I did not know what to expect when I landed in Shanghai. I knew in general most people did not speak English even though this is the city where countless people come to teach English. I guess with a population of 17 million learning English is the last thing on the average persons mind. This communication problem I was faced with meant my first few hours in the city was interesting and I will admit a bit stressful. The public transport was the easy part and I navigated my way from the airport on the Maglev and the Metro to the closest stop to where my friend was staying with just a few head nods and smiles.
It was upon leaving the Metro that the fun began partly due to my own fault of relying on my mobile phone working – it worked at the airport and when I really needed it it just would not connect. To cut a long story short I managed to get someone to translate the address into Shanhainese so that I could at least get a taxi (apparently only 5 mins away). After 30 minutes I thought I was going to be stuck in the cab all night when I eventually signalled to the cabbie that I needed to use his phone. He kindly handed it over – all I could think of was ‘Wow’ in London this would not have happened.
Shanghai is made up of about 10 neighbourhoods and is certainly a city of contrasts. I loved the fact that you could wander from upper class shopping malls,to sci-fi towers (in Pudong) to streets with local markets (in the Old town) and find between it all beautiful temples and gardens where you could sit and relax while watching old men fish in the local ponds.
My favourite of all the temples was the Jade Budda Temple which stands out with its yellow painted wall in a normal residential street. It was the architecture that impressed me and the fact that it has been around since 1882. As the name indicates it is home to many Buddha statues. For a small fee you can visit the Jade Buddha where in general most of the tourists proceed but hidden away towards the back is a much more spectacular hall, Hall of a thousand Buddhas. I have never seen so much gold in one place and was amazed at the details on the literally thousands of Buddhas placed around the hall.
I explored Shanghai mostly on foot so that I could discover the unusual places tucked away from the main roads. But did find that I had to be alert constantly as road signs have no meaning for bicycles, taxi’s and cars. I realised very sharpish that just because a little green man is telling you it is safe to walk doesn’t actually mean it is. The only comforting thought was that the local people would get severely fined if they hit a tourist – you just had to hope they had good enough brakes!
One of the safest places to explore on foot and a photographers dream was the Taikang Road Art Center in the French Concession neighbourhood. Here you could walk around for hours admiring the local arts and crafts, art galleries and stumble across unique findings such as bicycle bar stools – fantastic!!
The last few days in Shanghai saw me enjoying the Shanghai nightlife. It was not complete without a visit to M on the Bund for some seriously good cake and cocktails at the Glamour Bar all while admiring the night lights across Pudong and the Oriental Pearl Tower. Having made friends with ex-pats in the region I can well understand their liking for staying in such a trendy city. My top picks: French Concession backstreets Taikang Road Art Center Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar Jade Buddha Temple Fuxing Park Entertainment Value: M on the Bund Glamour Bar Walking around with 3 other blondes having our pictures taken by passers by 🙂