Zhujiajiao is a village near Shanghai that has a 5000 year history. There are a few such water towns in what I think is the river delta around Shanghai. Marco Polo referred to these towns as reminders of Venice in his travels. The old town is largely preserved here and full of little shops, restaurants etc. Some of the travel is still done by boat within the town and, of course, there are people willing to show you the town from boat.
A town built around the water necessarily must have bridges. And, these stone bridges are really quite impressive creations. They are designed for walking and small vehicles – bikes, carts, etc. There are no four wheeled vehicles within the old town.
We used the city transit system to come to Zhujiajiao. It is a challenge to find things like the right bus stop and then the right bus when you don’t have the language. Scott and Juliette were helpful here for sure as they had taken the bus back from the village one time so had a good sense of where to go. The guide books make it sound easy but I found it far from easy.
Large metropolitan cities present many faces to both the visitor and resident. They have multi-dimensional aspects that provide a diversity of experience and opportunities.
The Bund clearly demonstrates how a city can utilize historical buildings as one element of that diversity. The Bund lies along one banks of the Huangpo River – directly opposite the dazzling towers of the new Pudong district. The buildings are lit up at night with some coherency in colour and yet some unique colours. I like the way of of these buildings creates a pink accent by using light to pick up the colour in the brick. Whether it was planned or accidental, this city has done itself a grant service by preserving these buildings and building the new towers elsewhere.
Today, these buildings hold some of the most expensive stores, restaurants and hotels in Shanghai. (Frankly, I still can’t get my head around the tremendous diversity in income in China within a communist perspective. The gap between rich and poor in China is huge and I am guessing growing.)
Are there any places in Canada that truly preserve their historical districts as coherent entities. Old Montreal. Old Quebec City. Alas, in Edmonton, the middle 1900′s were not kind to our historical heritage as we removed the old courthouse and other buildings to make way for glass and steele, shopping malls, etc.
A somewhat uninspiring photo of Pudong – quite representative of what China is trying to become. This district across from old Shanghai was agricultural into the early 1990′s. Now, it is an international finance and trade centre. The tall Pearl Tower was one of the first buildings constructed and was a very tall tv tower when completed. Now, it has been surpassed by many including the CN Tower in Toronto.
The view at night is quite impressive. Scott and Juliette live on the Pudong side of the river but are a number of miles back from this centre. They live in a very multi-cultural part of Pudong – their area seems to be the home of many middle (and some upper) class Chinese and foreigners. When we walked through their area on a Saturday morning, it felt very much like a late winter morning in Vancouver with soccer fields full and many languages being spoken.
Not a great shot but suffice to say the main street of Shanghai could be practically any major city on earth. All the big brands including the most expensive are along this street – along with local firms like The Silk King. The street is a pedestrian mall for maybe a mile and was full of people anytime we were there. One only needed to watch out for the two tourist trains that went up and down the street – once again, wheels have priority over feet even on a pedestrian mall.
At one end of the mall is People’s Square – a largish square with these two large video screens installed permanently. It must make the square somewhat more functional with such built in audio/video facilities to support performances, speeches. The Square is underlain by a huge subway station with a couple or three lines criss-crossing.
While walking the mall, you (as a tourist) are regularly invited to go with some character to look at the watches s/he has to sell you. Not really a recommended activity as, within a block of the street, you step back many, many years into narrow streets, alleys, etc. We always felt safe in China. Crimes are harshly dealt with and it seems are not common. But, a scam of a naive tourist seems more common – the news reported even Chinese nationals being scammed when traveling from their home city. Never do anything without having a firm price in advance.