Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shanghai - sightseeing

The Yu Yuan Gardens is nothing but a block of replicated buildings from the Ming Dynasty. It looks like a Disneyland version of China. The best dumplings in Shanghai can supposedly be found here. We would have waited for over an hour to get our serving, so we gave it a miss. How much better can a dumpling taste anyway? The queue for the dumplings comprised of Chinese and Western tourists. I read on a website that this is where locals buy dumplings too, but this statement was written by an American who probably assumed that the Chinese people lining up were from Shanghai. I knew they were all tourists by the cameras hanging around their necks and the Chinese tour buses. At the Yu Yuan Gardens you can also buy traditional Chinese foods such as a Big Mac, Kentucky Fried Chicken and an Iced Mocha Frappachino. There were plenty of souvenirs for sale too. The Yu Yuan Gardens was pretty much a shopping centre set in a traditional Chinese building, with a food court too!

Starbucks at Yu Yuan Gardens. A traditional Chinese beverage venue.

I experienced old school China a few blocks away from the Yu Yuan Gardens. We walked down a narrow street that comprised of a row of tiny 4-seater restaurants and fruit shops. The wooden window shutters of the apartments above the shops were blackened by the dirt accumulated over the past centuries. Now this was the China I wanted to see.

Another few blocks away was the French Concession. The French Concession is a maze of tree lined streets and European architecture. Many expatriates live here. There are many cute boutiques that are less of a headache to browse through than the Xi Pu market, but of course, sell the same clothes at a higher price.

You don’t need a taxi to get around Shanghai. I walked from Nanjing Road West to East to get to the Bund at the end of the road, and from Nanjing Road East to the Yu Yuan Gardens and then the French Concession, that connects back to Nanjing Road West. It is a fair distance to walk, but it is a better way of exploring the city than travelling in a cab.

The Bund features a mix of old European and American architecture. They were impressive buildings, but they didn’t take my breath away like the upper end of Collins Street does. The Bund is along a river and on the other side is the town of Pudong, which is primarily an area full of business buildings and one of Shanghai’s two Hooters. Pudong is attempting to rival the glittering skyline of Hong Kong, with new building being erected every few months. Pudong is also in competition to build the tallest building in the world.

Here are some pictures of the Bund:

The Bund
In a little street off the Bund.

This is a man cleaning a bridge along the Bund. Work safety regulations in China are non-existent.

I desperately wanted to see some evidence of the opium hey days of Shanghai in the 1920s. Unfortunately I did not find an opium den, but I found a plaque on a hotel with the word "opium" on it.

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