Shanghai Summer 2013: Peoples Square, the POT and a Posse of Pimps


As I was meeting FOBY at the airport after lunch, my second day morning antics would be centered around Peoples Square and Nanjing Road. I stopped of for coffee adjacent to gate 7 in a lovely retro place which had neither opening/closing times displayed or a price list.  The staff were unable to understand “open and close times” despite me drawing two clocks and completing a dozen “ya, ya, ya’s”. The coffee it has to be said was first class!

The characters in the Peoples Park were top drawer old guys played chess by the ornamental pond. On the rockery by the faux waterfall ladies practised t’ai chi; the pagoda provided shelter to migrant workers and a octagenarian stretched her muscles like a young ballet dancer before wailing banshee like while hanging from a tree. In the background willowy music provided a backdrop as a young kid climbed to the pinnacle of the rocks hiding from his granddad and making weird noises to attract my attention.

I returned to the lotus pond and beyond the amusement park before heading towards a tree-lined colonnade where chess games continued along card schools and purveyors of massage treatment. I stopped her for a while to soak up the atmosphere before heading towards Nanjing Road.

Despite my travel experiences I was completely unprepared for the level of prostitution in Shanghai around Peoples Square and Nanjing Road East. I had researched the destination but nothing could have prepared me for the harassment I received. This area is a tourist hot spot and that in itself attracts the less attractive members of the black economy.. The scammers, the very aggressive touts and yes, the prostitution in the form of many offers of personal massage and jiggy jiggy are notorious. The stores are geared to Chinese and foreign tourists with correspondingly high prices. You might meet honest people trying to practice English, but you also will be subjected to the tea room and art gallery scams as well as the pure obnoxious behaviour of men and women selling something, including each other. All this at 11am and in broad daylight, the pinnacle of harassment was me being followed into the Apple Store, so an Apple a day may keep the teacher away but not your local hussy!

I zoomed out of this cornucopia of excess and took the efficient subway and the supercharged Maglev to meet FOBY at the airport. He had managed tp extract a few days holiday from his font of educational excellence in Cheonan.

He loved the Maglev too as we sped back into the city and after fobying off a few more harlots and dropping off his bags we took a stroll to the Bund for the supercharged architectural panorama that is Pudong and the Pearl Oriental Tower (POT). The Bund was alive with activity as the weather was better than the previous day, blue sky made the curtain walling spring light off in a multitude of directions. There is much more individuality in Shanghai than Seoul a throwback, I think, to his heady past.

We decided to take the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to the POT so after sneaking past the sleepers to grab a Haagen Dazs we headed underground. Be prepared, this is no sightseeing tunnel, I expected fish and water, I got the most Wonkaesque experience from all my sojourns into Asia. I know now how The Beatles felt in the midst of their LSD highs, induced by the trippy lights, that is, rather than the creepy imagery. This is a bizarre and relatively expensive (£5) way to cross from the Bund to the Pudong area and vice versa. Essentially a four seater tram straight out of Logan’s Run will take you through a neon lit tunnel to the other side. Like a glorified Ghost Train I expected Mr. Travolta to pop out at anytime with a holographic version of Night Fever.  There are other ways of crossing the Huangpu River, but this is kind of a psychedelic eccentric pointless way that I suggest you do at least once while in Shanghai.

Emerging at the other side it was a short walk to the impressive POT. Though now overshadowed by the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center, this symbol of Shanghai’s renaissance still dazzles tourists day and night. There is a Shanghai History Museum in the basement but the real attraction, particularly on a day like we had is to grab panoramic pictures of Shanghai from one of the sky-high viewing platforms. Ticket prices range from 100 to 200rmb for the Highest deck. The glass observation deck is by far the most popular and I’m not sure paying the extra tenner would be worthwhile as the views were spectacular. This 468 meters (1,536 feet) high  tower is the world’s sixth and China’s second tallest TV and radio tower. It’s base is supported by three seven-meter wide slanting stanchions. The eleven steel spheres that are ‘strung’ vertically through the center of the tower are meant to resemble Pearls There are three large spheres including the top sphere, known as the space module. Then there are five smaller spheres and three decorative spheres on the tower base. The entire structure rests on a circular landscaped area which is supposed to give the appearance of pearls shining on a jade plate!

This numpty, despite my engineering background, still felt wobbly trying to step on the glass floor while kids in their innocence just bounded across it. The glass cylinder of the Pudong Apple Store (one of 4 in Shanghai) rising below us like the centre of Dr, W’s Tardis is one landmark. The other for me is the spectacular new Shanghai Tower, just topped out it is an eye-catching addition to the Skyline. It seems we were luck as the tower wasn’t as overcrowded as usual, the MCFC sky’s blessed us with a perfect blue hue and it was an all-together memorable experience.

Returning to terra-firma we headed for the Apple Store then spent a good 15 minutes trying to find the subway before asking a police officer.  Of course he had no idea but at the foot of the steps behind him was a tourist information booth. We headed down the steps and hallelujah the subway station was there, directly below his feet! Emerging at Nanjing Road we were once again pestered with offers of sexual gratification but we headed back to refresh before another fabulous meal at Mother Shanghai Restaurant.

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