Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Monday 21st - Shanghai: The Bund and Pudong

Viewed from the Huangpu river, Shanghai is a city of two very distinct halves. On the west bank are the noble bastions of early C20th colonial financial might. On the east side, Pudong, recently marshland, now the dizzyingly tall towering ultra-modern heart of China's market economy. 

First a quick tour of The Bund (meaning embankment or causeway).

This is the Peace hotel, formerly the Cathay, built by Victor Sassoon, wealthy business man, keen photographer and something of a Jay Gatsby if the stories of his parties are to be believed.

On the far left (with the dome under green scaff) is the Hong Kong & Shanghai bank, latterly the HSBC.

It's forbidden to take photos of the beautiful mosaic ceiling in the entrance hall:

I wonder what the 1887 staff would have made of the international banking crisis, and whether they could have predicted that one day they would take over my first ever bank The Midland.

This building is the former Shanghai Club, built in 1911 to look after the wealthiest British expatriate business men and their guests, as they surveyed their empires and brokered further fortunes. No Chinese or women allowed thank you very much.

It was closed recently for a few years, before being bought by, (God forbid!) the Chinese, and is now managed exceedingly well by Waldorf.

It features what, at the time was the world's longest bar. Businesmen sat according to status with the most successful nearest the river. And that is where I sat to imbibe a few very dry martinis and read a feature or three about Vietnam in the National Geographic, whilst pondering the state of the establishment.

In the daytime you may think Shanghai has been totally sanitised, but after dark, and the tourists have gone home, the seediness of the dark old opium days returns. Walking back down the Bund, I'm asked a dozen times by asian girls, or more usually their pimps whether I 'want massage.' The most novel was when I was asked if I wanted a girl, 'you no have to have massage first'. Naturally, I was not in the least bit tempted.

Pudong today is perhaps how The Bund would have looked to people 100 years ago. The extraordinary buildings are going up extremely quickly, with one tallest building rapidly being overtaken by the next. This building is the elegant Jin Mao tower, until 2007, China's tallest, now both of its immediate neighbours are taller.

These are currently the world's second, sixth and sixteenth tallest buildings:

Just before dusk, I bought a ticket to the viewing platform on the 100th floor of the (japanese financed) Shanghai World Financial Centre, aka the bottle opener. It's already being dwarfed by it's unfinished neighbour the (chinese owned) Shanghai Tower.

The view was quite spectacular as the day drew in and the famous light show began. This is a vision of the future for the worlds' privileged urbanites.

The Shanghai Tower, topped out, but still being completed.

Pudong at dusk

The Jin Mao tower, as elegant as the Chrysler building.

The Oriental Pearl, the earliest of the big towers of Pudong

Raised walkways channel pedestrians between the skyscrapers and through luxury malls of international super brands.

I decided against blowing a month's wages on a Christian Dior coat and instead went in search of aforementioned martinis. To get back to The Bund, I had to use the Metro, which after just twenty years of construction has just become the longest such network in the world, and will soon surpass Moscow's and Tokyo's as the busiest. Like all the other metros in China, its also seriously cheap. A ticket to anywhere on the metro cost about 40 pence. Why they can't do it for that price in London I don't know.

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