Grey Day In Shanghai

20th September 2017

Bringing some colour to the day!Today’s forecast is for rain and, sure enough, when we poke our heads out of the hotel the skies are grey and overcast. So, better nip back and get the brollies and also get our sightseeing in early. Even the birds by the bridge near the hotel look like the grey was getting to them. We are a bit museumed out after the last couple of weeks, so today’s plan is to explore the Bund and the iconic skyscrapers of the Financial District on the other side of the river.

Monument to the People's HeroesFirst, though – on this side of the river – is the Monument to the People’s Heroes with its unusual tripod structure. The “people’s heroes” are those who fought for the revolution. If this wasn’t obvious enough, it is hammered home in a set of carvings in the circular wall that surrounds the monument. There are some obvious photos to take around the monument and then we pause to watch the steady stream of barges and large ships heading both up and down the river. This is clearly a working river – though there is no sign of cruise liners for the terminals on either side of the river.

Light show in the 'Sightseeing Tunnel'We could get the metro to the other side of the river but the nearest stations are all a 10 – 15min walk away. Instead, we have seen signs for the ‘Bund Sightseeing Tunnel’ and hoping that it is like the pedestrian tunnel under the Thames at Greenwich, we head for this. What we get though is a tourist tacky ‘4D experience’ in automated pods that trundle through the tunnel with light shows on the walls depicting various scenes (e.g. meteor shower). When we stop grumbling about the £10 return ticket we have fun moaning about how ridiculous the whole thing is.

The Pearl is less dazzling todayAs we emerge close to the Shanghai Pearl TV tower to find that the drizzle has started. It is much less glamorous up close and in daylight than it was from the other side of the river and all lit up last night. There is an observation deck in the tower – but with the cloud down so low it would be fairly pointless. Instead we head on towards the three landmark skyscrapers all clustered together. The buildings have official names but, for obvious reasons, the newest two are called The Corkscrew and The Bottle Opener. The Shanghai Tower (Corkscrew) is the tallest building in China (and second tallest in the world?).

The Corkscrew and its guardiansThe architecture and the engineering are impressive and the price of tickets to the observation decks are steep. Even if the weather had been better, we would have balked at the price. A more likely approach would be to go for a cocktail in the bar of the Grand Hyatt hotel at the top of the Jinmao tower (shaped like a giant crystalline pagoda). To escape from the drizzle, we head past the 3rd Apple store we’ve seen in Shanghai (how many do they need??) and into a shopping mall for a coffee. Other than the Starbucks, the mall seems to be full of luxury brand stores – not just your ‘usual’ Gucci, Prada, etc but every Swiss watchmaker you’ve ever heard of and quite a few you (well, I) haven’t. I’m not sure I’ve always felt this way but I really can’t see the point of any of that stuff.

Looking back at the Bund from across the riverAfter a final look back across the river at the varied architecture of the older buildings that hark back to an age of (British) empire, it was time for the return trip on the tacky sightseeing tunnel. It still feels like the right decision to have taken it – we did need to see the skyscrapers up close – but that doesn’t mean that we had to like it!

Signs of the zodiac on the ceiling of the HSBC buildingThere is clearly history and a tale to be told about each of the buildings in the row of banks and hotels that comprise the Bund. This is the first time in China that we’ve looked at old buildings that are of a European rather than an Asian (or Arabic) architecture. One of the most famous is the (ex) HSBC building. It is still a working bank and the security guards must get fed up with tourists coming in to have a gawp and generally getting in the way of real customers. I was able to get a single photo of the (famous) ornate ceiling before I heard the call of ‘no photos’ and pretty soon after that, we were chivvied out.

A great location for breakfast - the dining room of the Astor House HotelBy now, it’s lunchtime and we’ve already hit our 10k step target. Yesterday, we managed 25k steps and as we are still feeling that in our legs, our priority is to find somewhere close where we can sit down. With the drizzle intensifying, any thoughts we had of doing further exploration in the afternoon evaporate. We could visit a museum but the thought of having a quiet afternoon reading our books is too compelling and we return to the hotel.

Our hotel at nightIn the evening, the rain is coming down harder and the tops of the skyscrapers are hidden by the low clouds. Just as well that we got our night photos yesterday. It is tempting to just eat in the hotel’s restaurant, but given that the hotel adds 10% service charge to an already pricey menu – and we are still feeling slightly aggrieved from our 50RMB (£6) beers on the first night here. So, we brave the Bund and Nanjing Road again and end up in the same department store basement food court as last night. We do, however, choose a different restaurant and end up with freshly cooked (and, in my case, very spicy) fried noodles. Tasty enough and 1/10th the price of the hotel dishes. Maybe I am becoming a curmudgeonly cheap-skate in my old age!

This entry was posted in China 2017 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *