|Shanghai's famous skyline.|
Shanghai was quite the contrast to Beijing. Upon arrival the famous skyline was thrust upon us as we walked to our hotel. The sun had already set and the bright lights of the Pudong district across from The Bund were dancing off the waves of the Yangtze River. I felt a ripple of excitement wash over me as the buzz of the city vibrated against my bones. Smart young people flowed along pavements and neon lights hummed a tune of prosperity. Immediately it felt like the most capitalist place I had ever been. Adverts shouted down at you from all directions, flatscreens adorned all the walls, even in the back of taxis, and big brand names were hung up perhaps like old communist slogans once were. I know next to nothing of the politics, but as far as I'm aware China is still a communist country - well I have seen next to no evidence of this. There seems to be an absence of a welfare state as beggars hold out cups for loose change on most corners, and the mantras seems to be one of consumption - not communism. Not that I was complaining, but nor would I be shopping. Another contrast to Beijing, was the amount of sex on sale in Shanghai. On my second day I went for an hours stroll about Nanjing Road, one of the main shopping streets in the city, and in that time I was offered girls at least 30 different times, and every sexual vice under the moon. A shake of the head normally ended the attempted sale, but on some occasions girls would grab your arm and try to lead you to some brothel, where no doubt you would more than likely be mugged, in one form or another. Beijing was quaint - they only offered tea. In Shanghai you could probably do things that aren't even on the internet yet. Needless to say I wasn't led astray, but did enjoy walking the bustling streets and taking in the sights of one of the most booming cities the world has ever seen.
|People walking along The Bund.|
|The Pudong skyline|
|Busy Nanjing Road.|
|Communism in action.|
I didn't take in any of the old and cultural sights of Shanghai. To be honest I'm not sure if there are too many, most of the city has been demolished and rebuilt, and almost no buildings look older than myself. I went for an explore around Lujiazui, the main high rise area and centre for economic growth. Before 1993 apparently it was a barely developed agricultural area, and now it could be called Asia's Manhattan. Remarkable what can be done in less than twenty years. I took the subway in, and having no map and next-to-no knowledge I got off in a more residential area, perhaps a mile from the main hub. Navigation was easy as like the ancients I looked to the sky, but instead of suns and stars I used the skyscrapers, the tops of which reside up in the heavens anyway. The area I walked through seemed to be of average wealth, these weren't the people spending their Yuan in the shops of Nanjing, but it was pleasant enough even if the tower blocks were a little scruffy. In between the buildings the glass towers of the future were leering, and I was reminded of an interview with Dizzee Rascal I saw when his first album was released. He was stood on a balcony in a Tower Hamlets council flat, and pointed across to Canary Wharf in the City of London, and said 'they're taking the piss - aren't they?'.
|Taking the piss?|
|Walking through quiet residential blocks.|
|Shanghai World Financial Centre.|
|Poorer tower blocks.|
|The Shanghai Tower - under construction.|
I arrived in the hyper-modern area of Lujiazui, where circular raised walkways carried pedestrians across highways and never ending escalators delivered them into air conditioned shopping malls and office blocks. It was interesting to walk around, everything glittered and the glass and chrome reflected the strong sun. I was wet through with sweat, Shanghai was humid and I frequently dived into marbled shopping centres for a blast of cool air.
|The famous Oriental Pearl Tower.|
|Towering over the pedestrian walkways|
|The circular walkways deliver people to malls and offices.|
|Entrance to one of the malls.|
|Always water your dragon.|
I had some time to spare so decided to visit the Shanghai Aquarium which I could see from one of the suspended pavements, thinking the tranquility and simplicity of marine life would be a nice contrast to the ultra-modernity I had been exploring. Tickets were a little expensive at £16, considering a decent meal costs about £4, but I wasn't shopping so I was content to front up the cash. At first it was a huge disappointment, no better than an aquatic pet shop at home, neon tetras in small tanks and brown coloured river fish in water no bigger than a bath. It improved as it went on though, with the expected tunnels through shark and turtle pools and pleasingly lit vats of jellyfish.
|A little terrapin.|
|And no you can't eat it.|
|A mother takes a picture of her daughter with the jellyfish.|
|Tank full of jellyfish.|
|Entrance to a James Bond baddy's lair.|
|Not red blood cells - nicely lit moon jellyfish.|
Saturday night arrived, and I wanted to go out in China's party capital. My friend Will who was with me for 10 days in China, was bed-ridden with a serious fever, which at first we dismissed as food poisoning but as the days went on we questioned if it might be something more serious. Since he has arrived at home he's been looked after in Charing Cross Hospital having been diagnosed with pneumonia; he was gutted he only got a small taste of Shanghai - the part of China he had been looking forward to the most. I had fun for the both of us however, deciding to leave my shame behind in our hotel room and head out to a bar I had heard good reviews of. I was a little hesitant at heading out alone and feeling like a weirdo, but I also didn't want to let an opportunity pass me by and spend my evening sat on the internet in the hotel room. After walking in the wrong direction twice once coming out of the metro, I found the bar, called Dada, and it was a really cool, dark little club with a great vibe, cheap drinks and excellent music filled with a mixture of wealthy Chinese and expats. I bought myself a beer and scanned the room for people to latch on to. I thought the foosball table would be a good place to start, so challenged two French guys to a game. I was fairly confident in my abilities at this game, having had a table for a number of years, so without them knowing let them get a three goal lead (two own goals from me), before turning it on and winning 10-7. We got on well and I felt more confident that I'd made some friends already. We hit the packed dance-floor and I was soon chatting to more people. Two English students I had met on the metro earlier in the day were in there so I reignited the conversation, and as the rum flowed I met more and more cool people and being alone did not matter in the slightest, in fact it rarely occurred to me. The night rushed by and soon it was almost dawn.
I woke up in unfamiliar surroundings, a nice top floor apartment belonging to some expats in an old traditional Shanghai house. I spent the afternoon engaged in great conversation, before finally heading off to meet Will who had gathered enough strength for a little explore of the city. Before I left the night before he'd told me that if I returned before 4am the night was a failure. I returned at 4pm so I guess you can call that a success.
That evening Will was still perky enough to go out, so at first we went to a bar to watch the Liverpool v Manchester City game, and then after chatting to the expat locals decided to check out a club popular with the Chinese not too far away. An older Irish expat who had sunk a bottle of Grey Goose and was struggling to walk in a straight line tagged along, but we were thankful we lost him within seconds of arriving in Club 88. Outside a bloke offered us a hash and another thrust a monkey on a string in our There were only a handful of foreigners in the club, and towards the end we were the only ones left. Chinese guys can be a bit strange, a lot of them want to dance with you, but in the same way they would dance with a girl - which made us wonder if we were perhaps in a gay club. The same lads were trying their hardest to pull the prettiest Chinese girls around, so I think in fact it's just a difference in culture, or they haven't really understood the rules and ways of behaving. They seem to have recently imported club culture from the west, but they haven't figured out exactly what to do with it. We ended up dancing with the prettiest Chinese girls that these guys were after, one or two seemed to sulk but we hadn't particular sought it. Upon leaving once the music dimmed and the lights went up, we were molested by a gang of a dozen prostitutes waiting outside the entrance. They hung on our arms to slow us down, and some groped our crotches - on better than average form due to dancing with the girls inside - but we broke free and dashed to a taxi as they chased us in their heels, bartering each other down and shouting offers we weren't interested in. Safely inside the cab, they appeared at the windows and gestured blow-jobs at us in one final desperate attempt to pick up some trade for the night, but our taxi made off down the wet road towards our hotel and we didn't get our heads on our pillows until 6am.
I had a few errands to do whilst in Shanghai, such as purchase train tickets for my onward journey, and to buy an external hard drive to create a spare back-up of my pictures for Will to take back to the UK - so this was Monday's task, though I didn't really get around to it until towards the evening. After buying my ticket to Zhengzhou at the station, I took the metro to an area with lots of shopping malls and good for electronics. Entire floors were filled with counters selling the latest iPods and iPads and every gizmo you can imagine. I bought what I needed before heading back to the area I was staying in and taking a nice meal in a little Chinese restaurant. The following morning we were both up early, before the city had swelled with people. Older Chinese women were performing Tai Chi on the same shopping street that a few hours later would be filled with hustle and bustle and men selling girls. I took the metro to the train station, where I would board a 13 hour train to Zhengzhou.
|Shopping mall area|
|Early morning tai chi.|
|Shanghai Railway Station.|