In this posting, Helmut and I are ‘Shanghaied’ without the help of drugs, appear unannounced in wedding photos and send up acrophobes at the Orient Pearl Tower
Dear Readers, it should come as no surprise to those who have experienced the deliciousness of living or visiting Shanghai, that the city is too vast, too complex, and too inscrutable to be described or reviewed concisely in a travel guidebook or magazine article. Indeed, at this very moment, with more than a few bottles of wine and ‘mother’s ruin’ drained to the dregs and littering our Astor House Hotel room floor, it seems clear that this megalopolis deserves to be honored with an entire library section! Unfortunately, a discerning imbiber like myself, or ‘lush’ as Helmut often prefers to call me, can only manage a limited piece of text, so a blog entry or two will have to suffice…
Now, dear readers, which city in the world – apart from this one – can lay claim to its very own glamorous and rather wicked English language expression? To ‘Shanghai someone’ is said to have been first used in this context in the mid nineteenth century and means to drug a man unconscious, without his knowing, and ship him unwillingly as a sailor. Isn’t it MARVELOUS how a simple two-syllable word like Shanghai can boast such an intricate and exciting meaning? Yes, the expression originated from the illegal kidnapping to fill the crews of ships making extended voyages, such as to the Chinese seaport of Shanghai.
Hubby Helmut is quite taken with this expression and harbours romantic ideas of being ‘Shanghaied’ himself. Sadly for Helmut, his travel experiences thus far, do not conform to the word’s strict definition, although he insists he HAS been called ‘Sailor’ on a few rowdy occasions!
Parks in China provide a welcome refuge from the noise and bustle of city life, and those in Shanghai are no exception. Park visitors, particularly the elderly, can be found there performing martial arts such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Others go to dance, meditate, fly kites and play badminton or mahjong. A ‘must-see’ for us old crocs is Fuxing Park, an expanse of green, situated in the former colonial ‘French Concession’ area of Shanghai called Luwan. This delightful park is designed in the French style with a centre lake, fountains, covered pavilions and flowerbeds and provides the perfect place for a quiet tipple! In a romantic setting, underneath the spreading sycamore trees, Chinese couples of a certain age meet up to dance the afternoon away, surrounded by statues of Marx and Lenin.
Helmut and I become rather nostalgic watching the happy, waltzing couples
Oh how their dancing takes us back through the years, back to our fumbling courtship, or to what our local law enforcers preferred to call ‘disturbing the peace’…Dear readers, to this day, we keep a framed copy of our mug shots, next to the wet bar, to remind us of that wonderful, intoxicating time!
On the subject of sentiment, Shanghai’s Bund area, with its magnificent art deco buildings on one side of the Huangpu River, and futuristic vistas on the other bank, provides young couples, especially newlyweds, with the perfect backdrop for their romantic souvenir pictures.
It is not uncommon during the weekend to see an entire assortment of brides and grooms, clad in western-style wedding garb, posing in front of a camera.
Helmut ADORES being a show-off and always tries to worm his way into their shots. Just imagine dear readers, the delightful surprise of the happy pairs when they develop their wedding pictures, only to spot what appears to be an elderly, inebriated Westerner, waving two bony fingers and pulling his best ‘zombie face’ in the background! What an auspicious start to their married life!
The Orient Pearl Tower
Opposite the Bund and across the Huangpu River, is Shanghai’s gleaming and opulent landmark, the Oriental Pearl Tower. Built as a radio and TV tower, the Oriental Pearl was completed in 1994 and at 1,535 feet high, used to be the tallest structure in China until it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Centre in 2007. Hubby Helmut and I are eager to see the Observation Deck on the 88th floor, and we wait in line with hundreds of tiresome tourists for our designated lift. When it arrives, complete with a uniformed ‘lift hostess’, we are subjected to a lecture in English, lasting for the ENTIRE duration of our upward journey!
At the summit, the lifts open out into a vast hall with floor to ceiling glass windows and a 360-degree panoramic view of the sprawling city below. Outside and encircling the Observation Deck is the ‘skywalk’ – a glass ledge full of visitors, apparently standing in mid-air
Helmut, who has an uncanny gift for sniffing out anyone with a phobia, in this case acrophobia or fear of heights, offers those who are clutching at the railings and exhibiting a green or white pallor, a swig from his hip-flask, while asking if they need a parachute with that! Strangely enough, we are the only ones amused at his little joke! What a dull lot!
This type of light-hearted banter seems to give Helmut an enormous appetite. Outside the Oriental Pearl, while jokingly asking a few Shanghai families if they could recommend a good restaurant apart from McDonald’s, Helmut reaffirms his natural ability to communicate with their children.