The one thing I didn’t think to pack was an umbrella! I arrived soaked in Shanghai on Sunday afternoon in the middle of a downpour which with a few short breaks, continued throughout Monday. No matter, the 12 hour journey had given me plenty of time to read up on the city and first thing the next day, I set out for the Bund.
The Bund is the old style colonial business district that still hosts the likes of Jardine Mathieson. The river that bisects Shanghai also bisects the old and new business districts. Pudong on the other side is home to the most iconic skyscape in the world, pushing Manhattan firmly into second place (in my opinion).
I’ve been in Shanghai for five days, working for most of them, but having factored in enough time to take photographs, usually at the expense of sleep! I made a point of visiting Jinmao Tower, a skyscraper apparently based on the idea of a pen. The viewing platform is the nib and as ink, it happens to house the Grand Hyatt Hotel (from the 55th floor). The building extends above ground some 90 floors. The atrium in the Grand extends from the 56th floor to the top and is one of the most photographed architectural features in the world.
As a visitor, I love Shanghai, it is oddly European, a legacy of the colonial days with tree lined avenues in the French quarter and a relative calm atmosphere, compared with say, Beijing, which I visited last October. Food is excellent and cheap, people are very friendly and English is now taught in secondary schools as a compulsory language, so it’s relatively simple to be understood. The transport system is excellent, no more than a two and a half minute wait for the subway, it is clean and pollution, though clearly present, is way better than Beijing. Traffic is less intense, though considerably worse than most European cities, woe betide those who venture forth during rush hour! And miracle of miracles, Starbucks are in relatively short supply!
Outside of Beijing, the Water Villages are worth visiting, but have been commercialised to a ridiculous degree. Perfectly preserved, the modern day inhabitants run souvenir stalls instead of trading silk and ironically are banned from using the canals so that the tourist experience is unblemished by real life. The slight flaw in this plan is that surrounding the water village is what might best be described as the car park to hell – acres of cars and buses on a site larger than your average IKEA, disgorging tourists with all the attendant nonsense – amplified tour guides being the most noisome.
I’m returning to Brighton tomorrow morning, the logistics suggest I won’t see much of the weekend. It’s a seventeen hour journey but the clock goes back, so I’ll be arriving just in time for tea! God help me!