Friday, November 19, 2010

Yuyuan Gardens

Yu Gardens is one of Shanghai's top tourist attractions.Situated next to a huge bazaar area heaving with specialty and souvenir shops and restaurants together with crowds of locals and hordes of tourist groups,it can get overpowering and claustrophobic by mid morning.Best to follow the guidebooks recommendations and get there early.Avoid holidays and weekends if you want to keep your cool and have the chance to linger.This shot shows a wall and door within the gardens.Different shaped doors are used throughout the gardens.

The gardens date from the Ming dynasty and according to the pamphlet I read took 18 years to be constructed(1559-1577).The gardens have been restored and consist of numerous small alcoves or garden rooms containing rockeries,pools full of carp and various small buildings and pavilions for summer use.

There are some large trees within the confines of the gardens which provide shade and some greenery in contrast to the concrete grey rockeries and the rather murky pools.I spotted some gingkos and pine trees as well as the common willows draping themselves in the pools.Some small cherry trees and magnolias that must brighten up the area in spring were also dotted about the various gardens.As you can see from the above photo there are many photo opportunities if one is patient enough.

A close up of one of the 'windows' in the walls that break up the gardens.The vertical bars have been decorated as bamboo canes.Other bars have been similarly decorated with small insects and dragonflies adorning them.

This shot shows one of the small buildings within the gardens.This particular building overlooks a waterfall and rock pool.
The Gardens are open from 8:30am.From memory the nearest metro station is Nanjing Dong Lu.After that follow the signs or the masses.Adult entrance to the Gardens was 40rmb.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Taikang Lu

Taikang Lu also known as Tian Zi Fang is a rabbit warren of small,narrow alleys and lanes or longtang consisting of traditional shikumen houses.These typically two or three story houses (shikumen) were a cross between English style terrace housing (think Coronation Street type homes) and traditional Chinese interior courtyard buildings.To the front of the building was usually found a stone gate frame supporting two wooden doors.
Due to redevelopment and demolition many of these buildings and lanes have been replaced by high rise apartment blocks and more modern,bland buildings.

Within the alleys many of the shikumen have been converted in shops,art galleries,bars,cafes and restaurants.There are still families and people living in some of the houses.You can see laundry strung out along some lanes which gives the place a lived in,community feel.It seems a more friendly and humane environment than the huge towering buildings that loom outside the area.

Its best to visit the area like most tourist spots in Shanghai early in the day.Before the rush and crush of unruly tourist groups make it difficult to negotiate the lanes with your good humor intact.Before the touts try your patience and ask for the umpteenth time whether you want a watch.Before you get badgered by an insistent waiter who clutches your arm and tries to frog march you into their restaurant.

The final two shots show more of the lanes that crisscross the area.Its an area worth a morning or afternoon visit with lots of cafes and restaurants to provide refreshments or morning tea and lunch.There are also some interesting shops selling postcards, jewellery and other arty boutiques to browse through.
The nearest subway stop is Dapuqiao on Line 9 of the subway.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Xinghua Lou

Located at 343 Fuzhou Rd is Xinghua Lou,a venerable Shanghai eatery dating back to the 1850's.At street level there is a bakery serving steamed buns and other local treats.If you enter the entrance to the left of the bakery and avoid the milling queues you can take the elevator up to the third floor restaurant.

The upper floor restaurant comes complete with English menu,white linen tablecloths and some splendid if slightly dusty chandeliers.The shot above and those below are examples chosen at random off the menu.

There are a variety of teas available including jasmine in the teapot above.The longer you let it sit or steep the darker and stronger it became.Very refreshing on a hot,humid morning and a perfect foil for the Cantonese food on the menu.

The steamed buns and Cantonese dim sums were tasty and well worth a second helping.The restaurant was filling up by the time we got there at 10:30am.We got seated immediately but noticed a queue for tables on leaving.The restaurant and bakery open from 7:30am.The prices were reasonable-dim sums from 10 rmb and other dishes from 20rmb.Worth a visit for brunch or an early lunch,I'd recommend visiting early before the dinner rush.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre is located in Peoples Square on Renmin Avenue.The photo shows the building from the rear overlooking the gardens of Renmin Park.The roof apparently is capped with four 'florets' meant to symbolise magnolia buds-Shanghai's flower.The Hall has exhibits and models that both look to the past and the future of Shanghai.

The Hall has five floors with photos of 1930's Shanghai and a video presentation titled 'The History of the Bund' and a model of Yu Garden on one floor contrasting with the upper floors displays of Integrated Transportation and Urban Planning with scale model ports,airports and subway stations.This photo shows a section of the Pudong New Area with the Pearl Tower towards the lower right hand side of the shot.

For me getting a grip on the size of this teeming city hasn't been easy.One way to get an idea of the immense size is to check out the model of Shanghai on the third floor.The model of the Downtown Area of Central Shanghai covers 600 square metres.At a scale of 1:500 it purports to show the 110 square kilometres of Shanghai that is squeezed within the Inner Ring Road.It is impressive even at a scale of 1:500.
The Expo site has been faithfully modeled as has the yet to be completed Shanghai Centre skyscraper or 'The Dragon' that will dwarf the SWFC and Jin Mao buildings which will be its neighbours once complete in 2014.Apparently the model has faithfully reproduced the buildings in Shanghai-I spotted my lowrise building having perched on the stairs overlooking the city model to get a better view.

Another set of model houses that shows the evolution and variety of housing that have made up a lot of Shanghai's residential buildings.

This rather garish golden revolving model entitled 'Morning in Shanghai' can be seen on the ground floor.Again the still under construction 128 story glass encased Shanghai Centre features alongside the Jin Mao and SWFC buildings.
The Exhibition Hall is well worth a visit even if just for the views from the fifth floor across Peoples Square to the Museum or over the gardens.From memory,entry was 40rmb and the place while not exactly doing a brisk trade had a fair sprinkling of both locals and tourists.I didn't make it in time for the 3D screening showcasing Shanghai's attractions but did walk around a temporary art exhibition on one of the floors.The Hall is open Mon-Thurs 9-5pm and Fri-Sun 9-6pm.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Propaganda Poster Art Centre

The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is well worth the effort to find.Tucked away as it is not only in a housing complex oddly named President Apartment but also in the basement of Building B of the aforementioned residential block.The guard at the front gate will give you a small business card with directions once you reach the main entrance.Follow your nose and descend down the elevator where the gallery awaits.

There are according to the pamphlet at the gallery some 3000 odd posters from the 50's through to the 70's. There is also some Maoist memorabilia on display such as the collection of busts above .I liked the earlier posters that reminded me almost of Japanese woodblocks with their simplicity and spare use of colour rather than the later lurid almost psychedelic 60's anti US Vietnam era productions.I've included a couple that I liked-the one above and the last one in this entry below.

Not all the posters are political in nature.This being the year of the Expo some posters and photos of life in Shanghai in earlier
times are also on display.There was a lovely almost 2 metre long black and white photo of the Bund in the 1920' or 30's on sale for a not inconsiderable but reasonable sum given its size.Just how to get back home.Not exactly carry on luggage.
The poster below depicts 1930's Shanghai for some people at that time.

The Art Centre is divided into the gallery/showroom where the posters,prints and varied collections of Mao busts are displayed.The posters are grouped historically and there are English language captions explaining each sections significance.
The other section is the shop where you can buy the posters and prints either as originals or copies.There are also a number of related items for sale such as arm bands and caps and other Mao era memorabilia.

The posters represent an important time in the development of China and hopefully they can be preserved as primary historical items that bear witness to those times and be seen by many more people.As I said above the later Korean/Vietnam posters didn't really inspire me as much as the earlier poster and the one below.
The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre has a website entrance fee was 20rmb and it can be found at 868 Huashan Road near the intersection with Changle Road.It was a little hike from Changshu Road Metro Station but walking the leafy French Concession streets was an unexpected bonus.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shanghai Sculpture Park

The Shanghai Sculpture Park is located in Shenshan about 45 km out of central Shanghai.I took the subway to get there.It's 18 stops from Century Avenue on Line 9.About an hour and half ride to Shenshan Station.You then can either catch a taxi,walk or catch a bus from the station to the Park.The figures above are in the Moon Lake and are part of a series of beach sculptures featuring figures at the beach.

On entering the Park I was impressed with the large open green expanses.And the fresh air.The Park covers around ninety hectares and includes rolling green lawn.A large man-made lake Yuehu or Moon Lake takes centre stage and the whole area is surrounded by the Shenshan Mountains.There are around thirty sculptures of varying size and interest within the Park.One of the features of the Park is a large paddling pool where you can go get your feet wet.A larger deeper pool for wading is located adjacent to this one obviously intended for toddlers.Both pools have been decorated in a faux Gaudi style with small,colourful ceramic tiles being used to cover what would otherwise be a dull expanse of concrete.

One of the permanent,more traditional sculptures on display.Being such a large area the sculptures are well spaced out and you can appreciate each one in it's own right.Some of the sculptures can be climbed or sat on.In fact there is an odd but fun jumping area like a cross between one of those deflated fun kids castles and a rubber mattress.

These sculptures are on the beach shore of the man-made Moon Lake.While you can't swim in the lake there appear to be boats for the nautically inclined to hire.There's also a large concrete tree structure complete with treehouse that provides views of the whole area and a restaurant and cafe that provide refreshments.

The Park has its own website that provides information on prices and opening times.I think because it is a bit of a haul out there and the adult admission price is 120rmb there were few people present.Not that I'm complaining.It was nice to walk around unimpeded by the masses and being able to breath without hearing the continual hacking and spitting that usually fills the city air.As the Park closes around 5pm its worth getting there early.Definitely a place I'll return to sometime midweek in the future.

Friday, September 03, 2010

More Snail Shots

A very slow week at work.Wrestling with the differences between collocations and compound words.Earth-shattering stuff I know.But damn annoying and difficult to define.So is the word 'school bus' a collocation or a compound word?I've found definitions and websites that go either way.

While pondering such matters,Shanghai felt the effects of a passing typhoon.Lots of grey skies and rain though the strong winds forecast didn't really eventuate.Schools were cancelled the night before the typhoon's arrival.Next day dawned very humid and warm but otherwise most untyphoon like.

I was too tired to do much my last days off so I have resorted to posting more snail photos.You can just make out their white shapes in this shot across from the Jinmao Tower.Theres an observation deck on the 88th floor which I will eventually visit once my summer humidity induced lethargy wears off.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shanghai Snail Sculptures

I walk past these metallic gastropods on the way to work every day.They appear to be made of some powder coated punched metal and sit across from the Shanghai World Financial Centre providing a distraction for drivers caught in the traffic that drives past them.During the week an article ran in a local paper about a massive 10 day traffic jam that runs from Beijing to Hebei Province in Northern China.
Meanwhile in Beijing it is predicted that by 2015 with about 7 million cars on the road in the city rush hour speeds will be reduced to about 15 kilometres per hour-not so much a rush as a snail crawl.

I quite like this photo as the snails antennae are echoed in the buildings that surround them-the radio and television masts of the Oriental Pearl Tower in the left background and the assorted banks and financial buildings that cluster in the area.

Moments after arriving back from taking these shots ,the skies which had been black and menacing,did indeed open up.There was another brief but heavy bout of thunder and rainshowers.While they provide a short respite from the humidity and lower the temperature it is only a matter of minutes before the steamy summer conditions return.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food Prices Increases

Seems rather mundane but food prices are on the rise here.China's Consumer Price Index accelerated 3.3% last month from a year earlier according to a Shanghai Daily News article.This compared with an increase of 2.9% in June and 3.1% in May.Food costs rose 6.8% from a year earlier in July,while prices in the non-food sector rose just 1.6%.
Just figures bandied about by financial analysts and the National Bureau of Statistics?.No.You can see the direct result of the recent extreme weather such as droughts and floods on food prices.
The price of the 1.5litre bottle of water has increased from 1.70 yuan to 2 yuan over the last two weeks at one supermarket I shop at.The 500 ml milk carton likewise has increased in price from 5 yuan to 5.3 yuan and in some upmarket supermarkets to 5.50 yuan.The box of 25 teabags have also increased in price from 10 yuan to 10.30 yuan and in some cases up to 10.50 yuan.There doesnt seem to be any consistency in the prices increases. In some places chocolate bars remain untouched by inflation steady at 3 yuan while other stores have hiked the price up to3.60 yuan.For people on low fixed wages and trying to save for their own house and apartment these increases provide a further challenge to stretching household budgets.
You can speculate why the food prices have increased apart from weather factor-there are a great number of tourists here for the Expo and there is an ever increasing flood of workers into the city needing food,drink and housing.All of which create demand.

And the Heat Goes On
Earlier in the week the temperature hit at least 39 degrees celsius for the fourth consecutive day.Apparently this is the first time this has happened since records began some 137 years ago.The mercury last Sunday hit 39.8 degrees.What is curious is that the temperature never seems to hit 40 degrees yet having experienced similiar weather over the past 10 summers it certainly feels hotter than 39 point whatever.I've been told factories and other companies must down tools should it ever hit the magical 40 degree mark.
There have also been 21 high temperature days defined by the Met Bureau as days of 35 degrees and above.A few thunderstorms and heavy rain cooled the city down temporarily during the week but the forecast for the next few days predict temperatures in the mid to high 30's.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mad Dogs and .....

Last Tuesday the mercury hit 39.6 degrees-the highest temperature for the year.Yesterday matched that peak and today, Friday, the temperature again is expected to hit the around the same mark and continue over the weekend.According to the Shanghai Daily yesterday was the 18th day so far in 2010 the temperature has exceeded 35 degrees.

Many people were taking advantage of the air conditioning available in shopping centres and subway stations to get out of the energy sapping temperatures.Some lay spreadeagled and slumped over benches or sprawled against walls sleeping in the humid afternoon heat.Even though my walk to work is barely 15 minutes,by its end I'm awash from head to toe in sweat.Even my eyeballs seem to have perspired.

During my daily walk I cut through the Luijazui Pudong Green.I've already posted some earlier photos of this small green area.Actually,after reading the information displayed in the park you realise it is in fact quite a large area.Around 3500 households were relocated to provide the space which opened in July 1997.The main feature in the middle of the green is a man-made lake shaped like a map of the Pudong New Area.It is stocked with carp and has a water fountain system usually in operation when married couples visit for their wedding photos.A number of walks circle the lake and there is a sail-like structure that provides shelter and coffee should you want to rest and take in the views of the skyscrapers that border the park and are reflected in the lake's waters.

There are a number of life size bronze cast figures in groups dotted around the walkways,notably a group of tourists armed with cameras and another threesome of earnest looking business types.I've noticed other random statues and figures popping up around Shanghai but havent been carrying a camera to photograph them.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Shanghai Railway Museum

Due mainly to work committments and the energy sapping heat and humidity I haven't done anything recently worthy of blogging about.My efforts have had to concentrate on preparing a presentation for my peers and this has eaten into most of my free time.The recent weather with its regular forays into the high 30s exarcerbated by short,frequent cloudbursts has also done little to get me out of the house and exploring Shanghai.Still with a lull in the workload and a need to stretch my legs I travelled a few subway stops to the Shanghai Railway Museum near Baoshan Station.It's virtually around the corner from the station.The fact that theres a 100 ton or so locomotive parked in the front courtyard also makes it difficult to miss.

According to the nearby plaque the steam locomotive was a gift from the United Nations in 1947.While the train offers some photo oppurtunities as does the passenger coach behind it,once inside the museum there are notices advising that cameras can't be used.

The Museum is built on the original site of Shanghai Station and the building itself seems to be in the classical British architectural mode of public buildings.The Museum takes up the ground floor of the building and is divided into various sections.While the staff gave me an English language pamphlet there were few other labels or translations explaining what the exhibits were or their significance.
The Museum covers the 100 plus years of rail history since the 1860's.There is a model of the first locomotive and scale models of modern rolling stock and high speed trains as well as plans of existing stations and futuristic stations planned for the future.

There was a section devoted to the old picks and shovels and other manual tools used by the early construction crews which graphically showed what a backbreaking job it must have been.Other sections are given to uniforms,signalling equipment and the like.

The photo above shows a wheel assembly unit built in Sheffield,England.If you are'nt a railway buff you can probably get round the whole museum in less than twenty minutes.Having said that the place was teeming with kids who were taking turns on some of the interactive exhibits and seemed to be enjoying themselves looking at the scale models and other equipment on display.I happened to be at the Museum at the right time for a ride in their Simulation Locomotive.This was a computer simulation where you get to control and drive a modern high speed train just as a modern driver would with the aid of a computer program and screen.The children who piled into the driver's cab with me enjoyed their chance to drive 'the train' and sound its diesel horn under the supervision of the Museum staff.
The Museum entry was 10 yuan for adults.It is open on Tuesdays,Thursdays and Fridays.Check the Museum website for opening times(the morning opening hours are currently 9-11:30 am) and other details at I said it's not a must see and given the lack of English labels and translations even less appealing,but a pleasant diversion nonetheless.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The 'Hood

Stinking hot day.Literally and figuratively.We appear literally to be in the middle of a heatwave with temperatures soaring into the mid 30s(celsius) and humidity to match or surpass that of a Japanese rainy season.Paper curling humidity.Humidity that continually jams an ancient dinosaur of a photocopier that should have been retired years ago.Humidity that causes arguments and wailing Chinese women cursing all and sundry at 2 am at the top of their lungs.Humidity that drives cockroaches to find new cooler pastures.Their crushed bodies slowly merging into the concrete dust that stirs underfoot on the unswept stairs.
Figuratively stinking because although I live several floors above ground,the nauseating stench from the inadequate blocked drains below still manages to drift upwards as the heat of the day rises.

This is the view from one of my windows.The square building in the middle of the frame is the local stock exchange building.Its an interesting design as it has a hollow centre which may be symbolic of that whole industry but I'm only speculating.(Yes that was a pun).Behind that edifice one can see a bevelled building which is the Shanghai World Financial Centre currently the fourth tallest building though for how much longer is anyones guess.The Jinmao Tower is towards the right of the World Financial Centre building and can't really be seen in this shot.At night I can make out its lit pointed top from my windows.

Another view looking in the opposite direction overlooking some of the other apartment buildings in this complex.The building I'm in was built in the early 1970's.There's no elevator although the building has six floors.There is virtually no insulation and my white plaster walls have a scruffy black tinge about them.The bathroom is an all tiled affair.Cold as a witches tit in winter and the ideal breeding ground for mould in humid summers.It lacks both a handbasin and tap.The toilet is prone to blocking so a rubber plunger is an essential piece of household kit.The shower seems to have a mind of its own switching between scorching hot and arctic ball breaking temperatures quicker than a Formula One pit crew.

The shot below shows a typical building in my compound..Entry to the buildings is gained by a key or number entered into a keypadded metal gate.Once inside the building,individual occupants then use their own keys to enter their apartments- so its a fairly safe and secure procedure.Theres also a watchman at each entrance to the complex.Apart from playing mah jong and clearing his throat audibly twenty four hours a day their main function seems to be barking at people entering and attempting to park their cars in the grounds.