Tai Chi and Swanky Bars…

Another brilliant day in Shanghai. We got up at 5.45am on our last full day here so that we could go to People’s Park and see if we could scope out some local people practicing Tai Chi. We’d heard that this is generally done down on The Bund or in the park in the early hours and thought that getting there for 6am would be a good time. When we got up, the city was already wide awake and the sun was up so we were worried that we’d be too late!

We wandered over to the park where there were a lot of joggers but we couldn’t see anyone doing Tai Chi. Every time we saw someone putting their hand up into the air we stopped to look, but generally they were just performing an elaborate stretch! However, we decided to persevere and finally spotted an elderly woman stood by the swan lake who looked like she was about to do something cool, and she did!

We stood and watched as she started to perform Tai Chi moves, gliding her hands effortlessly through the air and balancing on one foot with perfect precision. It was quite mesmerising to watch, she was completely engrossed and not bothered at all by the people walking past her on their way to work.

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She let us take some photos of her and then waved us goodbye when the rain started and she went back home.

We were so pleased to have spotted an actual Chinese person doing Tai Chi so naturally – just as part of their morning routine. On our way back through the park, we were also treated to a young man who was in the middle of his own exercise routine – Kung Fu! He was stood in one of the park openings with his headphones on, performing several different moves, some of which we were pleased to recognise from our Kung Fu lesson the other day!

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Thoroughly pleased with our decision to get up early we headed back to the hostel and passed another guy also doing some form of martial arts, punching a tree with his bare hands, before leaping up some steps, both feet at a time. Near to him was a group of older men, who looked like they were giving a Tai Chi lesson to some other people in the park – we were really chuffed that we were able to see all of this and experience some authentic Chinese culture on our door step!

Later that day, it was time for Richard to satisfy a typical male urge – the need for speed – by going on the Shanghai Maglev – the world’s fastest commercial train! This is basically the ‘shuttle train’ between the city and Pudong Airport and leaves from Longyang Road Station on Metro Line 2. It takes just 7 minutes to do the journey to the airport and reaches a top speed of 431 km/h (267 mph)!

It only costs 8 Yuan (8 quid) for a round trip and I think Richard was the only one who was just on there for fun rather than going to the airport. He just stayed on the train while everyone got off and then came back again!

Here are his pics…

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Once this particular thrill was over, it was time for another – to go up the Shanghai World Financial Centre tower – the world’s highest observatory. We paid the entrance fee and were ushered into a space-age looking ‘booth’ where a short film about the building of the tower was shown. We then took the elevator, which travels 8 floors a second, up to the 95th floor, where we had to take another elevator up to the 100th floor.

Whilst a bit too cloudy for our liking, the views from the top were amazing! The floor was half see-through too, so we could see the tops of other skycrapers under our feet. We could also look right down onto the Jin Mao Tower, which we were in a couple of days ago – it was great to see the intricate design of the top of that building, which is probably our favourite of all the Shanghai skyscrapers.

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After floor 100, we went to look on floors 97 and 94, which also have ‘skywalks’ and got some more unique views of our spectacular surroundings.

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Once we got down from the tower, it started to get dark and we went for a walk along the Riverside Promenade – Pudong’s version of The Bund (also sometimes known as the ‘East Bund’). This is a tree-lined promenade on the bank of the Huangpu River with numerous restaurants and cafes there for you to sit in and watch the boats pass by. We went to sit outside Starbucks and treated ourselves to hot chocolate and cheesecake as we watched the neon lights turn on around us one by one.

In a change to our usual mode of transport – the metro – we decided to take the ferry back across the river. This only costs 2 Yuan each, so is 1 Yuan cheaper than the metro and very quick – plus you get to have your own ‘mini cruise’, before it drops you back right next to the Bund.

We rounded off our last night in Shanghai with a walk down to Xin Tian Di – a street not far from People’s Park which is chock full of swanky bars, cafe’s, shops and bistros. It’s completely pedestrianised so you can wander around there without having to watch out for racing taxi drivers and is also free from annoying ‘laser pen’ sellers! There were some really cool wine bars there as well as a couple of bars with live bands.

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We went into a bar called Luna which was absolutely amazing – expensive though, 60 Yuan for a small bottle of Heineken, and you don’t even want to know how pricey the cocktails were! A band called Ezel were playing there and they were the reason we went inside in the first place. We could hear them singing from outside – they sang a brilliant mix of indie songs, pop, dance, rock and a few Chinese ballads too. The lead singer did a great rendition of Eminem and Jay Z, while the girls were really versatile, singing songs from Lady Gaga, Shakira and The Cranberries as well as a few RnB divas.

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The musicians were brilliant too, especially the keyboard player and drummer who sang With or Without You by U2. The lead guitarist also did a great Bon Jovi solo! We probably stayed in there much longer than we had originally intended as when we left, the rest of the street was quietening down a bit. It was half 1 on a Tuesday morning though, so I guess that the weekends are usually busier.

All in all, our trip to Shanghai has been far better than we ever expected. It has so much going on and is completely unlike anywhere in China that we have been. It’s so strange to think that a couple of weeks ago we were sleeping on planks of wood, freezing cold with no electricity in Tibet and that now, we’re walking amongst people dripping in designer clothes and drinking in swanky neon bars next to businessmen consuming entire bottles of Hennessey on a Monday night. It’s a topsy turvy world we’re living in and no place is as topsy turvy as Shanghai!

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