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Home > Blog > Life on the Bund

Life on the Bund

(Shanghai) Breakfast began unusually at the hotel’s 41st floor where there restaurant rotates as you eat – and with a panoramic view of the city with its high-rises as far as the eye can see.

What followed was a day in this gargantuan metropolis that thankfully started in a peaceful setting of the old city. Most of the Canadians were glum, most having had a sleepless night. The Yuyuan Gardens, our first stop, has pines and pavilions, Koy fish pools and stony recesses that were the brainchild of the Pan family in the 16th century – in the Ming dynasty – a venture that took twenty years to create. Pan Yunduan made the gardens for his father as a refuge to live out his old age. It is a complex that includes several buildings and period furniture that lacks the simplicity of design of the gardens themselves.
Yuyuan Gardens

Yuyuan Gardens

Then came a walkabout in the Old City’s bazaar, with its beautiful rooftops that glow with all sorts of colors at night. Pretty young Chinese girls stand outside of a host of crafts and art stores enticing you in. They are so sweet but somehow the whole process of luring you into the shop seems kind of seedy. I had the impression that the jade museum was a peep show, or some kind of secret society. Then when you get in you are escorted around, offered goods to purchase. The longer you seem to stay the further the prices drop. A painting that started off for the equivalent of sixty dollars, was less then twenty by the time I decided to leave. Come back, she yelled, I’ll give you a special price…
Night view by Jura Nanuk, ontheglobe.com

Night view by Jura Nanuk, ontheglobe.com

After a brief stop at the Xintiandi shopping district we went to Naijing Road where we dined something really special at the historic Shanghai Mei Long Zhen Restaurant. Set up in the spring of 1938, this place is legendary for having been a local haunt of cultural and literary circles.

The fun part came in the afternoon on the Bund, an Anglo-Indian word for the murky waterfront. This promenade runs the length of the riverside with boats of all kinds racing along the Huangu River as crowds of tourists and locals stroll along the walkway. Across the river is the Pudong, the financial center of Shanghai that only two decades ago was simple farmland. Today, it is a mass of skyscrapers as far as the eye can see.
View of Pudong from the Bund

View of Pudong from the Bund

Having been the former British concession you walk down on the right hand side are historical neoclassical buildings that could well fit in London, New York or even Paris. Its mix of the old and the new that makes this place symbolic, and a magnet for visitors to the city. Amusingly, as I taped the sounds of the place for a radio report, the buzz of activity came alive. I met with students who just came to speak English to foreigners, while another was selling post-cards because he had lost his job. A host of locals were selling everything from model airplanes to fish – and even tiny minnows in plastic hearts. The police in their nicely pressed uniforms or on small carts would periodically appear in a cat-and-mouse game. The vendors darted off just as quickly, but once the police were out of site the entrepreneurs returned to ply their trade despite the official contempt. This was a game of cat-and-mouse capitalism!

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