Day 33 - Thursday 4th May - Shanghai

The group went on a bus tour of Shanghai today. Loris and I decided to opt out and do our own tour. The subway system in Shanghai is first class. I think that there are currently 14 lines with another 7 under construction. Clean, fast, efficient, cheap and easy to use. We were on and off them all day long. The first ting that I noticed and had not seen previously were the ads they were running in all the tunnels. You will be used to ads on the tunnel walls of stations, but not the tunnels while you are travelling along at high speed. The challenge is to make the ad move along with you at the speed of the train so you can read it. I could not work out whether they were projecting the ad on the tunnel wall from projectors on the train, or there was some LED panel technology in the tunnels and somehow the adds moved along the screens at the speed of the train.

We started off with a walk up Nanjing Road to the Peoples Park. This section of road is now a pedestrian mall dedicated to every designer brand in the world. At 0900 cool, wet and deserted as most of the shops had not opened. In a few the management had all the staff lined up at the doorways in military formation giving them their morning pep talk (I’m learning a lot here).  We were headed for the Shanghai Museum. Its Chinese paintings date back 9 centuries and its ceramics collection has pieces dating back 6.5 thousand years.

The paintings are nearly all monochrome and reflect a close link to calligraphy. There are those painted in the official style and there were the few who broke loose and used some colour.

The ceramics collection showed the transition from unglazed pottery to the development of glazes and fine porcelain. From the 11th Century the Imperial Kilns were set up in Jingdezhen and more than half the collection was devoted to work from this city from both the Imperial and folk kilns through the Ming and Qing dynasties. It put into perspective our visit to Jingdezhen and its place in the history of ceramics.

Museumed out we headed for the Tianzifang alleys with artists shops. Unfortunately the artists were out numbered by the bars, tea houses and restaurants. The Chinese love their food.

So we finished off the day at a quirky little private museum. The Propaganda Poster Museum which traced the history of Propaganda posters from the 1920’s through their zenith in the 60’s to the 90’s when they died a natural death with the change of government policy and leadership. Given that most of this type of material was printed on poor quality paper and the posters stuck up in the streets to communicate government policy, it’s amazing that the museum had managed to gather a collection of over 6000 posters.

We finished the day with a visit to the Bund and its dazzling light show. Unfortunately, like on previous occasions I have done this, we were accompanied by about 100 million local tourists and trying to take selfies in the best spots. We tried for dinner at the Peace Hotel in its famous Jazz Bar. The band has been playing their continuously since the 30’s and I think the musicians are the originals (oldest 94, average age 76). Unfortunately all the tables were booked so we only managed a short interlude.

Although westerners are relatively common in Shanghai, English is still not pervasive. Dinner was one of those experiences where we had no idea what to order and as it was a hot pot, how to cook it. Google Translate came to the fore with waitress and those ordering barking into the phone with sometimes amusing results. In the end I think we got what we asked for and were happy with the results.