Shanghai : Taking it easy with Me, Myself and Shanghai
Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 171 of 268 › view all entries
Man, do my legs hurt today! Strained thighs. Itâs gonna be agony climbing up and down stairs for the next couple of days thatâs for sure. Walking not as comfortable as it should be. So maybe itâs a good thing that Iâm I Shanghai. Some days to kill. Not too many activities. Not too many thrills. Before I leave these shores. The furthest East I have ever yet been. To loop back all the way to Cyprus. Happy to take it easy now. To let it all, all near 9 months of it, start to sink in. Happy, for a change, to be in a big city. Shanghai, the erstwhile âWhore of the Orientâ. For whatever previous incarnations she has had, whatever forms of excess previously indulged and catered for she now revels in the no less morally dubious excesses of modernity and money ( and the rest too I guess?).
Everything about Shanghai is about finance and the future. The former the coals constantly being heaped into the insatiably-hungry, all consuming engine that feeds the pursuit of the latter. If Chinaâs economy is a red-eyed, muscular glistening-bodied medieval warhorse, snorting and grunting with its renewed vigour; its relentless efforts to charge down the rest of the world and the 21st Century then Shanghai is itâs glistening, point-sharpened jousting lance. The vertiginous glistening steel and glass composition of the cityâs skyline is a far, far cry from the many villages and âancientâ townships I started my time in China visiting.
But not today for me. Not too far anyhows. Whilst everything about this city denotes pace, progress and restlessness and crushing work ethics ( it is claimed that 40% of Shanghaiâs residents suffer from some form of insomnia or other *) and 24 hour energy, Stevie is going to take his last few days in China reeeeal easy. So I start nice and gentle with a nice long visit to the Shanghai Museum.
âHello, you are little!â. âWhy hello. Yes I am. Your English is very good, if a little cheekyâ. âYes you are veeery little.â âWhy yes I am, but I am still bigger than you!â.
Shanghai Museum is by far one of the finest museums I have been in since leaving Europe and is a turn up for the books in China in several ways. Firstly itâs free to enter. Yep, ya heard me right. F, R, double E, âFREE!â. Whoop-di-do! Secondly it is pleasingly laid out, immaculately presented and labelled and very, very informative as to the details; physical, cultural, historical of the many, many fine items that you have the privilege to see there.
That said, Iâm so tired right now, body and mind, that Iâm near perpetually in full on Dunce mode. In one ear or eye ball and out the other kinda thing. I pass from beautiful ceramic piece to pot to plate to statue and on and on and so on going gooey-eyed at the craftsmanship and delicacy all the way. But I have to confess that after 6 weeks in China I'm still unable to understand or distinguish or discourse in any context between ya Qinqs, Mings, Other Things, Ping Pongs, Tangs or Yin Yangs. Sorry! But itâs all fascinating all the same. Superb, captivating collections of Chinese stone statuary, bronze work, furniture, jades, seals and such like.
Leaving the museum I sit down to let my eyes adjust to the brightness. It hurts to look up and try to focus on the high-streaking kites shaped like birds of prey or aeroplanes that grown men have let out from their gigantic spools to tickle the gentle cloud bellies that are puckering across the early evening sky. A young girl overcomes her shyness to come sit by me and beg that I help her with a university questionnaire/ survey on tourism, hotels and China.
Well actually not The Bund - the famous strip of old colonial-era architecture banks and finance houses that crouch, nowadays overshadowed by their younger, more virile sky scraping brothers and sisters, along the bend of the Huangpu River - but by Metro to Lujiazui station on the opposite bank of the river and the Easterly Pudong district. As you emerge from the underground here itâs as if youâve come up into an intergalactic battle zone. The massed metallic structures, the neon signs, The Tripods and space shuttle forms and formations of the iconic (but of questionable architectural taste) Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Jin Mao Tower and World Trade Financial Center (or âThe Bottle Openerâ as I like to call it) amongst so many others.
A stroll along the Riverside Promenade whilst a fabulous sunset fans down through the colour spectrum into the waters of the Huangu. Itâs turning towards night now. The lights are turning on. Shanghaiâs becoming bright now. Tour boats and floating restaurants irridescent with strange orchestrations of neon lights float along the river. Accompanied by super-sized tankers whoâs hulking great forms seem to glide gracefully enough under such soft light and colour as we are lucky to have tonight.
* Report by the Insomnia Studies Institute of the Shanghai Chinese Medicine Hospital (2007) and also alluded to in 'Lonely Planet : Best of Shanghai'
** Aside from the memory and the humour, I include this little interaction with 10 year old Andy as a demonstration of how good the English speaking skills of the younger generations of Chinese are becoming.