We had to get up early today to catch our flight to Shanghai, which only took about 2 hours. We said our goodbyes to Lucy at Xi’an airport, which reminded me of Stansted. In Shanghai airport there were few people around, especially at the baggage reclaim. We were all like “where is everybody?” – a first for our stay in China 🙂 We met our local guide “E” (I’m sure that’s not how it’s spelt!) who told us all about her city as we drove into it.
Shanghai feels much more cosmopolitan than Xi’an and Beijing. It has some western architecture from when the city was under the control of European countries after the Opium Wars, and this is mixed with soaring skyscrapers on the opposite side of the river and traditional Chinese architecture in the Yuyuan Garden area.
After checking in to the hotel we drove down the Bund area where the western buildings mostly are. They could have been transplanted directly from a London street. Across the river are the modern skyscrapers, which are great – all different designs trying to outdo each other, and lit up at night in a multicoloured light show. We took a boat trip along the river which gave us a closer look at them. It also showed us the working areas of the docks, which frankly we could have done without.
Next we visited the area around Yuyuan Garden, which uses traditional Chinese architecture with flying eaves on the sloping tiled rooves. Picture an oriental version of Temple Bar and you get some idea what it’s like. Yuyuan Garden itself is a traditional Chinese garden, full of rockeries, pools, trees and shrubs, and wooden halls and walkways. The garden has a convoluted layout designed to increase its perceived size. It’s full of little details, and it’s no wonder it took 28 years to complete!
At this stage we were all hungry, despite it being just after 5, so our guides recommended one of the restaurants in the area. The food was lovely, and we polished off the lot – though Cora didn’t eat much. I think she’ll eat for a week when we get to Sydney! After eating we grabbed a couple of coffees from Starbucks and wandered around the streets. We were impressed by warnings we seemed to receive from people to watch our bags, until we realized they were asking us if we wanted to buy watches or bags 🙂 We politely declined. We’ve bought enough already to last the whole trip!
We finally headed back along the Bund as dusk fell, and watched as the skyscrapers began their light show. This was complemented by a natural lightshow as a thunderstorm got going. Back at the hotel we chilled out, playing cards and watching “The Incredibles” on Cora’s PSP, with the sparkling lights from the TV tower glinting through our window. Tomorrow we’ll be going up there to get panoramic views of the city. It’s a remarkable building that looks like some kind of alien space rocket ready to take off! I can’t wait 🙂