Shanghai was a really nice long weekend city break for us, especially after all the stairs up and down the mountains of Huangshan! We stayed with Noelan, who is a lovely guy from San Francisco that Pete met during his first China adventure five years ago and lives in Shanghai for most of the year. It was super nice of him to let us stay with him and his brother, Lucas, and it made our arrival into the city so easy!
We didn’t have any definite plans for Shanghai to be honest which was pretty nice; it took the pressure off.
Soph needed a bit of a creative fix so we walked down a canal (quite a large river in European terms) to a place called M50, a group of old warehouses that have been turned into individual, independent galleries. Pretty cool and great for a browse. Our favourite exhibition was at Island 6 which combined traditional art with moving image on top or hidden within it… it was very thought provoking.
Then we got stuck in the rain…
We wandered round some more traditional streets in the French Quarter, where we were staying, which have been turned into quirky shops, galleries and cafes.
There was some really nice photography in little galleries there too which was really good to see.
We saw the view from The Bund which is an imposing row of colonial buildings along the river built by the British (showing off their colonial power) and is now mainly used for banking. Noelan knew of a good hostel bar with amazing views across the river which was pretty impressive.
People in Shanghai don’t seem to do too much work.
But lots of washing gets done.
Lastly we had some good wanders around parks (in the super heat) just watching the local people going about their business. The People’s Park is pretty famous and touristy (a bit too busy) but it’s pretty around the ponds. We loved Fuxing Park, where all the old people hang out to chat, play games and maybe do a bit of exercise.
There were two amazing old men writing on the floor with huge calligraphy brushes with what we first assumed must be paint, but it turned out just to be water. They used one pavement square for each Chinese character, writing from top to bottom. We sat and watched them for a while, so intrigued by it and watching their skill with the brush. When he had finished, the guy closest to us said ‘nǐhǎo’ so we said hello back and expected that to be the extent of our conversation, but it turned out that his English was pretty good.
He told us that it was an ancient poem that he’d written on the floor and that unless it rains he comes and writes the same poem on the floor every day. The end of the poem was still visible but the beginning had already evaporated, until it was written again the next day. The whole thing is pretty, well, poetic really and it was amazing to watch. Before we said goodbye he wrote England (Yínggǔo) and the Chinese characters for us on the floor.