Sunday, January 27, 2008

Things to do on a rainy weekend

It’s not all about work here in Shanghai. I do get plenty of opportunities to catch my breath and relax, and when that happens I don’t want to do anything. During my downtime I am usually slumped in my sofa here at the hotel, watching TV or reading books, or else catching up on precious sleep. What’s more, the internet connection is excruciatingly slow and posting pictures and blogging has become an exercise in patience. Two weeks late (but better late than never), here is a recap of what I did during my first weekend here in Shanghai.

The rain ruined our plans to visit Hangzhou for the weekend, so my boss Claudia and I decided to visit the Shanghai Museum instead. We thought that perhaps the rain would die down, and learning about Chinese culture while waiting it out was a good plan.

The museum was organized according to art materials: ceramics, bronze, jade, textiles, furniture, etc. There were some very lovely things on exhibit in the museum but one couldn’t help wondering why a country with such a rich and varied history as China wouldn’t have more art to showcase. Someone at the office explained that a lot of art was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and some were smuggled out of the country. It’s a shame really, because a lot could be learned by future generations from beautiful Chinese artistry. After approximately three hours in the museum (with a tea break after an hour and a half of walking around with an audio guide glued to our ears), we decided to call it a day. That’s when Prime Minister Gordon Brown walked into the museum, with about 100 people trailing him and crowding the escalators. We watched him ascend all the way up to the fourth floor before heading outside, and once there we were stopped by security and told to wait in the rain until he left. Apparently it was a big security concern to walk to the other side of the street despite fact that Mr. Brown was still in the museum. I don’t understand how that impacts his safety, but whatever – I did what I was told.

After visiting the museum, we visited the shopping center next door called the D Hong Kong mall. The mall is located inside an old bomb shelter, built in the days of the Cold War, and you could tell that it was indeed a bomb shelter by the low ceilings and poor lighting. The shopping wasn’t great but the location was worth a visit. The place was quite big, and you couldn’t help but wonder how many people they planned to stick in there when it was built.

Pictures are here.

Again, it was raining. Claudia, having had enough after walking home the night before (there were no taxis so we had to walk back to our hotel room), decided that she was going to stay in and rest during the day. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea spending a day at the hotel so I decided to take a walking tour of the Bund. The Bund is the business area here in Shanghai situated on the banks of the Hangpu River. There’s a nice promenade that stretches that showcases the buildings and history of Shanghai. I made the most of it by passing some landmarks and taking pictures of Pudong (still a part of Shanghai) across the river. I came home shortly thereafter and drank plenty of hot tea to warm me up again. I wouldn’t normally insist on talking a walking tour of anything during the rain, but there were other people there as well taking in the sights despite the horrible weather.

Pictures are here.

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