Monday, April 15, 2013

China 2013 Part III: Age Matters

A Hindi-Urdu word of Persian origin meaning "embankment" or "levee" is now used to describe the mile-long riverside strip of well-preserved buildings that once formed part of the Shanghai International Settlement. What used to be the heartland of the city's English-speaking community, thriving under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking that made Shanghai one of the original five Chinese treaty ports, has now become a Times Square by the Huangpu.

Every night, or as soon as it turns dark enough to reasonably open streetlights, both locals and foreigners turn up by the hordes in this waterfront tourist mecca. And all for presumably one reason: to witness the spectacular lights display care of both the skyscrapers of Pudong and the ageless inanimate residents of Puxi. A stroll through the crowd is the standard activity. A Huangpu River cruise is optional, as is ascending the designated observatory for viewing the strip above the thousands of heads.

The sea of people provides a marvelous swim.

Spot the Terence!

The indefatigable Customs House, with its postcard-famous clock tower purportedly modeled after London's Big Ben.

When the crowds have dispersed, say, around 10PM, The Bund (coupled with the chilly night air) becomes the ultimate Shanghainese setting for "On My Own."

Now how to beat the crowd at the observatory? You don't go there. Number 3 on The Bund (the buildings are famously numerically marked) is the Union Building, and a high-end restaurant and clock tower occupy the top floor. The restaurant, though, does not care if one is a customer or not. They have an open-air terrace, which I think was made for both diners who smoke and tourists smart enough to sniff out the existence of this terrace and thick-skinned enough to not care about barging into an expensive restaurant's terrace to take vanity shots. 

The Bund from the topmost floor of the Union Building.

We also went inside the Fairmont Peace Hotel for some chillin' at the lobby, and the Waldorf-Astoria, formerly the Shanghai Club (where the Brits socialized). We rode the Astoria's old-fashioned elevator (you know, the ones that have... sliding gate rails, is it, like in the Ministry of Magic.

Facade of the HSBC Building, current home of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

The principal subway station to get to The Bund is East Nanjing Road, and turning the opposite direction (that is, westward) upon exiting leads to Nanjing Road - famous for its pedestrian-only strip of shops, restaurant, malls.

Together with The Bund, Nanjing Road is the de facto pimps' hideout. Our two visits to The Bund and subsequent walk down East and Nanjing roads yielded a total of three naughty encounters. The first one ("You want ladies?"), we just ignored; the second was this kind-looking girl whose offers I countered with "I don't understand," smiling face.

The third one was this pimp who followed us all the way from the intersection of Hankou and Zhongshan roads along The Bund to East Nanjing Road station before furtively announcing his offers. What a strange pimp. What an inept pimp! He should scout for another job.

I approached a policeman for directions and spoke to him in English. He responded in Mandarin. I said, "I don't understand." He replied in irritated Mandarin. Do I really look so Chinese? Screw him.

 Nanjing Road, looking west.

Nanshi literally means "southern city," and this district is the historic core of Shanghai. The old city was established under the Ming Dynasty, and the preserved architecture is much to behold. The defining site is the worship complex Chenghuang Miao ("City God Temple"), although today, the name is widely used to refer to the surrounding areas as well.

Yuyuan, "Garden of Happiness" or "Garden of Peace," is unmistakably the star attraction of the old city. Its history encompasses many generations (which is another way of saying I'm not really up to discussing it here). I managed to take only three lousy photos because once inside and lost in the maze of ponds, corridors, gardens, halls, and pavilions, I realized pictures will never do this place justice. If you happen to be in Shanghai, never miss this.

The entrance to Yuyuan.

"Fishing couples."

Chinese tour guide speaking fluent Italian - now that was a treat. But the sentiment extends to every Caucasian or White person who speaks fluent Mandarin.

Big doggy!

I apologize; my cameras are inefficient in the dark, or when there's too much light. As far as my techie skills are concerned, I am quite the Cro-Magnon.

PREVIOUS: China 2013 Part II: Playing in Pudong
NEXT: China 2013 Part IV: High in the Hyatts

No comments: