So my time is shanghai is up, and I’m genuinely unsure how I feel about the city. It seemed most of the others really preferred it to Beijing, but is has not really made too much of an impression on me.
In many ways it feels like the city is trying to replicate New York, particularly with the redevelopment of the Bund area. I saw one mock-up of the proposed development, which could have been taken straight from the Hudson. Shanghai is certainly a more modern city. The subway is very good, and many of the buildings are shiny and new. Yet is feels like the people have not yet matched the pace of the development. This is not meant as a criticism of them, more an observation of the forced pace of the changes the city is undergoing, rather than it growing with its needs over time. I think part of my indecision is because I was simply uncomfortable the entire time I was there. The heat and humidity is simply off the scales. Each day was over 30c, but with the humidity it was more like 42c. I simply sweated my entire trip, which was simply unpleasant and I ended up drinking litres of water a day to try and stay hydrated.
The city was also covered in a thick smog the whole time, which I imagine must have some connection to the seemingly endless traffic jams that clog every single road. My throat currently feels very sore, something I subscribe purely to the pollution in the city. After arriving, we bundled into taxis and headed to our hotel, the Jin-jang Inn. Here I was surprised by a hotel room of American proportions, with a separate lounge area. Strange, because I was under the impression this was supposed to be a budget trip. Soon after checking in, we headed for people’s square and and the Shanghai Museum. We looked around for a while before Katie and I headed to the nearby Urban Planning Museum. Although this sounds rather dry, it was pretty good and it gave a good history of the changes the city had undergone recently and those currently planned. The highlight of the museum was a gigantic scale model of the city that took up an entire floor by itself.
Afterwards we walked down Nanjing Road, pausing to grab drinks from a juice bar that seemed pretty popular. I had a blueberry slush puppy style drink, that was the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted. Katie had some strange chocolate milk concoction with “pudding and pearls”. The pudding was some kind of custard and we couldn’t quite figure out what the pearls were. The next day we took a two hour drive to the water town of Zangzhough. This was a disappointment. It was supposed to be a village built along canals, but really was just a tourist trap. The place itself is quite scenic, but contained nothing but souvenir shops or restaurants. Combined with the heat and omnipresent shouting Chinese tour guides and their loudspeakers it was a bit of a let down.
After a great meal we headed to a bar called Cloud Nine. This bar is located on the 87th floor of what is currently Shanghais largest tower. The bar is ultra expensive, so we only had one drink, but it was a tasty one. The view was obscured by both cloud and smog, but started to look spectacular as lightening started to flash around us. On leaving the bar we caught the metro to the closest interchange, where we discovered that we had missed the last train to our stop. So it was that we found ourselves walking in the rain with lightening flashing overhead.
Once back in the hotel the rain and storm intensified, with lightening flashing every couple of seconds and thunder exploding in loud bursts. For my last morning I had a lie-in before going to lunch with Gernard. We found a nice place and managed to order and pay with little difficulty, but a lot of smiling, pointing and nodding.
The it was to the train, which is where I am now. I’m currently 17.5 hours into the journey to Xi’an and it has on the whole been quite pleasant. I’m enjoying these train journeys as we simply sit, talk and play card games. The less said about the toilets on the train, the better. So the next couple of days should bring the Terracotta Army and hopefully I’ll get to meet up with Karen.