We got up in time for breakfast this morning, at about 9am, despite having arrived after 2am at our hotel. After an excellent breakfast, we decided to go for a walk on this overcast day down Fuzhou Road, where many art supply houses and bookstores are located.
Tali managed to find more sketchbooks she can use for her work, and we also managed to locate a bunch of Starbucks – evidently all of the Starbucks in China are huddled together here in Shanghai! We are so happy to be in a city where there are lots of places to take breaks, have a drink, consult maps, and think in relative peace! It doesn’t really matter whether they are tea houses or coffee shops, whether they are a global or a local brand…the nature of a day’s city walking is changed, especially if it’s hot and humid outside, like today, when there are respites possible at regular intervals.
At the same time, while walking down Nanjing Road pedestrian mall, surrounded by global designer stores, it’s impossible not to notice that this part of Shanghai could be located practically anywhere in the world – there is a certain retail anonymity to this area that is unique in China to Shanghai, and quite a contrast to the cities in the more rural areas of southwestern and western China that we have just been touring. In a way, this anonymity is a bit reassuring, like a taste of home, but it’s also lacking in the vibrant ethnic character we saw in so many places out in the countryside.
Shanghai is certainly the most global city in China, much more so than Beijing, which still feels like a purely Chinese city. The architecture here is varied and exciting, there are lots of venues for seeing contemporary art, and there are many restaurants offering excellent cuisine from all over the world.
It’s also one of the few cities in the parts of China I’ve visited that has a working river running through it – in most places I’ve seen during this trip, cities that originally grew up around rivers now have a dry riverbed running through them instead, or a hundred meters or so of water that sits still, like a little lake. All the water has been rerouted for agricultural and industrial use, except here in Shanghai.
When it started to rain a bit more persistently, a little after 3pm, we first had lunch at Godly vegetarian restaurant, which we were told was closing at 3:30pm – and we vowed to never again eat at any restaurant where the waitress tells you they are closing soon, because for sure the food will taste as if the primary goal is not for you to have an enjoyable meal, but for you to pay and leave as quickly as possible! It was still raining when we left after mostly not eating our lunch, so we took a taxi back to our hotel, vowing to go for a walk along the Bund later on, if it stops raining.
Since Tali has already showered and is sleeping soundly as I write this, I’m doubtful our evening walk along the Bund will be happening tonight, but you never know…