Shanghai – day 2 – an amazing place….

My second day in China, started with sorting out some very wet clothes from last nights attempt to see some of the Expo. Even my jeans had to go to the Laundry – they would never have dried on their own!

After some “housework”, I set off for The Peoples Square and found what I had been looking for – Starbucks. And it is quite similar to back home – except my Grande Cappucino was swapped for an Iced Cappucino – for obvious reasons – it was 33 degrees outside.

Then I headed for the Shanghai Urban Design Centre – which shows in Architectural models the growth of the City. One model takes up a whole floor – and gives you an impression of just how big this place really is. And it is still growing…by the minute!

The model of the City - my hotel on the right...

I had arranged to meet a number of Nottingham folks at lunchtime – and we met in a fantastic bar on “The Bund” – a roof terrace with stunning views of the River and Pudong. The lack of rain helped! “Club Sandwich” is a traditional Chinese dish, so, reluctantly, I went with it. With Lager. And chips.

The afternoon was fascinating – we had a walking tour with Benson Lau, an Architect from Hong Kong originally but now working in Nottingham and living about a mile from my home (in the UK…). We walked into Old Shanghai – a very different place to the high-rise of the Bund and of Pudong. He took us to Yu Gardens which were an oasis in a sea of madness. They ooze tranquility. We were given an insight into some of the clever design tricks used 400 years ago – they really were clever designers, looking at ergonomics particularly.

But the highlight – which surprised me was a visit to a tea house in the gardens. I normally preach that tea is a drink with milk and sugar and all that other stuff is for girls. But I was painted in a corner and had a choice – go thirsty or try it. No milk and no sugar in sight. Nor a mug – just a thimble full. And we tried – Jasmine, Flower Tea (which was spectacular in looks), Ginseng, Lychee and Dragon Well. The latter being the most expensive. The Chinese treat tea like we treat Whiskey. My favourite was Lychee, which tasted better than it smelled. Not one of our group really agreed on a particular though! It was truly an experience – and lasted about an hour.

Next up was a ferry ride across the Huangpu River to Pudong and the dizzy heights of The Jinmao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Centre. These buildings have vied for the highest building spot, currently in Shanghai, it the latter at 101 storeys. But both are to be eclipsed by a new tower, just starting at 150 stories…

Cappuccino in the 56th floor of the Jinmao was amazing -if only for the view up of the rest of this 88 storey beast! The WTC building is a little brash and looks like a bottle opener, but the Jinmao is really quite stunning. It is based on the figure 8 – which is lucky in Chinese. It also costs Y1m per day to run!

Jinmao left and WTC right - both vertigo inducing?

There was some research done in the 1990′s that Pudong was sinking at a rate of just over 1m every decade. As Shanghai on average os only between 3 and 4m above sea level this is somewhat disconcerting. I have a feeling that the conference tomorrow may well touch on this. The rate of sinking has now slowed, but the rate of building certainly hasn’t. This is an area of pure decadence – a completely eclectic mix of styles and with very little respect of each other. Master-planning this is not.

So my ‘easy day’ was drawing to a close, before the conference on Saturday & Sunday.

Jazz in Peace - no that's not right...

But the evening was certainly different – in the Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel on the Bund. Our table had been booked two weeks previously, such is the popularity of the place. It was like going back in time – the bar started in the 1930′s and I think there are some of the original band members. But the company was good and it was another new experience for me. If I’m honest it’s not my sort of music, I left “Oh when the Saints..” some time a go, but the musicians were extremely talented.

A nightcap on another terrace bar on The Bund was the final act of the day – barring my taxi ride back to the hotel – an expensive £3.60. I keep having to double-check – the transport is really that cheap!

Tomorrow I have the Expo to look forward too; I hope it’s not raining – my shoes are still wet from the rain 24 hours ago!

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