Homeward Bound (via China): Shanghai

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Photography
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Anything Goes.

What better way to continue our adventures in China than with our 800th sighting of Jackie Chan! I swear, this man was everywhere.

Having suffered through enough dingy hostels and minus-3-star hotels over the course of travels together, Linds and I decided that we’d earned at least one quality lodging experience. And – as this was to be our final time in a hotel together – we averaged out the money from our dirt-cheap hotel in Beijing and our completely free, soon-to-be-accommodation in Hong Kong, and sprang for the stately Ruijin Hotel, Shanghai. It started life as the family estate of Benjamin Morris, who owned the North China Daily News: the oldest English-language newspaper in China. It’s comprised of four houses, numerous outbuildings, ornate gardens covering almost 100 acres and one of the earliest temples in Shanghai. It also counts Nixon among its long history of esteemed guests…clearly overshadowed by our arrival.

It was also the scene of our fight with the cunt at reception after we discovered we’d have to drop all our remaining yuan to pay the deposit for the room; which was refundable but still came to about forty times more than the actual room rates. We ended up paying it with all of the Japanese yen we still had on our person but while we were re-counting it, she would continually snap at us the amount we still owed and repeat unhelpfully pre-rehearsed phrases about the hotel’s policy on deposits. I started to get a little flustered, so Lindsay encouraged me to go preternaturally slow since this bitch was being paid to wait. By the end of our time in Shanghai, this would prove to be the only unpleasant part of our stay at the Ruijin, which is why we took extra care to bitch her out by name in the feedback forms they gave us at the end. I hope she lost her bonus for the month.

Thankfully it was soon forgotten when we reached our room in Building #4 (which we were driven to in a little golf cart by the same cute, Chinese bellboy who carried all our luggage) and discovered that the room’s were pretty damn gorgeous. By contrast, the room we’d just left behind in Beijing had a safe that sprang open at random, comedic intervals to expose all our valuables to the world.

Is there any sweeter word to find on a wine bottle?

I can have a really good experience.

Hitting the streets of Shanghai, minus our three-tonne suitcases. We were both struck by how much the place felt like Paris…before reading that our hotel was located in the heart of the French Concession.

One subway ride later: Nanjing Road! It’s one of the busiest shopping streets in the world and we spent a fair amount of money time here.

Our illegally-obtained Lonely Planet guide recommended a trip to The Bund: once the home of foreign traders and major banks on the embankments of the Huangpu River. The waterfront is lined with beautiful, colonial buildings like the China Merchant Bank above, and in the background, the green steeple of the (Canadian!) Peace Hotel. Prior to coming here, I had no idea HSBC stood for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The more you know.

One of the Bund’s main draws is the view over the river towards the Pudong New Area: financial and commercial hub of China. People were literally pushing and shoving to get to the front of one area to take shots as shitty and blurry as this one; seemingly oblivious to the fact that they could walk 50m to the left or right and see the exact same thing minus the claustrophobia. Of course I only realised this after I’d joined the fray and received seventeen elbows to my ribcage.

Having, at this point, never seen the Indiana Jones movies, Lindsay had me watch the opening of Temple of Doom in the hotel to give me a pop culture reference point to work with.

Us and the Lujiazui skyline. The building in the middle is the Oriental Pearl Tower, which you might recognise as the background in Marion Cotillard’s Dior campaign.

And – because we walked a tiny bit downriver – that same view from earlier with zero tourists and all the time in the world to take as many pictures as we wanted.

OmgwtfRBS! (Royal Bank of Scotland!) This was possibly the last place in Asia I expected to find my actual bank from home.

Eventually, Lindsay started to die of hunger a tiny bit and so we ended up at a shopping mall which had closed for the day but whose food court was still open. I truly wish I remembered the name of this place because the food was uh-mazing. (And, by curious coincidence, the guy who served us was called Mark!)

And, finally: Starbucks! Continuing my tradition of finding one in every city I’ve ever visited.


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