Sunday, August 14, 2011

[HUANGPU] Shopping in Temples

They aren’t really temples, but that’s the general motif. To think that I was actually planning to skip Yuyuan Garden! I thought it was just that, a garden. It turns out to be one big mecca full of tourists haggling for souvenirs. If you want to buy the perfect souvenir, you’ll probably find them here, and there are a lot to choose from! They are a bit expensive, though. Maybe there is another place in Shanghai where cheaper goods can be found. But then again I am no guru when it comes to shopping. I hate shopping unless it’s done in a bookstore. I only braved the streets of Yuyuan for the souvenir plate my mother wants. Anyway, I never really saw the garden, which I think is weird. Hahaha.

Still, it was an amazing experience. Markets are generally vibrant, noisy, and full of trash. Yuyuan probably has all those characteristics but it will enchant you with the cultural display. It’s not just another market, it’s a cultural hotspot. You'll really love it if you have a penchant for traditional Chinese architecture. There are some worship places scattered all around but they are quite difficult to find given that almost all the buildings look like places of worship! So I just decided to let that go and concentrate on finding the plate. As the night became darker and darker, my stomach began to lurch. And then, suddenly, as if sent as a signal by the playful universe, an electronic signboard flashed an image that I just couldn’t resist. A bowl of fried rice topped with shrimps. Shit. I have to find the restaurant that serves that!

Unfortunately, the ad went by so fast and was in Chinese Characters. I entered that building anyway and scouted for restaurants serving fried rice. I was already hungry that I just settled for a fancy restaurant serving favorite Shanghai dishes. I ordered sauced duck and Yangzhou fried rice. The servings seemed petite but my grumbling stomach was easy to please. I loved the duck. I still cannot imagine the thought of suddenly grabbing a duck swimming on a pond, biting off its head, and eating it raw. Of course in restaurants they cook them first. But still. So am I discriminating between ducks and chickens now? Maybe. But what the hell, ducks are delicious, especially when swimming in that sweet sauce. I’ll definitely have more in Beijing! I’m sorry Donald, but I’ve always been a bigger fan of Pluto anyway.

I was off to the Bund after finding mom’s plate. I just crossed an avenue and followed the scent of the harbor. Joking. I don’t know if it had a scent. It probably had, but I had colds that night. What I followed was the map, obviously. You can also follow your instincts, as long as they don’t lead you to a speeding truck. What the heck is a Bund? And why is it THE Bund? I have no idea. It sounds German. Come to think of it, there’s a word called “Sprachbund” which means... sorry it's the language geek in me. I think it has something to do with an “area”.

I used to think that Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor is THE harbor and that it will be hard to find competition. Well, hello Victoria. Meet THE Bund. Emphasis on “The”. What you see is the skyline of Pudong, the district east of the Huangpu River. You’ve already been to this district if you landed at its airport, where most of the international flights to Shanghai arrive. There are three skyscrapers there that vie for the title "Camwhore of the Night", two of them being among the ten tallest towers in the world. One is Jin Mao and the other one has the word “Shanghai” in its name. Even if I figure out the names I wouldn’t really know which is which. One of them has a pyramidal crystal roof. The other has a weird looking handle, as if Daimos would use it as a weapon whenever he is in town. Or, to the ordinary housewife, it looks like a giant iron. They are actually next to each other. So sweet, feeling Petronas Twin Towers.

Which is the other building then? I think it’s the runaway winner because of its oddity. I am talking about that building with two giant globes, one near the bottom and one halfway to the top. Suffice it to say, it looks like some sort of space rocket and can be found on the western side, distancing itself from its two closest rivals. What is this building called again? As for the others, they still participate in making the skyline picture perfect. Of course you have HSBC and Citibank there. They just love hogging the spotlight, don't they? Too bad they always get overshadowed by a more interesting building.

But every Victoria Harbor has its Kowloon. By this, I mean that side of the river that owns the view, but not the buildings. If Pudong is the Victoria Harbor of HK, Puxi is its Kowloon. On the contrary, do you really think Puxi would take this sitting down? In an effort to even the playing field, Puxi did something that would leave the typical tourist cross-eyed in confusion as to where to look. It lined its side of the river with neoclassical architecture that would make you think twice whether you are still in China. Clever, Puxi. Very clever.

And so, should you really visit The Bund? Are you high? Shanghai might not be the Bund and the Bund might not be Shanghai, but one existing without the other would be like burger without fries. Sun Yat Sen without Soong Ching Ling. The Earth without its moon. Lady Gaga in normal clothes that ordinary people actually wear. I think you get the idea. Just visit the place, okay? Do it after shopping at Yuyuan. A stroll in the evening should be just nice. The lights are actually brighter in the morning. No, moron. Of course there will be no lights in the morning. Are you high? Am I high?

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Ian | GoingRoamingWandering said...

What's you're usual mode of transportation in Shanghai... I heard taxis has high flag down rate here compare to Beijing as well as hotel rates too... which means its expensive to be a tourist in Shanghai.

ihcahieh said...

@Ian - I don't think I ever took a taxi in Shanghai. Always traveled by rail or on foot. As for accommodations, there are cheap hostels if you are not that specific about privacy.

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