Such a beautiful and charming city, ShangHai! Thank you Mr. M’s company for the relocation benefits that include a day of ‘city orientation’. We would truly be lost without it.
As part of the orientation, we went to Pudong (amongst other places). Pu, in Chinese, means ‘river’ and here it refers to the Huang (chinese for Yellow) Pu. Dong means East. As part of our orientation, we drove past the tallest and most hard-working building in ShangHai. This building happens to work 2 jobs, neither of them very easy. It is the ShangHai World Financial Center from 9-5 and a big giant bottle opener the rest of the time!! The second tallest building stands right next to it and is equally beautiful. Now all I am waiting for is the would-be tallest building in ShangHai which is planned for completion in 2014. I am going to stay wary of the travel bug till then, maybe take a few immunisation shots that will last through the next 5 years or so.
Interestingly, Pudong, about 20 years ago, was just empty farmland, save the TV tower (another pretty structure). The locals used to prefer a shack in Puxi (pronounced Pu-she) to a mansion in Pudong. But today, it’s a whole different story…It’s amazing how much a place can change in 20 years. I know of another place that changed a hell of a lot in 20 years. But not in quite the same sense. Sigh! Let’s save that story for another day.
Our next stop was Old ShangHai. A very charming place indeed! As you walk past those gates, it almost feels like you fell through a rabbit hole and landed in a different time in a parallel universe. The whole place is full of century old constructions, the kind I have only seen in chinese movies and assumed to be part of a film studio set. The Chénghuángmiào or the temple of the city God is the center of this part of the city. According to ancient belief, every city had a ‘city-god’ who watched over the people and reported to the heavenly God every Chinese new year. So, every new year, people would offer delicious food to the city God so he would only report good things about them.
The streets here are narrow and crowded. Tiny shops that are a slight contrast to the old world charm and very effectively snap you out of your dream, line these streets. It’s a quaint little place with a zig-zag bridge (zig-zag so you get a whole new perspective on your surroundings every few steps), shops that sell everything from pretty handheld chinese fans and designer chopsticks and name stamps made of stone and traditional chinese clothes and chinese lanterns and chinese dolls (high time I stopped saying ‘Chinese’, don’t you think? We are after all in China!) and puppets cut out from donkey skins and bottles painted on the inside (I am talking about real intricate painting here, not just dunking the bottle in a bucket of paint to coat the inside) and traditional ink painting and dragon puppets and myriad varieties of teas and laughing buddhas carved out of stones and wood in all shapes and sizes and straw dolls and so many more things that I didn’t quite register because Mini-me was tired and sleepy and cranky and I was desperately trying to find something to bribe her with. And lo and behold! What do I see? Hagen Daaz!! And here I was telling you about the shops that snapped me out of my dream huh?!
Anyway, we got the ice cream that we so desperately needed to keep our spirits up. Actually the ice cream was for keeping the little one’s spirits up. There was more than enough stuff here to keep my spirits up! That’s not to say that I didn’t buy myself some. And soon it was time for the little one to answer nature’s call. Now, as quaint as this small little part of the city might be, and as charming as the tea house and the zig zag bridge and the century old buildings and the Yuyuan garden and the chinese medicine ‘clinic’ (is that what you call them? I don’t know, but let’s just call it a clinic for now!) that has been around since the Qing (pronounced Ching) Dynasty might be , you wouldn’t want to use the restroom here. Not even if your life depended on it. Not even if you wet yourself. DO NOT answer nature’s call while at Old ShangHai! And just as long as you take this one simple little advice from little old me, you will love it here…