Hi all! – Today is our first day in Shanghai, the strangest city I’ve been to in a long time! We woke up to a ‘foggy’ day (wishful thinking, it may be pollution!) which makes the city dark since 8 am. It’s been like this all day, not very good for taking pictures and a bit miserable. We catch a cab which is really cheap considering it took 40 minutes to get to People’s Square (cultural centre of the city)! Here, everything seems a bit better (an Asian New York), not as old and dirty as the rest of the city. Nonetheless, the landscape is all similar: endless buildings (slim and higher than I imagined – they have an obvious space problem!), not much green, terrible traffic (therefore, noise) and once in the centre, all sorts of shops and businesses. In an attempt to find the entrance to People’s Square, we find ourselves in the underground world again. The Chinese, like the Japanese, seem to love underground ‘malls’ – several kilometres of shops and restaurants extend below the surface… in fact, life is better there! Fresher, nicer, busier! I can’t help thinking this is what things may look like if one day human beings are forced to live underground. Up again into the real world: it’s hot and sticky, but we seem to be in the Square. People are feeding white Japanese pigeons, and many stare at us. I don’t think they see many foreigners. We stumble upon the city’s Museum of Art. This has been the highlight of the day for me: there was an exhibition on Maori (New Zealand ancient inhabitants) with amazing artefacts made of wood, whale bone, a green stone called POUNAMU (pretty cool), kiwi feathers etc. We admire the Chinese calligraphy, learn about the invention of Porcelain (interesting fact: there are 2 ways of glazing – the inside of, say, a bowl, is glazed with the ‘shaking method’ and the outside with the ‘dripping method’) – with exquisite examples from the Ming and Qing periods, their furniture (wonderful wooden wardrobes, chairs and beds with all sorts of carvings, embellished by their lacquer techniques), coins and seals (well, we walked past this, a bit boring) and last but not least: the Chinese Ethnic Minorities section. Extraordinary examples of all ethnicities which form part of the enormous country that is China (56 ethnic groups, i.e.: Tibetan, Manchurian etc) – such as costumes, masques and other artefacts (snuff boxes!). I am in love with these costumes and the crafts displayed on them: brocade (pattern of gold and silver threads), dyeing, embroidery (stitching with satin, silk or cotton) and many others. I am amazed at the perfection, detail and colourful end result of these art pieces. To think that these people, living in the cold mountains of Tibet, still had the time to create such beauties (including jewellery, fur hats, ‘Aladdin’ shoes) and I’m sure, enjoyed wearing them, is a reflection of their interest in colour and fabrics, as well as their good taste. After this wonderful morning (in between which we were ripped off when buying 2 green teas = £10!!) we walk further on to Nanjing Road (main commercial street in Shanghai) to try and have a walk. It’s nice, much like any other commercial street in a large city (except for the gigantic fish tank with sharks and turtles positioned amongst other shop windows – we thought it was a video image at first!!) and a bit annoying, as people keep nagging us to buy one thing or another – every few metres, at least, the same offer: watch! Bags! Tours! Aaarg! Please leave us alone! Occasionally we come across another ‘foreigner’ but to be honest, there are almost none. Finally we get to the last sight-seeing spot of the day: The Bund, from which to admire the extremely dirty (!) Huangpu River, at the other side of which one can more or less appreciate (surrounded by more fog) the city’s financial zone, consisting of more high-rise buildings (mainly banks) and a Radio and Television Tower. By this point it’s raining and we happily run back to the tube. This one is much easier than Japan’s, fewer lines I guess! Tomorrow more!!
B & M

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