Before continuing below to my trip report from February 2015, here is an update article about my return to Shanghai a year later:
February 2015--I took a 10 day trip to Shanghai. Spending most of the time in the Former French Concession, I enjoyed the beautiful streets and sights.
This part of Shanghai is known for its Lane Roads. They are not wide enough for traffic and have a quiet air making for an atmosphere pleasantly out of place in a mega-city like Shanghai.
Click on the image of the girl flying the kite or on the text in the description to navigate to the short blog post about the photography exhibition entitled 'Life of Leisure" I took part in in Shanghai on the 21st of February.
Visiting Shanghai and looking at the city as a photographer, I was constantly impressed by the shadows everywhere. The light played off of every imaginable surface, throughout the day, in ways that they simply don't in Yichang. Perhaps I enjoyed such simple pleasures because I so often live without them. Xenia and I experienced mild form of mania that comes from being reacquainted with blue skies, good air quality, daylight, and pedestrians who dressed well and walked with an assured gait. These are all things that so many take for granted. But living in a small interior city of China teaches me to cherish these small things once I get to experience them again.
The feeling of simply enjoying a pleasant late-morning walk while on holiday is made even more wonderful by the fact that such pleasures are rare for me as they are impossible in Yichang. Taking those walks with a belly full of food that continues to taste good in the mind's mouth long after the meal can be describes as post-coital.
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Experiencing the bright lights of the big city is overwhelming in ways that are hard to articulate. Not having experienced it for so long, I found myself easily wowed. Although the world's largest hydro-electric dam is a 40 minute drive from where I live in Yichang, all of that energy is sold to cities like Beijing and Shanghai, leaving Yichang to rely more and more on dirty energy. This is the way things have to be. After all, the revolving mannequins at the Uniqlo are not going to rotate on pedestal by themselves. In Shanghai, nightfall doesn't lead to darkness. The streets are aglow.
I have long regarded Shanghai as a very romantic city. This trip was the first time I have been there in seven years. It was not as beautiful as I remembered it. It was much better.
We made use of Shanghai's tourist attractions no more than two or three times. One morning we decided to go to the Shanghai aquarium just outside of the lujiazui metro stop, just across the river on the pudong side. Morning for us (after our big breakfast at Sunflour) meant 1 PM. Later we would learn that outside of some tourist attractions, just along the river, there is nothing catering to visitors in the Pudong district. It is a financial center for brokers and businessmen.
This was the only time we experienced a crowd during the entire trip. Since this was the week of Spring Festival, the Former French Concession was sleepy and even a few places were closed for the holiday. More than once we had to come up with a plan B when we discovered the restaurant we picked was closed until the 25th. But tourist attractions, like the aquarium, were overrun with travelers from around China who chose to come to Shanghai to enjoy their holiday. We were not about to wait to reach the ticket counter only to enter a dark and noisy aquarium. That was not our idea of a good time.
Only slightly disappointed, we found our way towards the back of the main building where cars were being parked. There we stumbled upon a little park.
The pond reflected the Oriental Pearl Television Tower like a mirror. I actually spend so much time looking at the pond and searching out the perfect angle that I completely ignored that the actual tower was looming overhead through the trees.
I patiently waited for the breeze to calm and to smooth out the ripples that distorted the image reflecting in the water. Minutes before a light rain, my patience paid off.
I usually do not seek out buildings to photograph. They show no feeling and require a wide angle len$ to really photograph them right. Looking up at the crowning jewels of the Shanghai skyline (as they looks down on me), I couldn't help but be reminded how so often it is what is on the inside that counts.
Throwing coins into the urn of the Jing'An temple. I found a spot on the opposite side where I could perch and not intrude on other visitors' experience.
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Traveling excites a child-like joy where everyday objects seem whimsical and amazing. Tourists annoy locals and tourists don't care. They are too busy showing their partners the most amazing thing they have ever seen. and laughing uncontrollably, drawing attention to themselves and puzzling saner minds.
But the truth about traveling is that what titillates the imagination and draws one around the next corner seldom satisfies expectations.
Who was I kidding?
But in traveling disappointment, as best, lead to laughter. If it doesn't lead to laughter then it becomes one hell of a story which over time grows into something legendary. Luckily on this trip to Shanghai, the days were just pleasant walks between wonderful meals.
I couldn't get over the fact that Shanghai is so well lit. So many restaurants were designed beautifully. I really felt that I took Xenia on dates during an extended Valentine's Day.
Rather than staying in hotel rooms that often feel impersonal and located in big commercial areas, we booked through airbnb and found amazing rooms on quiet streets. Behind paint-chipped doors with wobbly door knobs, and up dusty staircases, we opened such doors to discover immaculatly decorated studio apartments that cost around $50 a night.
We could imagine coming home to our beautiful apartment rather than to our hotel room.
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At the conclusion of writing this, three weeks have passed since returning to Yichang. I play over and over in my mind how I want to write about the experience. Xenia was an incredible travel buddy and as she is a special person to me. Between Xenia and I, we talked on and on and our words fell into perfectly timed joked and perfect joy that I wish I could have recorded and could rewrite now. But it mostly escapes me and remains only as a memory of a happy moment...that lasted ten beautiful days and nights.
Feedback and comments are warmly welcome.