Friday, 14 September 2012

A day in Shanghai

I was glad to be back in Shanghai, I liked this city with all its modernity and exuberance and had enjoyed my previous stay here. In fact I like Shanghai so much it has made on to my list for global cities I wouldn't mind living in, alongside New York, Berlin et al. I'd taken the fast train out of Nanjing and the journey took less than two hours, my laptop battery holding up enough to watch an episode of the Sopranos. Once again I took the subway from the train station and found my way to my hostel by the late afternoon. I'd decided to stay in the same hostel as Danae who I met in Xi'an and climbed the mountain with. That evening we went out for dinner along with a German girl called Hanna and I had one of the best meals I'd had in China. We ordered dishes of duck, pork, different steamed greens, fried dumplings, steamed pork-filled buns, fried rice and rice rolls, all washed down with beer and every mouthful was delicious. 

The train from Nanjing to Shanghai.
I had one full day in Shanghai and although it would have been easy and half tempting to waste,  I decided to make something of the day and forced myself out late lunchtime. I headed to Yuyuan Garden, which had been recommended by one or two people; I had no better ideas and fancied something potentially relaxing, so I headed there. 

Walking from Yuyuan subway to the garden, the skyscrapers of Pudong loom overhead. 
I made my way through the usual rows of tat shops that surround any tourist attraction and pushed through the crowds to the entrance to the garden and bought my ticket. Pleasingly it wasn't too busy; there were still plenty of people but it was such a labyrinthine place that it was easy to find yourself alone in a courtyard or some nook or cranny of the rockery. I spent about an hour wandering through and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Once again this historical site had been restored and renovated, this time in the 1960s, and had been damaged in the past by various forces such as the Japanese in the 1940s and by the British 100 years earlier. The garden itself dates back 400-odd years, and although it was created for the pleasure of the elite, it's been open to the public for over 200 years. Some of the rough rocks in the rockery had been worn as smooth as varnish where countless hands had rubbed over them, just as mine did, to steady myself as I descended one passageway for another. The quieter moments that began to verge on boredom were brightened by two attractive Spanish sisters in their early twenties who were there with their parents but kept looking over towards me, the father gave me a stern stare but it didn't put off either party from the eye games.

The tourist tat avenues surrounding Yuyuan Garden.
Yuyuan Garden
Ornate carvings decorated the place.
The ponds and pools were filled with goldfish, here they are swarming for food thrown in.
The Nine Lion Study.
Tourists wander through.

Backstreets on my walk back to the subway.
That evening I went out for dinner with Danae and Hanna again, this time to a different restaurant but it was almost as good as the previous night which was one of the best meals I've had since I've been away. After dinner we took the metro to Pudong to go for a drink in Cloud 9 bar, in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Jin Mao tower, which in 2007 was the fifth tallest building in the world. It's since been beaten many times. The bar is located on the ear-popping 87th floor, and we needed to take three lifts to reach it. Drinks were expensive as expected but the prices weren't as high as the tower; I opted for a Talisker whisky at £10 a glass, wanting something suitably sophisticated but also I had visited the distillery last summer on the Isle of Skye. From Skye to skyscrapers, it was a fitting drink and we passed a pleasant hour with stunning views, we all admitted feeling rather posh and pimping and it was a nice sign off to my time in Shanghai.

Looking down onto the Oriental Pearl Tower.
Looking up: bottom left is the Shanghai World Financial Centre - the current tallest in the city, top right is the Jin Mao Tower where we had our drinks, and bottom right the Shanghai Tower when once completed will eclipse all three. 

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