Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Shanghai 23.04.10 - 26.04.10

Governor Yu's garden

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai, the final stop on our tour of China and the last port of call on our round the world adventure! What a trip it's been! We've been to some fantastic places and seen some amazing things. It's been a trip of a lifetime and Shanghai is our final taste of a different culture, as we prepare ourselves for going home to Britain and all that that entails. We're looking forward to some good British food, like a roast dinner or even a good ham sandwich, on proper bread! And a good cup of British tea. I know China is the land of tea and they do do a mean cup of green or jasmine tea but they kill their black tea by stewing it for ages, making it too bitter. We'll miss the excitement of not knowing what our next destination will be like and the buzz we get when we find we're able to navigate the local public transport system, or we're able to have a successful conversation with someone! We'll definitely miss the variety of scenery we've encountered and the journeys themselves, mostly by bus and car, where we've watched the countryside of different nations fly past us. It's been a great life experience and has taught us a lot about the world and the ways in which different people live. It's also made us very grateful for the lives we lead in the UK and the privileges that living there brings us. I'm sure we'll appreciate Britain more than we did before we started travelling. There are many lovely places to visit in Britain and a whole lot of history which, I'm ashamed to say, I'm yet to have a full grasp of. It's my aim though, to learn more about the country I'm from, just as I've given my enthusiasm to learning about the countries we've visited.
Shanghai is a fitting place to end our tour because it's the most cosmopolitan Chinese city and has a rich history of foreign trade with Europe, resulting in many examples of British and French building styles. The Bund, as it's known, is the street which runs alongside the river in Shanghai and boasts magnificent European buildings from the 1930s and 40s, including a Big Ben clock tower. Shanghai was a buzzing treaty port city with incoming foreigners setting up businesses and trading with the Chinese. Much investment occurred in the 1930s and led to a booming economy playing host to all the fun and frivolity of the age of jazz, dancehall and a new freedom of style and expression. The city now is the most contemporary and forward thinking we've come across. Most of the skycrapers and defining architecture has sprung up in the last ten years only. They're very adept at tearing down old neighbourhoods to build flashy apartments for high class living! We've arrived just before Shanghai Expo 2010 opens in a few days time and the final preparations are underway for the six month long international fair to showcase new design and technology from countries around the world as well as China. The city is being cleaned up to perfection, there are garden displays and expo adverts everywhere. It should bring a lot of attention to Shanghai and boost its power as a leading international city. The city still does have some older treasures too, in amongst the ultra modern tower blocks. Apart from the famous Bund, there is the exquisite garden of Governor Yu, which exemplifies the beauty of Chinese horticulture. The garden is designed in a series of sections including an enormous rock fountain, pavilion gardens, lake and small river all divided up by ornate curving walls with giant stone dragons flying across the top. It's not on the scale of the parklands of the Summer Palace in Beijing. This is a private garden in the middle of the city and covers an area of about 500 square metres. We especially enjoy it because, from every angle, there is the perfect photo opportunity for a snapshot of a traditional Chinese scene.
Shanghai is the most busy city we've been to on the whole of our travels. There's a street that's been pedestrianised and when we walk it on a Saturday afternoon it's like how busy it would be at New Year in London or if a huge festival was taking place. It's hoaching with people. And there are a huge number of Chinese tourists in tour parties, all wearing the same colour of baseball cap, being led by a guide with a microphone and speaker hooked on to their back. I hold on to Greg for dear life as he leads me through the throng! But it's very safe here. There are police and traffic wardens on every corner helping pedestrians cross the road and making sure no one causes any major disturbances. The only major disturbances are the Chinese themselves! They do have a way of talking very loudly and the very nature of the language makes it sound like they're having an argument, even if they're not!
So, this is the end. Tomorrow we go home and soon our memories will fade. At least we'll have our pictures and this blog. Thank you for reading.