What an amazing city Shanghai is. It’s vibrant and very much alive. You wouldn’t think it was a communist country with all the stores and people making money. Shanghai is hosting the World Expo May to September 2010 and the amount of building going on is astounding!
Unfortunately that means the older Chinese buildings are being torn down to make room for the big glass (architecture is awesome and just out of this world) beautiful buildings. The dock lands are being transformed into beautiful garden centres with wonderful fragrant flowers and trees. In some areas however there is an effort to restore enough buildings to keep their history alive. The old French quarter is a good example as is the Bund. These buildings are often gutted and modernized inside, leaving the exterior original.
Just after midnight last night we sailed into the Huangpu Jiang River, which brought us to the inner port of Shanghai. We docked at approximately 6:30am. This port is one of the largest in the area and can facilitate all kinds of cargo. Shanghai is considered the most important centre for foreign and domestic trade and is the largest industrial city in China. For those of you who are/were looking at the Ship tracker, yes this appeared to be 10 miles inland 🙂 We in fact went 50 miles up the river to get to the port. Before the huge dam was built on the Yangzi river, it was accessible for 1000 mi by ocean going ships!
The Huangpu Jiang River is close to the mouth of the mighty Yangzi on China’s eastern seaboard. Shanghai is the nation’s largest and most dynamic city with a population of more than 13 million people. There’s also an underground population of migrants from other provinces estimated to be approximately another 7 million people and you can see and taste the energy in the city. It is an independent municipality and the recent explosion of economic and industrial development has made it one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Until 1842 Shanghai was a minor Chinese river port, worthy of a protective rampart but otherwise undistinguished. In that year the Chinese government capitulated to western demands for trade concessions resulting in a number of ports along china’s eastern seaboard including Shanghai, essentially becoming European outposts. Foreign residences were answerable only to the laws of their own country. Thus the Americans, British an French had their own concessions exclusive areas within the city with their own police forces and judiciary – a situation that attracted not only entrepreneurs, but refugees, criminals and revolutionaries. The mix was a potent one and Shanghai’s reputation for glamour and excess derives from the politically combustible period between the two world wars. It all came to an end in the 1940’s when foreigners gave up their rights in the face of growing Chinese opposition. The opposition grew out of the Opium War starting in the 1840’s when the foreigners amassed fortunes and the general population grew increasingly poor. No wonder there was a revolution.
This morning we’re on a 4 hour tour – Shanghai Old and New. We travelled by coach to Shanghai’s waterfront (The Bund) where there is still outstanding examples of foreign building from the pre 1900’s but we do wonder how long these buildings will exist. It was lovely to see school children on field trips all dressed in the school uniforms. The most identifiable structure in Shanghai is, I believe, the Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower. Again, we looked upon this tower from our cabin. I asked our guide why such a large tower was built to accommodate radio waves when a much smaller one would have sufficed, his reply was that Toronto had the CN Tower, Shanghai wanted to have a building that would also be remembered! We then travelled to the Jin Mao Building with is now the 3rd highest in China. We went to the top 88 floors and took many photos of the city. It was a bit overcast this morning so photos weren’t so clear. There’s a 102 floor building and currently being built is a 118 floor building.
Our next stop was the People’s Square, considered the city’s commercial and political hub. It is also the centre of the city. The architecture here is just amazing. Here is located the city hall and the Shanghai Museum along with large park areas. The place is spotlessly clean and it’s very obvious that great care and pride is taken to keep it this way. We saw numerous cleaning people throughout Shanghai with brushes keeping the place clean and tidy.
Of course there are the usual number of motor bikes, although most of these were battery powered. The biggest problem for us was keeping the dust down from the amazing amount of construction going on.
This afternoon we’re on our own – we had intended to take a taxi (we’d been given written translation of destinations to show to our Chinese driver) but we ended up walking the whole way into town. It was just amazing and wonderful and exciting!! The main road around the city is called Zhongshan Road leading us to Nanjing Road which is the major shopping area of Shanghai. Gerrit was looking for electronics (which we never did find, not for lack of trying though). We were in and out of many little and large shops. Most had 5-9 floors, with each floor catering to some specialty such as shoes, men’s cloths or appliances. Also prevalent were supermarkets although many didn’t have groceries but snacks – we bought some candy made predominately with fermented rice and sea-weed which is just wonderful. These are sold for fixed price per 500g and are very popular.
We ended up exploring the city over a range of almost 12 Km. People would come up to us asking if we’d want to buy a Mont Blanc pens set or Rolex watch or Prada and Gucci purses. We declined. This happened so many times it was hard to keep track but we think we reached 39 times in just the 8 hours we were out and about.
I saw one woman knitting a cable sweater with the 6 of the thinnest of knitting needles. It was just amazing to watch her.
We ventured up alley ways and side streets to discover a wealth of restaurants and eatery’s. The sights and sounds were just typical China and it’s hard to try and describe the feelings we both experienced. We were just caught up in the excitement of realizing we were in China and this was typical China. It’s like nothing you can talk about – it’s the experience and the feeling of the smells and the sounds of excited people shouting out orders of food to street vendors who cooked out of 3 or 4 pots in a small sidewalk stall. It was truly wonderful.
A large section of Nanjing Road is was closed to traffic in 1997, resulting in a wonderful shopping experience. There were however side roads crossing Nanjing Road, and stopping for red lights was obviously optional.
Finally, we got to Pat’s destination – a silk store. OMG, I’d hit the mothership of 100% pure silk. Many world leaders have purchased silk here and it is just out of this world. We spent a good 1 hour in this store and ended up buying 3 different types of silk which I’ve got plans to make once we get home.
At this point in the evening we had walked half way back when we both decided that a taxi was in order. The God’s were with us, we got a driver with limited English and with Gerrit’s help he was able to get us back to the ship. The journey was about 20 minutes and cost us 15 Yuan or about $3 Canadian – very inexpensive.
We got back to the ship quite exhausted but very content. We took a quick shower and got a glass of wine and sat for a couple of hours on the deck watching all the wonderful lights on the incredible number of boats and small ships that use the Hangpu River. Early to bed, we have a full day planned tomorrow on our own.
Day 2 in Shanghai will be posted soon, off to bed now to rest up for Beijing 12 hour tour.