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Published: September 26th 2019
Day 59 continued to 61 of 80
When we last posted we were atop the Shanghai Tower, on the world's highest, possibly, observation deck.
Beautifully clear day. Having walked around at ground level for several days it was interesting to get a from-above perspective of the city. Several things struck us:
- Yes, Shanghai is a city of high-rise buildings but there are many areas of lower, more intimate, housing usually with greenery incorporated into the 'estate'
- There are several surprisingly large undeveloped areas within the city boundaries. Can't tell whether these are dead ground, swamp, protected green space or whatever.
Heading down, and looking to get across the river, we took to the ferry, along with several groups of 'enthusiastic' Chinese. Just a short 5 minutes hop took us to within a few minutes walk of the Wolves 'Megastore'.
This had appeared on our radar shortly before our trip, via Wolves twitter feed, the shop being opened to great fanfare in the pre-season Premier League Asia tournament that was held in Shanghai - which Wolves won, beating Man City on penalties in the final.
When we finally found it, on the 2nd
floor of an anonymous, underfilled shopping mall owned by the club owners Fosun, to say we were underwhelmed would be an understatement. 'Megastore' emblazoned above the shop entrance, conjures visions of large floor space and lots of stock. In reality. ... Simon has bigger stall space when he exhibits Wraptious at trade fairs.
Stock was limited, the clothing very chav-y. No team kit at all. Pip bought just a pin-badge, despite really wanting to get something else but there simply was nothing to buy.
In the evening we took a river boat ride for a different perspective on Shanghai's lights. Didn't appreciate the ticket desk selling us a ticket at 7:44 for a 7:45 departure. We had to run, but we weren't alone. Mind you, we think we 'saw' more. So many people 'watching' the lights through their phone screen whilst recording it all. Incredulous.
Tuesday we aimed for the Old City, down along and just in from the Bund. We walked, it's only about 3km, and noticed how much poorer the view across to Pudong was at that time. Quite hazy, pretty crap if that's your only chance for pictures.
Just at the start we
discovered the Bund museum, a wonderful little gem charting the history of Shanghai's waterfront from the late 1800s, with lots of photos from over the years. Full of fascinating facts
-Feb 2, 1909, reps from 13 countries eg China, USA, UK, France. .. met at the Palace Hotel to hold the first Opium Conference, which started international cooperation in drug control.
- Electric lights, 15 of them, were lit on the Bund 26 July 1882, the first electric lights in the whole of China.
- In 1874 the British Oriental Bank opened on the Bund, followed by many others. Soon there were over 600 and the Bund was ranked 3rd in world's financial markets, behind London and New York.
- The first Chinese bank - the Commercial Bank of China - was opened May 27 1897, breaking the monopoly of foreign banks in the country.
As we had already done quite a bit of Bund viewing, we instead walked at road level, across the road from the Bund, and in front of the wonderful 1900 to 1930/40 buildings, lots of them still or formerly the banks referred to above, that line that spot. Most of them are officially
recognised as 'important' buildings, probably similar to our 'Grade 1 listed' in the UK.
We popped into and out of several of these as we walked along.
The Fairmont Peace Hotel, originally the Cathay Hotel, was the most glamorous Shanghai hotel of the 1930s. Its guests were /are the rich and famous, adventurers, travellers, high society, artists, diplomats.
Noel Coward completed Private Lives, which established him as a literary name, when he was confined to bed here with flu for 4 days, whilst making the best use of room service!
March 1936, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, star of Modern Times, stayed. Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery stayed in the British Suite of course.
To commemorate the holding of the 1st International Symposium on World Peace in 1956, the hotel was renamed the Peace Hotel. Centrepiece in the lobby is a wonderful crystal dove of peace.
We went into several banking halls. Large, grand edifices but regrettably no pictures allowed inside. One in particular could have been a dead ringer for Gringotts Bank as depicted in the Harry Potter films. The Customs House did allow some photos in its entrance 'hall'.
We eventually made
it to the Old City. Lots of traditional-style buildings, but hard to tell whether these are old, new, rebuilds or what. Mostly full of modern, bright retail opportunities but with some more interesting specialist shops within too.
We found a stall where a gentleman was doing finger and palm paintings of rural China scenes. We were partly interested but then saw a photo of Wolves players holding a large one of his paintings. He told us it took 2 days to make. That was it. Pip was sold, and we came away with one of his paintings, and a photo of the photo of Wolves players with a painting.
The Old Town contains a couple of specific attractions. Sadly the Yu Yuan garden was closed for 6 weeks. The City God Temple was open. A Taoist temple, built in 1403, rather than having many Buddha statues this is dedicated to some of the hundreds of Tao gods. Some looked quite benign. Some would give you nightmares.
We tried a 'street food' restaurant that evening. Quite a disappointment. 80% of the offerings were cold. We couldn't persuade them to fresh fry a couple of duck spring rolls. We
took a 'hot' plate of noodles, but these were tepid by the time we had selected, q'd to pay and then sat. And the 2 other items - veg spring rolls and fried dumplings, were swimming in poor oil. And all three items were quite bland too.
So, we found our way to Nanjing street where we had a very large drink to celebrate the UK Supreme Court making the right decision in the preroguement of parliament case. Yesss!
Wednesday, to the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China - July 23, 1921. 13 delegates incl Mao Zedong. The building is a typical Shanghai house, built 1920, with a courtyard and gate enclosed in a stone frame known as shi-kumen.
The enclosed museum was excellent, with English throughout, lots of information on the founders.
Ironically it is on the edge of the French Concession area, a hive of high market retail and eating emporiums showing capitalist, unequal, free market, rich society at its best. We had a drink at a place serving hot fruit juices. Weird, but the kick in Pip's apple and ginger gave her throat a soothing glow.
Fuxing Park, formerly French Park, was a green haven. One of the oldest in Shanghai, it was lovely. Lots of plane trees, rose garden, clipped hedges. In fact, in general the municipal planting all around town is looking very good, probably in time for the October 1st 70th Anniversary celebrations.
As we progressed we passed a fence where, using the strips of pictures effect, were depicted several western and chinese scientists eg Hubble, Crick, Turing, Curie. Very well done piece of work.
For our final evening in Shanghai we had a roof-top terrace meal on the Bund. A wonderful setting with the lights in view.
Since Wednesday morning the VPN connection has been tricky. The VPN company are aware and it's due to increased barriers from the Chinese in the lead up to Oct 1. It seems to have settled but may get worse yet. It does seem ironic to us that the consistently best VPN connection has been to the Hong Kong 4 server.
We changed hotel room a couple of days ago. The building site outside our window was doing our heads in. Just being on the opposite side has improved things tremendously. But
now we overlook a junior school playground. At 08.30 they have a quite formal day-opening ceremony - songs, parade, flag raising. Pip noted that all the teachers were women.
One final SoF that we missed from earlier blogs.
The Chinese call westerners 'Big Noses'. Go figure!
Today we are moving to one of Shanghai's 'water towns' for a couple of days before starting to cross country across southern China for a couple of weeks.
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