China Stories and Tips

A Walking Tour of Shanghai

A suprise parade Photo, Shanghai, China

Shanghai, where do I start. It's cities/countries like these that help me explain why I love photography, and on the same hand make me wish that I was better. Painting a picture of Shanghai, or China in general, takes more talent then I have.
I didn't know what to expect when my ship began its path up the Yangtze River. It was dark, yet foggy and the air was thick. Barges sailed past me as I looked around for something to become excited about. As the morning progressed and I could see the buildings of People's Square emerge from the fog the sinking feeling my stomach began to lessen, until I heard someone shout "did you see the pig?" Apparently there was a very large, dead swine floating in the river and had now become wedged between the dock and the side of our ship. All I could think was tomorrow will be better; tomorrow I leave for Bejing.
Leaving the dock area and walking to the area where the Bund is located is hard in several ways. First leaving the dock area is a little like walking through a mine field that has seen its share of explosions. More people then I could count were seen walking around the ship the next week with arms in slings, neck braces, and casts. Although sad I made a sport of watching the drunks make their way to the ship at night (I do believe China should look into adding this as an Olypmic sport).
Second the area around the docks is a reminder that not all of the Chinese are reciepents of the money that we pour into China's manufacturing. People in ripped clothing rode bikes down alleys lined with crumbling buildings. Their bikes were overstuffed with items for sale. The balancing act that they performed was an art in itself.
A short walk from the dock is a bridge that leads over to the industrial side of the city. Every book I read was very gung-ho about the Bund. By far this is the most cosmopolitian area of the city; huge stone buildings linning the harbor. I wasn't impressed. Although beautiful it was nothing more then over priced shops, hotels, and banks. When China was invaded by foreign powers this is where they held court. This is also home to the Peace Hotel and its shop. Again another let down. I'll be honest; if I wanted Westernized China I would have stayed in the US and took the Metro to China Town. I didn't float across the ocean to buy products that said "Made in Thailand" on them or to eat at American/French/British restruants.
Being very fustrated my friends and I left the course that was recommended for us to find our own path. Thank god we did. Just behind the Bund was a market. Obviously there were many tourists here, but I finally got to bargin. My friends and I grabbed each others hands and pushed our way through the crowed market. I found a stand selling beautiful beaded, "silk" bags that clamped shut. They asked for $150, but we settled on $10 (I still most likely over paided). Later, while in Bejing and also in LA, I found out that these bags are a speciality of Shanghai and are only made and sold there. The fun of the transaction was cut short by a man, with no legs, wheeling himself though the market on a board with wheels. On his lap was a small, mal-nurished baby that was trying hard to hold itself up. I tried hard not to look, but at times like this manners go out the window.
My friend and I left the market to regroup our thoughts and find food. My favorite part of China is still something that I feel only makes since to me. I love the fact that their are no intellectual property rights in China; China laughs in the face of big business (maybe it's the Communist in them). Still being in the wake of the bird flu, and places like KFC (which was now Kentucky Fried Catfish) choosing to serve fish instead of chicken and other birds, we had to be careful. We opted for a knock of KFC which stood a block of a real KFC. Once inside we had no idea what to order and pointed at a few items that were on display. I ended up with potstickers filled with sewage and what resembled an egg roll full of a stringy meat that I could not place. Playing guess what I'm putting in my mouth was the best game ever.
After lunch was time to shop. That didn't go so well. All of the shops told me that I was to fat for their clothing and a few offered me items in the size XXL (equivelent to an American size XXXL). I would like to say that I am a size 10. Next I went to a foreign language book store, where one size fits all. It was three floors tall with two armed guards standing at the door on each level. Needless to say I was no longer in the mood to shop and was ready to go back to cloths shopping.
A little further down the road was the four seasons version of Haggen-Daz. I have never seen such an upscale ice cream parlor in my life. Glass windows lined the seats, water was served at all of the tables, and they even took reservations. My mind was blown. Looking at the menu was another brillant expereince. The prices ranged from $3.00- $80.00. Thats in the USD!!!! Who spends $80 USD on ice cream? I would love to meet that man.
After the much need break (it was very hot outside), a parade broke out on the streets. There were fan dancers, little green aliens, and small girls on sticks. The parade lasted about 5 minutes, but I loved it. This is the best city on Earth. Every momet is like Christmas; leaving you guessing what will happen next.
We were told to at least ride the subway through the Bund Sightseeng Tunnel. There are no real words to describe this tourist trap, but let me try; strange, odd, surreal, a mind bendingd ride ah-la a drug indceded experience all come to mind. My friend and I heard about it and purchased a ticket to go. We were looking at it more as a way to get to the Orietnal Pearl Tower, but never expceted the ride we got. The tunnel is just that, a tunnel. It goes under ground. The ride incorporated a small light show in the tunnel and the blow up figures that bounce around when air is blown into them, oh and they look like Spider man. It's well worth the ride.

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