Shanghai is real China, but perhaps just not the real China you had in mind.
Such begins the chapter in the ever faithful ‘Lonely Planet’, the backpackers Bible.
When I reminisce and think back to the very beginning of my journey, the contrasts are undeniable. There are no similarities between the Mongolian steppes and this concrete jungle I finally reached: Shanghai. Walking the famous Shanghai pedestrian street of Nanjing Road and strolling along the pier at The Bund, I almost feel like I entered a different country. Modernity screams at you wherever you wander, and you quickly come to realise that this is the future of this region – not the dusty imperial palaces I left behind in Beijing.
Also, the obsessive picture-requests and the obligatory peace-signs whilst taking such are no longer part of my everyday life. The city is veiled in annoying Western civility. That said, Shanghai has an addictive charm. The city is vibrant and vivacious. The skyscrapers are architectural wonders, and your neck is bent to its limits as you try to take snap-shots of the reflections of the clouds in these wondrous buildings. And lets face it, the glamorous life will always draw humanity in. A year or two in this city would not conjure up much protest from me; nor will my closet object, as it will be replenished by the many shopping opportunities.
An example of the beautifully intricate Chinese Calligraphy. via China the Beautiful.
Shanghai has a really cool art scene, with a few, free delights. We managed to find Shanghai Art Gallery down by The Bund, which had a really fascinating display of modern photography (and other funky installations). The space had a rustic downtown NYC-apartment-feel to it, with a world-class view over Shanghai skyline. However, a thin brown linen was rightfully covering the windows so as not to detract from the art. Shanghai Museum (a museum of ancient Chinese art) was also visited, but because we have seen more potteries, snuff-bottles and bronze figures than my heart can possibly contain (apologies to my archeology roomie back in Denmark!), we skipped most of it and just enjoyed the calligraphy exhibition.
Have a click or 8 on the Google map. Each placemark includes a little info of the site it represents. :)
The Chinese charm can also be found in Old Town, built in the 11th century, where we sloped around in the humid weather. Generally, Shanghai is full of lovely neighborhoods and small quarters, if the skyscrapers and modernity get too much for you.
Due to the French Concession until 1946, a lot of typical European architectural styles can be easily detected. In fact, many of the streets in this city bring forth many childhood memories, as I spent five or six summers straight in France. Most Shanghai side streets have a row of trees on each side, and this leafy effect, along with the little light that seeps through the canopy makes me feel like I am back in Aix en Provence.
The Urban Planning Exhibition is also highly recommendable. If you are just the slightest interested in architecture, this is the place for you; one can easily use an entire day here. It will also appeal to the kid inside of you, with a panorama-3D visual video, which takes you through the city. Also, the many after-and-before pictures of Shanghai will evidently shock you. The city sure did not look the same in the 1980s.
The highlight of my stay in Shanghai was definitely the very lovely dinner Mette and I got to enjoy at couch-surfer-Nicole’s beautiful apartment, along with her boyfriend Daniel. I must once again praise this concept. As I entered the apartment, I met two strangers, and after 5 lovely hours, I left the building socially enriched (and also with a stomach full of mouth-watering food). We got around important life-topics, everything from schooling systems, politics and Chinese history and hope I can one day show them around Copenhagen.
And here’s delightful footage of the Bund, taken from The Guardian: