Orienting ourselves in the Orient – part V of V: Shanghai

Part I of V: Qionghai & Boao; Part II of V: Dìng’ān; Part III of V: Haikou; Part IV of V: Sanya & Baoting

Our last leg of our trip was somewhere I’d never been before: the largest city proper in the world, namely Shanghai with its 24 million people. 24 million people, and yet Mr Susan and I somehow managed to bump into the same person/new friend in two completely different places of the city, without either of us knowing where we’d be. We met Karen at the great third-wave coffee shop Café Del Volcán on Yongkang Lu as their resident creator of signs, and she gave us lots of tips about where to go, what to see, and what to eat (we ate at Tock’s two nights in a row on her recommendation – almost as good as Katz’s!) (but nothing will ever beat Katz’s). The day after, we went to The Power Station of Art and caught an incredible exhibition called The Ninth Wave by Cai Guo-Qiang; and on leaving the building, we suddenly saw Karen again. In my 6 years in London and our 8 million people, this has never happened.

We obviously visited all the usual tourist stuff, like Yuyuan Garden, Tianzifang, Xintiandi, The Bund, and The Shanghai World Financial Center / Bottleopener. Tianzifang was awesome and quirky and quaint for about an hour, after which it sort of dwindled into ‘What’s around this corner? Oh, more of the same shit.’ (reminiscent of Camden Market). Xintiandi was lovely because we went there early in the morning when the hordes of tourists hadn’t arrived yet. We also visited The Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China whilst there, which was an interesting little museum, as well as Sun Yat-sen’s residence (we’d also have wanted to see Zhou Enlai’s house, but our tummies said it was lunch time). Yuyuan Garden was both interesting and…a very stressful and commercially driven display of ‘culture’, but the Bottleopener with its 100 floors was great – especially considering there weren’t any crowds up there, it being off-season.

What we enjoyed the most, though, was just spending hours walking around the French Concession, looking at the great architecture and leafy streets, seeing the contrasts between old-China and what felt like being thrown into a very humid Paris, getting a sense of the expat community, stumbling across quaint shops and quirky galleries. Mr Susan even got caught on candid camera with me as the accompanying girlfriend for the second time; and we went to a very awesome jazz club one night. We also visited my aunt and uncle’s flat, where we found lots of old and forgotten pictures, many of which I was in as my chubby baby self.

On our last day, we made a trip to Zhujiajiao, which we somewhat feared would be as Liz Lemony blergh as Venezia, but it was actually really lovely; and although full of tourists, it was calm and the markets sold actually relevant and local things rather than a bunch of crap. The food was nice, even the snails; and on our way back into town, we stopped by the Songze Museum, a completely new museum exhibiting the results of excavations of 6000 years old items and people of Shanghai.

So long and thanks for all the fish (we did eat a lot of fish and seafood on this trip).

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