Fake Market’ - a real market selling fake everything. We honed our negotiating skills and acquired a few bargains for our troubles.

We encountered onward travel difficulty as our intended overnight train to Huangshan was diverted to the earthquake relief effort in Chengdou and had to buy flights for the next leg of our journey along with an extra night’s accommodation, greatly assisted by the hotel’s ticket desk.

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