Shanghai - Huangpu Cruise and the Bund

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
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Trip End Aug 10, 2007


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Flag of China  , Shanghai,
Sunday, July 22, 2007

The main tourist must-sees in Shanghai are clustered along the shores of the Huangpu River near the center of the city.  Probably the most interesting of these are the sightseeing cruises on the river, most concentrating on a short stretch near the center of the city but a few longer ones continuing downstream to the Huangpu's confluence with the Yangtze.  With the possible exception of the views from the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Jin Mao building, the river cruises probably provide the best views of Shanghai's astounding modern cityscape on both sides of the river and of the Bund.

Sprawled for about a mile along the left bank of the Huangpu, The Bund is Shanghai's historical financial center from its first heyday as East Asia's most important commercial city in the decades before WWII.  The buildings facing the waterfront and several blocks inland were also the center of European influence in Shanghai during that era, and its hotels, banks, and government buildings are largely in the Art Deco style.  Although on a much more human scale than most of what surrounds it, the Bund's architecture and historical importance are entirely overwhelmed by the modern city of Shanghai; it struck me that the interest of nearly everyone strolling the raised pedestrian promenade along the Huangpu and on the cruise boat I took was focused not on the Bund but on the skyscrapers in Pudong and several blocks back on the Bund side of the river.

The Bund and the nearby shores on both sides of the river are also where plenty of tacky tourist-trap crowd-pleasers are clustered, ranging from the Chinese version of Ripley's Believe It or Not museum to Insect World to the "Bund Tourist Tunnel", the last of which I made the mistake of riding through since it was faster and cooler than waiting for a ferry across the river.  I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued, though, by the Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture and Health, and I forked out a few Yuan to check it out.

In my wanderings along the Bund, on Nanjing Road pedestrian shopping street, and in Peoples Park and other destinations frequented by foreigners I was starting to get very wary of friendly people in Shanghai.  The only friends I was making were those trying to separate me from some of my money.  I think I had been approached 2,318 times and asked, "Meesta, want to buy watch?  Rolex - looky, looky!  Mont Blanc pen, bag, shoes, polo shirt!" by touts trying to pull me into stores selling luxury brand knock-offs, approached 446 times and asked, "Meesta, where you from?  Meesta, I asked you where you from - Germany?  Canada?  Sweden?" by pretty young women trying to scam me into attending an expensive tea ceremony with them, and approached 283 times and asked, "Meesta, you want massage?  Sexual massage?  100 Yuan! You want girls?" by sex trade touts.  I haven't been approached so aggressively by the sex industry since I was in Bangkok in 1996.

Bangkok is also the last place I ever felt as hot as in Shanghai.  Throughout my stay in eastern China, the region was suffering through a heat wave that kept humidity high and temperatures in the upper 90's farenheit and me in a constant sweat-soaked state whenever I was outside.  It was so bad I began to wonder if a fungus might start to grow on me the way it does on those tree sloths that live in the rainforest.  I experienced much higher temperatures when I was based in Egypt, but the twenty-degree hotter dry Saharan air felt nowhere near as uncomfortable as Shanghai's steamroom like air.
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