Flushed Away

When last we joined our hero, it was Tuesday night and he had just arrived at his hotel in Shanghai. Allowing for some privacy, we rejoin him the next morning.
This was the view from my third floor window. A little park and a bunch of tall buildings. The main thing about Shanghai compared to Beijing is that Beijing is a very old city, with history running back many centuries, but Shanghai is quite new, with only 150 years or so under its metaphorical belt. Plus it’s a seaport, and has never been a political or religious center, so there are no palaces or temples. Mostly office buildings and places for the people who work in them to live.

You can see it was a sort of grey day, and as I got ready to go out, it rained sporadically. But I was prepared – I had an umbrella with me. The hotel didn’t seem too far from the waterfront, so I set out on foot. As I walked, the rain increased, and by the time I got here…
It was a positive downpour. There’s the famous Pearl Tower across the Huangpu River, though you can’t see the top of it. I walked along the street for a while and found a place to cross over. The rain kept coming down, so I sought shelter in the first available place, which happened to be KFC. I ordered a wrap and an orange drink for breakfast and sat down to enjoy the sensation of not being pelted by gallons of water per minute.
Across the street is The Bund, which is a long line of classic European style buildings dating from the time when Shanghai was one of the few places in China where foreigners were allowed to do business. As in Beijing, construction is everywhere.

I enjoyed the Colonel’s hospitality for a while, hoping to see the rain slack off, but eventually I got bored and decided to brave the elements.
This picture is kind of crooked. It was not easy to take pictures with one hand while holding an umbrella in the other and struggling with the wind.
This odd creature shows up all over town. I think he’s a mascot for the 2010 World’s Fair for which the city is preparing.
Along the riverside, there’s a broad walkway which I’m sure is very nice under more favorable conditions. The building wearing a silly crown is an example of one of the goofy trends in Shanghai architecture. Quite a few buildings are patterned after flowers or pineapples or whatever.
There’s a lot of sculpture around, and some of it is the old traditional PRC style. This woman had an umbrella, but gave it to her companion to pose for the picture.
The river is very busy, with barges and container ships going by constantly.
This is not a World’s Fair mascot. I don’t know what the heck it’s supposed to be.

The rain kept increasing, to the point where my umbrella was only slowing the drops down, not stopping them. It was only slightly drier underneath than outside. Luckily a sign reading Landscape Coffee Taproom pointed the way to relief. I ducked in and ordered a mocha while the rain pelted the windows and completely overwhelmed the storm drains. I watched a staircase that led up to the walkway turn into a waterfall capable of sweeping away moderate sized animals. I think I saw a goat drift by.

I called up my colleagues from the Shanghai office of Emma Ticketmaster and got directions to their office along with lunch plans. Luckily it was not far. After a while, the downpour relented a bit and I continued on.

The office is in a large rounded glass tower at the corner of the Nanjing Street pedestrian mall, where several blocks of a central street have been closed to traffic in order to preserve the safety of shoppers and itinerant Rolex salesmen. Here’s the view from AD's office on the 12th floor:
After lunch, I went down to check out Nanjing Street.
As you can guess by the look of the signs, this place really lights up after dark. I was immediately accosted by men and women offering watches, luggage, electronics, DVDs, massages, and so on. There were also quite a few people begging for handouts.
Since the street is closed to cars, they have little shuttle trains to carry shoppers and tourists from one end to the other. Here’s one advertising mayonnaise.
And here’s another. There’s also one shaped like a big dog.
And here’s a giant coke bottle.
There’s a big toy store with this rockin’... er, whatever it is on the wall.
Here’s a massive shopping center with an impressive façade.
AD had told me about a museum that sounded interesting at People’s Square, which is just at the end of the pedestrian mall. The Square is a big park featuring gardens and several museums. This one with the odd top is where I was headed.
I liked this contrast.
And you can’t get away from this boy.
Another building with a goofy crown.
Just as Beijing has its Olympic countdown clocks all over town, so Shanghai has its own countdown.
This museum seems to exist mainly to hype the World’s Fair. There’s an exhibit about the history of such exhibitions.
They have a massive miniature version of the city. Notice the sign VIRTUAL WORLD behind the people. In there was a 360 degree screen showing a computer animated tour of what the city will look like at the time of the Fair. All I can say is if the fair grounds is half as impressive in reality as it looked here, it’s going to be pretty amazing. Their motto is “Better City, Better Life” and they’re focused on how cities can become more livable, sustainable, and cute.
This is the Shanghai Art Museum. I didn’t go in, and instead just sort of wandered around the park.
I bought a bottle of green tea and sat to rest my feet. This little girl terrorized pigeons for quite some time as other kids were trying to feed them.

And with that hair-raising cliff-hanger, we will pause to upload some pictures. Join us next time when our hero ventures further into the exotic depths of this city of the future.

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