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Sightseeing update

Just a quick update of what we’ve been up to here in Shanghai.

Nanjing Road

“China’s No1 Shopping Street” which happens to include the unbelievably titled “No1 Department Store”. The Nanjing Road runs from People’s Park through to the Bund promenade, and is a magnet for domestic tourists visiting Shanghai. It competes with Huaihai Road, which apparently caters for China’s middle class and international visitors (although quite why anyone visiting China would want to shop at Givinchy, I have no idea).

Sofia and I were somewhat disapointed with Nanjing Road. Sun was a crazy fusion of Asian department store (“pile it high” approach, very common in Kuala Lumpur) and Western department store (“less is more, boutique areas, etc”), which simply didn’t work. Most of the other shops along the pedestrianised road were uninspiring.

This was also where we were continually pestered by dodgy characters peddling DVD’s and fake Rolex watches. After turning away the 8th or 9th one, it got quite frustrating. It was also the only time when we’ve been wary of getting pick pocketed, with people coming right up to you in your face speaking gibberish. One woman was desperate to maintain eye contact with Sofia, and I was sure she was vying to unzip Sofia’s bag out of her site. I stepped in, pushed her back a little, and we walked off.

I was very surprised at the problems we encountered along the Nahjing Road. Crime is generally low here, mainly because punishments are quite harsh. However towards the end of the road we noticed these two signs (1|2) which seem to depict warnings about vehicle theft. Crime looks like it is on the up, perhaps because China’s once “classless society” is segregating between the haves (who have a lot) and the have-nots (who have nothing). That, combined with the influx of wealthy Western tourists is a breading ground for resentment and in turn elements of petty crime.

The Bund

Built during the Consession era (1880’s), the Bund is a 1km promenade of ornate buildings with a European architecture and style. Curiously, all of these buildings have Chinese flags flying from then, perhaps a cunning attempt to soften the ex-Colonial feel?

I think the promenade is the best location to take in the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower which is located in the Pudong region on the other side of the Huangpu River. The river itself is still very much in use – pleasure craft jostle for position against the many barges and other industrial boats that float by.

Despite it’s history, there didn’t seem much to do on the Bund – other than take in the view. Most of the buildings are private and don’t offer tours or the ability to wonder inside. The apparently famous Peace Hotel was a notable exception, although neither of us felt like taking tea or having a late lunch there. According to the guidebook the (again apparently) famous Jazz Bar is over rated these days.

The Bund was also the only place in Shanghai were we have encountered beggars (most of which appear to be amputees whose USP is to make a great deal of waving their stump at you in the hope you will pity them with a few Yuan).

(this became so long, I have broken it up into a different post: “The Oriental Pearl and the Jin Mao Tower“)

Published in China & Japan