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Don’t worry – there is no “Day 3” post. Yesterday was not eventful for me. Just work, a nondescript meal at a restaurant near the hotel and then bed.

I woke early and made my way across the Huangpu river to The Bund, the old financial area of Shanghai. Barges ploughed their way past the skyscrapers of Pudong as kites floated silently in the air. The morning was misty and dull, but not too cold.

I then walked up to Nanjing Road, one of Shanghai’s biggest shopping areas. From what I hear it’s usually crowded with people, but this morning only a few brave souls walked the street. Having watched some elderly people practice T’ai Chi, I flagged a taxi back to the hotel.

Our meal this evening was hot-pot. Each diner is given a pot of water and vegetables, then presented with small portions of meat, mushrooms, noodles, prawns and fish cakes to cook and eat. It was delicious and a lot of fun. We then walked to a local market with small alleyways and lots of interesting, good quality items on sale. Shanghai is an expensive city, although I suspect some local knowledge would come in handy in this city.


Some other things I took in: taxi passenger doors only open on the right-hand side, so it’s always a case of first-in, last out when getting in the back. The driving isn’t great – we’ve had more than one close shave over the last few days. None of the drivers know English, so a card with the destination address in Chinese is an ideal accessory when travelling.

I’m learning a small amount of Mandarin Chinese. Yes and No sound a bit rude to Anglophones, so I should have no problem remembering them. Other than that, it’s a very difficult language to learn. The way you say something is at least as important as what you say.

And, no, I’m not improving with my chopstick prowess. It gets worse when anyone is looking at me, and worse still if they start commenting about how bad I am.

It snowed today, a rare event for a city that shares the same latitude as Jerusalem and Austin.

I took a short time-lapse video this morning with the sun poking through the clouds; the light playing games with the February dullness.

This evening, we ate in the Langyifang Restaurant. It’s situated in a gigantic modern mall close to the hotels. We sampled a large mix of local foods, mostly similar to what might be found back home.

Foodpic 1

My impression of the city so far is much less of a culture shock than I would have expected. Shanghai is brash, modern and unquestionably upmarket. Most items on display cost the same as what might be paid in Europe. Many of the big brands are here, including Haagen Dazs, KFC and TGI Fridays. Clearly, if we want an authentic Chinese experience, we are in the wrong place.

One of my colleagues, an American, has mastered Mandarin Chinese, both oral and written. My Chinese colleagues tell me it is word perfect without much of a trace of an accent. Knowing how to read the Chinese characters is especially impressive, as this is a much bigger challenge for Chinese children compared to western kids. Mastery involves familiarity with several thousand symbols, many of which vary in meaning depending on the context in which they are written. On top of being masters in Chinese, many of my colleges speak English perfectly. Truly, I feel humbled here.

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