Friday, 13 February 2009

Shanghai Noon Becomes Shanghai Nights: Part 2

A new day brought more rain but, if anything, it added to the appeal of my next location. Today I travelled to the old town section of Shanghai. Most of Shanghai looks European having been owned by various nations over the years but Old Town Is irrepressibly Chinese.

Shanghai was proving to be a real Russian doll of a city. Hidden inside it was this wonderful area of old buildings and inside Old Town, over a zigzagging bridge that passes by an ancient tea house, was the lovely Yu Garden.

The garden is made of many different sections. The theory behind it is that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines so dividing up the garden safe guards against them. It also allows for observers to take in and appreciate each small area.The Yu garden really is a master work and the use of stone, water, buildings and plants create something incredibly delicate, peaceful and subtle, yet painstakingly detailed and uniquely Chinese.

Garden fully appreciated and rain still falling, I headed out into the bustling narrow streets of Old Town. This was the first place that looked like the China I had in my head. The many shops created an exciting atmosphere which I easily lost myself in.

Amid the trees filled with red wishes and lanterns, street musicians provided a suitable movie soundtrack. I stood and watched as the rain drops fell from the ornate rooftops in the way they can only do in the East.

Time spent, next up was the famous Nanjing Road (China’s equivalent of Oxford Street). Now, I’m about six foot three in height and stand well above most Chinese. However, I don’t stand above their umbrellas.

Nanjing road was an assault course of dodgy brollies being aimed straight at my eye line. I managed to dodge them, along with the crazy drivers and yet more people selling junk, as I made my way down the street.

Next time you think Oxford Street is busy just take a walk down Nanjing Road. I lost my girlfriend on a couple of occasions to the lure of shiny tops in the open plan shops. As I could see for miles there was little danger of us becoming separated. My height had not gone unnoticed by a few members of my group either and as the tour went on they started using me as a light house to guide them through the sea of endless Chinese.

The day ended with a trip to see the world famous Shanghai acrobats. I didn’t take any pictures but they were excellent. In terms of leaping and swinging and other such ridiculously dexterous pursuits they clearly are some of the best I have ever seen.

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