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Export to China, Mianyang
27th Aug 2016 - 31st Aug 2016
Shanghai (and Suzhou) visit part 2

I got on the Metro early to return to Pudong’s supertall and megatowers. In the morning sunshine an ascent looked less vertigo inducing than in the dark. All three towers have observation decks; of course I went up the tallest. Possibly as astounding as the height, is the ultra-high speed lift (world’s fastest) which, with hardly any feeling of movement, takes well under a minute to go up 121 floors. The view from the observation deck is stunning, as expected and I was rather surprised at how secure it felt. Looking down on the Bottle Opener, Jinmao Tower, all the mere office blocks and rows of apartment buildings for the multitudes, the Shanghai Tower is the last showy statement, here anyway, of mega and gigantic against which mere skyscrapers are very ordinary. I wouldn’t, though, ever want to go up here on a daily basis. But being around only for the thrill and photos, I took a clever fellow visitor’s advice and ignoring a further fee for another observation deck, went up by the ordinary lift to the hotel bar on only the 91st floor of the SWFC for the highest coffee I’m ever likely to drink in a stationary man-made structure. Yes it was very expensive, but the coffee was good and the view again sensational. From seat and coffee in hand I viewed the Jinmao Tower’s latest wheeze to make up for its lowly status: people trying out the skywalk recently opened on its 88th floor. I didn’t feel any need to do that.

Back on a more human but also dramatic level, the Grand Theatre, designed to look like a Chinese cooking pot, was celebrating Shakespeare 400 years after his death. The RSC had performed Henry IV 1 and 2 and Henry V earlier in the year (a princeling coming to power being most appropriate), presumably in English but now the local theatre troupe were putting on translated versions of Hamlet and Taming of the Shrew. I settled for watching a free big screen viewing of an orchestral concert next to the theatre. Further culture was also provided by a flying visit to the Shanghai Museum. Lonely Planet says ‘expect to spend half, if not most of a day here’. I was out in the beautiful sunshine again in less than an hour, but then I’ve seen plenty of jade, bronzes and ancient calligraphy elsewhere. I also poked my nose into the Shanghai Library, following the characters in my Chinese textbook, who had recently shown me what to say to get a library card and borrow books. The Shanghai Library is the second largest library in China behind the National Library in Beijing, but it does have seats for 3,000 readers and with 24 stories is the tallest library in the world.

Maybe you’ve looked at the pictures and thought the air quality in China’s largest city doesn’t seem as bad as sometimes reported. It wasn’t; for two reasons. Firstly the air quality is best in August and worst in the winter. Secondly, I have to thank the two day G20 summit being held in nearby Hangzhou in the following week. To get the air clear for some blue sky thinking in those two days, the Chinese authorities had closed down all the highest polluting factories in the region. Unfortunately for my idea of visiting Hangzhou, they had also closed the city to everyone but G20 VIPs, and moreover, given Hangzhou residents a week’s holiday with encouragement to go forth. All very strange. So leaving Hangzhou to the talking shop, I took the high speed train on a short day trip out of Shanghai to Suzhou, the ‘Venice of the East’. Strolling around the old town by a canal was pleasant and the sample aristocratic garden was pleasant and my lunchtime treat of spicy crunchy cauliflower was up to scratch. I wasn’t bowled over. This may be the best ‘old’ town of the east but I preferred Langzhong and Lijiang. They are the same in one respect; old and new are not mixed. The old is preserved or reinvented for tourism in one area, but outside those boundaries there is little sentiment about clearing away the past. I made a mistake on my walk back to the station. The walking way to the old town had seemed obvious and pleasant, but wrongly routed on the way back I got caught up in the spaghetti of roads, overpasses and non-stop traffic that has taken over all cities. Fortunately I had enough time to get back and take the picture of the statue outside the station. It’s of Fan ZhongYan, a Song Dynasty politician and literary figure who thought politicians should "bear the hardship and bitterness before others, enjoy comfort and happiness after others". Sounds like a very rare breed of politician.

Whisked back to the metropolis, I had one more day to see how Shanghai has been transformed in the last 40 years. The Jing’an Temple, which shares the gold of FanZhongYan’s statue and his Song origins, is as symbolic as all the skyscrapers that surround it. Rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty but converted into a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution, it is now renovated as a place of worship to Buddhism or perhaps the unbridled capitalism that surrounds it. Besides fastest, tallest, longest, a perk of this is that good non-Chinese food can also be found. I had an excellent curry served and presumably cooked by Indian staff, though the advertised Darjeeling tea was polluted with ginger and probably not from Darjeeling. And while Starbucks has infested the centre of Shanghai, the coffee is chic craze has led to lots of little coffee houses for a caffeine shot at a third of the Starbucks price.

On the subject of food and drink, one last pleasant surprise awaited. The budget airline that had managed to serve a decent meal over lunchtime on the three hour trip to Shanghai, also served us dinner on the way back. The plane didn’t arrive till 7:30pm and Chinese customers expect to be able to eat at six.



Previous: Shanghai visit part 1


Diary Photos

Shanghai Metro stops

Early morning metro to see the tall towers

Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC) No2.

Shanghai Tower looks down on SWFC and JinMao Tower

JinMao Tower comparatively short

(Megatall) Shanghai Tower. World No 2 tallest building.

Shanghai Tower observatory view across the Huangpu River

Looking down on SWFC (Bottle Opener), the lower Jinmao and some other short towers

Looking over to low rise Shanghai Old Town

Shanghai Tower Observatory floor 119 (of 121)

Shanghai Pudong skyline at night

Red roofs and blue roofs among other little towers

People on the recently opened skywalk on JinMao Tower

JinMao Tower and Oriental Pearl Tower from the SWFC

Relaxing in the coffee lounge of the Shanghai World Financial Centre hotel

Shanghai Pudong towers, supertall, taller and tallest (megatall)

Shanghai Grand Theatre in Central Park

Free bigscreen concert outside Shanghai Grand Theatre

Korean bibimbap in a Shanghai foodhall

Celebrating Shakespeare at the Shanghai Grand Theatre

Sunday queues for the Shanghai Museum

"Seven Don'ts" civilization norm and citizen ethics (Shanghai Park)

Bookstore at the Shanghai Library Metro stop

Shanghai Library, tallest library in the world

Cafe bookshop or bookshop cafe (Shanghai)

Inside Shanghai Library

Looking across Shanghai Library plaza to the Humanity Hospital

Waiting in Shanghai's cavernous station

Dry fried cauliflower (in Suzhou)

Suzhou Old Town canal (1)

Suzhou Old Town canal (2)

Chinglish warning sign in Suzhou

Chinglish request in Suzhou

Statue of Fan ZhongYan outside Suzhou train station

Jingan Temple (Buddhist) - Shanghai

The cat of Mingtown YH, Shanghai

Crowds on The Shanghai Bund

Shanghai Pudong nightscene from The Bund

Dumplings in Shanghai


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