Slowly, bit by bit, I’m finishing reporting on my travels in China. I have two more posts to go until I’m finally done. (who knows, it might take me another three months) I have not yet decided what to do with this blog afterwards. It might be nice to use it to write about my future travels. Anyway, that’s stuff to think about later.
I left off the last post by talking about our arrival at Shanghai. Shanghai was occupied by both the British and French in the 19th century. In the late 19th century even the Americans and Japanese came to demand a part of the successful city. The combination of rich foreign investors, poor urban workers and high unemployment is said to have had a lot of influence in the birth of the Chinese Communist Party, which occurred in the city in 1921. The high level of visible foreign influence on Shanghai has made the city an important place of counter-Western action: in 1966, Mao started his Cultural Revolution here.
On our first day we walked to The Bund, a boulevard by the Huangpu River where the main colonial buildings of the city can be seen. From here you also have a wonderful view of the other side of the river where the buildings are much more modern, like the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower. One of the most beautiful buildings on the Bund is the Customs House; its clock tower is made to look like the Big Ben. During the Cultural Revolution, the bells in the tower played ‘The East is Red’ every day at 6am and 6pm. Next to it is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. In front of it are two bronze lions and according to Shanghainese tradition touching their noses brings good luck, which we then of course did. 😉
We then took the ferry to the other side of the river, an area called Pudong. The entrance fees to go into the buildings to see the view are extremely high. However, inside the Jinmao Tower is a hotel called the ‘Hyatt’ on the 54th floor where you can go without having to pay. The view from there was magnificent! We also saw the famous World Financial Centre, which is shaped like a bottle opener, which is also its nickname. The hole at the top was apparently supposed to be circular, but the mayor forbade this because it would look too much like the Japanese flag. We also spent ages trying to find a ‘China Sex Culture Exhibition’ in this area, recommended by my guide book, but unfortunately we were not successful. 😉
The next day we visited the Shanghai Museum, which held a particularly interesting bronze collection. I was especially interested in the unique symbolism used: lots of animals, among which also ‘fantasy’ animals like the phoenix and dragon. Afterwards, we went to ‘The Old City’, the oldest part of the city (surprise surprise); it’s a nice area to try different kinds of food (which we did until our stomachs hurt) and buy jewelry (Kim bought pearls!). We went out to some clubs that night too, resulting in very funny and embarrassing pictures for which you can refer to Facebook. lol.
On our final day we visited a fake goods market called Yatai Xinyang Fashion & Gift Market. As the piece de resistance of our trip to Shanghai we had a manicure at the market, leaving me with beautiful nails for the rest of the holiday! 🙂 In the evening we took the plane to Beijing. The bus from the airport to our hostel took a long time to arrive and when it did we were stuck in a crazy crowd of people fighting to get in! They were literally storming towards the bus, walking on our luggage and just pushing us and each other around like cattle. Our hostel was really nice; it’s called Sanlitun Youth Hostel. It has a nice common area with a pretty good restaurant where loads of people hang out all the time.
The next morning we found out the train we wanted to take back to Hong Kong was already fully booked. That caused a bit of a panic attack at first, but after frantically searching the internet and constantly bothering the receptionist (so sorry, Candy), we managed to arrange spots in a train to Shenzhen for pretty cheap. (500 yuan) Anyway, when that was settled we visited Tianan’men Square, which was epic and disturbing at the same time. Knowing the atrocities that took place there, seeing little children walk around with touristy army hats with red stars on them on the exact spot seems awfully ironic and inappropriate. (ah well, that’s Chinerrr) A short recap for those who are not familiar with Chinese history: in 1949 Mao publicly declared the establishment of the People’s Republic in Tianan’men. Most of old Beijing was then demolished, to get rid of the non-communist past: many monuments were destroyed, the most significant blow being, of course, the Cultural Revolution. When Mao died, much improved due to a more liberal attitude towards the West and capitalism. However, the mass slaughter of protesters in 1989 on Tianan’men Square formed a brutal reminder to the Chinese people that they were by no means free to express their ideas.
All about the spots we visited in Beijing in my next post! For now, help me think about a new title for this blog since the current one is no longer appropriate. 😉