I knew nothing about Shanghai before arriving here, apart from the fact that I had to live near an area called The Bund. Anyway, when I got out of the metro station nearest to my hotel, two things happened. First, this Apple flagship store was right in front of the metro exit. Nice! A very positive first impression of Shanghai.
The second thing was that as soon as I got out of the metro, I was approached by prostitutes (this was, like, 3.00PM), offering their services, euphemistically, as “lady massage”. They must be desperate for customers if they approach me while visibly struggling with my backpack, bag and suitcase along the pedestrian shopping street. This welcome was pretty sleazy if you if you ask me. So, first impressions are mixed.
With a few hours of daylight left after finding my hotel, I went down to the embankment on the western side of the Huangpu River and it’s this bit that is known as The Bund.
Behind you, you have the most amazing line of buildings in different architectural styles, all with a different history. For example, the clock on the Shanghai Custom House chimes every 15 minutes.
In front of you, across the river, you have this futuristic brand-new city, where the Oriental Pearl Tower stands out as the centrepiece of the Shanghai skyline. The view creates quite an impact when you walk up the steps to the walkway, and I found the first view of this pretty exhilarating. Especially today, as the sky was so blue.
As I was walking along the river, people started chatting with me a couple of times. In each case, they were students from Xi’en. And in each case, they invited me to some kind if traditional performance. I was too tired to say yes, but the thought struck me that maybe people from Xi’en are particularly friendly. Both university students who helped me out on the trains through China two years ago were from Xi’en.
After dark, the walkway along the Bund became very crowded. This is obviously the place to go for a stroll in Shanghai. The Shanghai skyline looks even more amazing at night.
I also walked back to Nanjing Road, the pedestrian shopping street in the centre of Shanghai. Again, I got mixed impressions.
The street was buzzing. Stuff happening everywhere, and it was very interesting to observe what was going on.
Several times, I came across groups doing stuff like dancing.
And once, I saw this group just hanging out with friends in some kind of bring-your-own-chair arrangement.
At the same time, the prostitutes were out in full force. Along this very busy shopping street, with kids, families, tourists and people of all ages all around me, I was approached between 20 and 30 times this evening.The offers usually started with, “Do you want massage?” to “Lady massage?”, “Sex massage?” and to extremely explicit descriptions of what was on offer – including guys coming up to me, showing me pictures of girls. If Nanjing Road in Shanghai is an example of the New China, it’s pretty sad.
I’ve got very mixed impressions of Shanghai so far. I hope to see the old part of town tomorrow.