The 6th of June in China this year was Dragon Boat Festival and we went to Shanghai for the holiday. I say Dragon Boat Festival but before you get your hopes up I must tell you we didn’t see any boats, never-mind Dragon Boats nor did we partake in any cultural festivities of any kind. Like most public holidays around the world, in my opinion, most people don’t care why or what they are about just that they don’t have to go to work. That was the case for us anyway so with a 3 day weekend we headed to Shanghai to stay with a friend that I had worked with at EF but who has now moved on to an editorial position with the Shanghai Daily Newspaper. Their apartment is in a nice area just a 15 minute walk from West Nanjing Road metro station and on Friday night we were greeted with this view from their balcony.
It might not be environmentally friendly but I must admit that the neon lighting along the elevated roads and overpasses makes for a pretty scene. Just after arriving we took a walk to see the centre of this 4 level highway overpass which is a pillar clad in a metal fresco. There is also a circular elevated pedestrian walkway over the intersection where I took this panoramic image from.
We woke on Saturday morning to drizzly rain so after a quick coffee and pastry down the road we headed for the Shanghai museum, something neither of us had done yet and given the inclement weather why not? The museum is located in People’s Square and on our way there we chanced across this pond with lots of large fish, ducks and a couple of swans.
Now museums aren’t my thing and there was a small queue to get in but it was free and there were a few interesting things on display including some bronze carvings & sculptures of which this one caught my eye.
They also had lots of Jade carvings, Chinese paintings, traditional Tibetan clothing, incredibly ornate furniture and a coin/money exhibition. Despite feeling that the multiple room exhibition consisted of well over 1000 coins could have been reduced to a single display case of just 40 they did have a single case of some of the earliest notes which were interesting.
Later that day we met back up with our hosts and went in search of a cheap market which we had looked up on the internet. A short 10 minute walk up from their apartment we found it easily. It’s not for the faint of heart as you have shop owners literally trying to drag you into their stalls. You also have to be ready to bargain and be ruthless about it. The goods are all branded but unquestionably fake. Nevertheless we found a few real bargains and left before our wallets were empty. After that we went out for dinner at one of the many foreign restaurants on the street they live. The benefits of living in a big city with luxuries we can only dream of in our “little” Xiaoshan. We settled on a Malaysian/Chinese cuisine place where the mood was lively, the ambiance was homely and although the service was very slow the food was good.
Sunday morning saw a brief respite from the rain so Margaurita and I headed out for a quintessential Shanghai breakfast, a crispy omelette, from a corner shop at the end of the street. We ate as we wandered along the streets when we stumbled upon Fuxing Park. We were amazed at the size of it and the amount of greenery in the middle of such a big city.
Walking further into the park, it seemed like the place to be with hundreds of people out enjoying the cool early morning, each in their own way.
It amazes me just how much you can see in these parks. Take this photo below for example. There’s the guy just parking off on the bench while another guy helps an old fellow do some arm movement and exercise. You can get a charcoal portrait done or play badminton like the folk in the background. As well as the guy on the left in the brown spinning a top on a string between two sticks.
If that isn’t enough for you there are karaoke stalls and even ballroom dancing for those with a bit more rhythm.
For the youngsters you could rent a fishing pole and yank goldfish out of a little pond or for the more adventurous take part in the more extreme water treadmills and paddle boats.
These modern activities in stark contrast to the traditional Tai Chi that you see many groups of people doing in the parks in the early mornings, just like this.
It’s scenes like this in China that intrigue me. It’s so nice to see old people out and about enjoying the parks and still active singing, doing exercises or just meeting friends on a park bench to discuss the world. The average age of the people in the park was probably 60-65 and I can’t think of another place in the world where you might see this level of activity and socializing just in a park in the city everyday. I just wonder if it will transfer to the next generation as they are increasingly exposed to Western culture.