Archive for the ‘French Concession’ Tag

Shoes, skyscrapers, shops and subways

I spent my second day in Shanghai exploring further. I set off first to find the Train Ticket Office, located (according to the staff at my hotel) in the pedestrian shopping mall on Nanjing Road East, where it intersects with Central Zheijiang Road. Walk out of the hotel to the main road, turn right, then turn into the third street on the left, then keep walking until you get to Nanjing and look for a little window in a wall somewhere. Armed with the words “train ticket office” written down in Chinese, I got going.

Central Zheijiang St proved to be a great street, filled with interesting local shops. I wandered into a shoe shop and came out with new sandals. The woman guessed my size exactly (and was suitably pleased with herself). They were so comfortable, I wore them the whole day with not a blister to complain of!

In the distance of this street loomed an impressive gold building. A Chinese business built a ‘gold’ skyscraper in Melbourne’s Docklands. It is distinctive as it has a boat shape as its roofline, but even in the glow of sunset, that building never looks gold and I imagine it is a constant disappointment to the people that commissioned it, given the auspicious nature of gold. This golden skyscraper in Shanghai, however, is gold no matter what the sun is doing:

My eyes are constantly gazing upwards, marveling at the beautiful Art Deco architecture. I was struck by the Gotham City quality of one building – it reminded me of the Russell St Police Headquarters in Melbourne (these days a block of apartments). The Train Ticket Office turned out to be a window at the front of this building.

Next I took the metro to South Shaanxi Road, and walked from there into the French Concession district, a leafy residential/embassy area where plane trees cover the streets with lush green canopies. I enjoyed being out of the sun’s reach for a while. There are lots of interesting shops, galleries and cafes in this area. However, I stopped for lunch in a canteen-style coffee shop where the only English I could see was in a NO SMOKING sign, and the words PUSH and PULL on the door. The food was plentiful and all on display. I could point to what I wanted, and was delighted with my selection – broccoli, eggplants, mushrooms, some cabbage (I think) and rice. Finally a more balanced proportion of the five food groups. And for a bargain price.

While I was eating, it suddenly started to rain. How serendipitous, I thought – not only have found such a great place to eat, but to have found it and be eating right when the downpour started!

Next I went to the Taikang Road arts precinct, which was packed with visitors. It’s an interesting array of shops selling silk scarves, hand crafts, paintings and photographs, leather goods. I stopped for coffee at Kommune, where I paid nearly twice the cost of my lunch for an iced coffee. Everything balances up in the end, doesn’t it? Kommune has reproductions of Mao-era propaganda posters on its walls, and I particularly loved seeing the Mao figurines in the fishtank.

I exited the arts precinct and within just a few footsteps found I had left the French Concession district behind me.

I walked to the nearest Metro station (which wasn’t that near), navigating my way through an interchange without incident. In some of the trains they have TV screens and I particularly like it when they show a program about the DOs and DON’Ts of using the Shanghai metro system. The program is hosted by a handsome man with an endearing dimple in his right cheek and a flirty smile. I could imagine him in an ad for Mac products – cheeky, smart, little bit playful and arch. Yesterday’s program showed impatient business men doing things like pulling the Emergency cord, or trying to force the doors open, with a great big red X slamming down on top of the image. Then they show a similar man sighing, and making a call on a mobile phone – big green TICK for him. The key message here? If you are running late, or miss your stop, don’t try and disrupt the entire train service, make a call and tell whoever you’re meeting that you’ll be a bit late.

Today’s episode was about finding unattended luggage. A group of teenage girls is walking along the platform. One trips over a small black wheelie bag. Oh! she says, and she and her friends gather around the bag and open it up (presumably to find out who it belongs to). WRONG! says Dimple Man. In the next scene we see the same group of girls walking with two men in uniforms and pointing out the bag. The two men approach the bag and cover it with a blanket. RIGHT! says Dimple Man. Sweetheart.

There is another ad in this vein which is a cartoon. A sullen, round-shouldered character is lugging a kind of sack over his shoulder. He avoids the bag screening x-ray machine that everyone is supposed to put their bags through when entering the Metro system. (“For everyone’s safety” the signs on the machines remind us). There is a woman (with better posture) who has a smart red-and-white tote bag, and she puts it through the machine. Then the security guards go up to the round-shouldered person and ask to see his bag. They empty the contents out and – I’m not sure what it’s supposed to contain, but I think they find items for making bombs. And then they take the man away and he looks even more sullen and hang-dog than ever.

I enjoy this existence where I can’t speak the language. I am reduced to deciphering and guessing, and filling in the gaps from my own imagination. It’s what my students at Language School have to do all the time, of course. Here I get to do it while being entertained by a completely different style of visual communication, which amuses me no end.