Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shanghai - Day 3 - Sunday 22 June

Today was largely a recovery day, mostly spent reading in my hotel room, and doing some work (and writing the previous blog posts). It happened to be a rainy day, so I didn't feel like I was missing out on too much by staying holed up.

By about 4.30pm I was feeling well enough to venture out, so got the metro to near the Shanghai Centre Theatre, with the intention of getting a ticket for tonight. It was closed, but the concierge at the posh hotel at the Shanghai Centre sold me a ticket. Then I went back to a little British style pub I'd spotted on the way - not feeling brave enough for Chinese food again yet. I had a very nice meal (vegetarian quesadilla and beer, followed by an espresso) sitting on a little verandah watching the rain pouring down.

Then I wandered back to the theatre. My seat was in the third row, so I had an excellent view. There was an announcement at the beginning that no photos were allowed. So I was a bit annoyed that the guy next to me kept on taking photos - it was distracting, and also annoying that he would have photos of the show and I wouldn't. The show was everything you would hope to see at a Chinese acrobatics show, and worth every yuan. There was jumping through hoops, the double-jointed girl balancing glasses on feet, hands and forehead, jugglers, plate-spinners, tight-rope walker, magician and much more. It was all beautifully choreographed and just stunning.

Then I got a taxi back to the hotel. Tomorrow is work, as is the rest of the week, so I don't expect to have anything blogworthy until next weekend. Before I leave Shanghai (next Sunday) I hope to visit Old Town, the markets and Pudong. I will keep you (literally) posted.

Shanghai - Day 2 - Saturday 21 June 2008

My plan for the day was to explore the French Concession. I started at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, where I bought myself a dinky little lace parasol. Then I went to Lulu Massage, with blind masseuses. Excellent, and very cheap. Soon after however, and for the rest of day (possibly aided by the massage, but more likely something I ate) I had cause to become very familiar with the public squat toilets of Shanghai. Let’s just say that the most common digestive side effect of the iron tablets I’m taking is no longer an issue. I was also getting quite sore and tired from all the walking. So the rest of the day was not nearly as enjoyable as it should have been.

I checked out Taikang Rd Arts Centre – a little courtyard of boutiques and coffee shops – and had lunch at Kommune (the above-mentioned ailment hadn’t quite hit yet) and did a little souvenir shopping. Then I walked to Fuxing Park – originally French only allowed – and had a welcome rest while watching old men practicing tai chi, a couple of people playing badminton, and plenty of families – one child a piece – enjoying the park. All under the watchful gaze of Marx and Engels.

Fuxing Park
Then I had a quick look around Xintiandi (a touristy shikumen alley), and sat for quite a while with an iced tea, gaining the energy and strength for the trip back to the hotel on the metro. I had an early night with plans for taking it easy the next day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shanghai - Day 1 - Friday 20 June 2008

I started the day with a Chinese breakfast at the hotel – dimsums, fried vegetables, noodles. Then I walked to the conference venue to check out how far it is from the hotel – only about 20 minutes. Then I found the closest metro station and was pleasantly surprised at how clean, efficient and cheap it is – and easy to use. I went to People's Square to go to the Shanghai Museum.

Shanghai museum, People's Square

As I left the metro two local girls starting chatting with me to practice their English. They were nice enough but I heeded the warning on the card in my hotel room – “Follow no strangers to the fun places” – and declined their invitation to go somewhere with them. I got increasingly fed up during the day with people wanting to talk to me and I told one particularly insistent guy that I’m from South America and only speak Spanish.

The museum was excellent and I spent almost 3 hours there. I was surprised to see everyone taking photos of everything. So I joined in.

Bronzework at Shanghai museum

Dog and duck bronzeworks

Then I walked down E Nanjing Rd – a pedestrian mall – to the Bund. Along the way, every second person wanted to know whether I required a watch, a bag, a t-shirt or maybe a dvd. I was getting a bit peckish, so I bought what looked like a Danish pastry, but it was savoury – I’m not sure what was in it.

E Nanjing Rd, looking towards the Bund

The Bund (embankment) is where all the international crowd hung out in the 1920s. A very nice promenade along the river (where I became a tourist attraction – I was just sitting down enjoying my fresh coconut and reading my guidebook when some Asian tourists sat either side of me and got photos taken), and lots of imposing European style buildings. The telescopes (for looking across the river) play “We wish you a merry Christmas” when in use. (The first music I was greeted with in China was a musak version of “Last Christmas” at customs.)

HSBC building on the Bund

I went to a little coffee shop inside the HSBC building that I wouldn’t have known existed except my guidebook told me about it. Then as I was further exploring the Bund, it started raining, so I decided a river tour was in order. I particularly enjoyed the warning sign on the side of the boat.

No striding (running ok)

Pudong on the other side of the river is very different to the Bund – it is a very new development. I had intended to go across and go up one of the towers for the view of the city, but it was too smoggy to be worth it. Maybe another day.

Pudong skyline

And then I made my way back to the hotel, which is quite a way from the centre of town (but close to where the conference is next week), so that took a while. I had dinner in the hotel – I forewent the goose foot in favour of tofu and wild mushrooms. A tiring but excellent day.

Shanghai - Prologue - Thursday 19 June 2008

The cat took me hostage, obviously. Every time I try to use the computer, he attacks my hands.*

I am in Shanghai for a week and a half, and so away from the evil Loki, and can type without fear. Actually, this just seems like a good place for my travel diary and photos, so I thought I'd revive it temporarily.

So, I’m in Shanghai for a conference. I flew in from Australia on Thursday. I only just made the flight (due to a short a connection and a delayed flight from Albury to Sydney) but just made it onto the plane in time with lots of running – and then we sat at the gate for another half an hour waiting for the final passengers to arrive from domestic connections…

The flight was uneventful – I had been expecting it to be very eventful, what with the Heath Ledger retrospective on the movie-on-demand system – but the system was broken. So I had to do without Heath, and also without Lars and the Real Girl and The Kite Runner. I managed in the end only to see The Other Boleyn Girl, but the screen was really dark.

I arrived in Shanghai about 6.45pm local time, and two local university students met me and accompanied me to the hotel on the airport shuttle followed by a short taxi ride. They didn’t know where the hotel was, but luckily I had printed out the Chinese characters directing the taxi driver.

First impressions of Shanghai – humid, modern, crowded (20 million people – the population of Australia).

* Also, nothing much happens in Albury. And I was done with blogging.