Monday, 30 August 2010

China - The first Xiaolongbao

Day 16

Hello everyone!

I arrived in Shanghai at 10.30am after a somewhat uneventful 18 hour train from Hong Kong. The pace of my trip quickens somewhat from this point. Tomorrow's schedule was occupied by one attraction - the world EXPO - so I had this day to see as much of Shanghai as possible. 3...2...1...GO!

My first port of call was a quirky one, and not one that is high on the list of most tourists, but it was of great interest to me. I went into an innocent, communist-style apartment block in the suburbs of the French Concession and headed down to the basement. What I found was the wonderful Propaganda Poster museum.

After Deng Xiaopeng became leader in 1979, many items of Chinese propaganda were destroyed. Of the few items that survived this cull, many are located in this museum, and it is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of Chinese leaders during the Cold War era.

As you would expect, there is a lot of positivity for Mao and his ideas depicted in these posters. Some of the quotes about harmony and success were cute and hilarious in equal measure. As you would expect, there are also a lot of anti-imperial, anti-American posters. What I didn't expect were posters promoting the Black Power movement, and Egypt's right to the Suez Canal. The latter example shows that Britain was not immune to criticism.

As a Politics and Modern History graduate and someone with a keen interest in the Cold War, this exhibition really appealed to me. I could have stayed for hours, but there was a lot more to see. Shanghai is bigger than London. After walking through the beautiful French Concession - like in Beijing, parts of Shanghai feel like a European suburb - I went to Yuyuan bazaar, on a tip from a girl on the train. I was after a very famous food - xiaolongbao.

The place that sells these pork and crabmeat dumplings is a Shanghai institution, which explained the frighteningly long queue for the takeaway booth. 30 minutes later and I was holding a precious tray of sixteen xiaolongbao. Five minutes later I was holding an empty tray - all I'd had the previous 24 hours was banana bread, so I was in no mood to savour them. They were fantastic, though.

Gluttony over, I headed to Shanghai's piece de resistance - the Bund. Like your standard promenade; but with historic European architecture on your side of the Huangpu River, and crazy Chinese skyscrapers on the other. It was a beautiful stroll. I then hopped on a ferry to the other side, Pudong, to get a close-up view of China's tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Centre. It's the one with the big hole in it. Feng shui, maybe.

I went to a slightly smaller tower, the Jinmao Tower, to get a night view of the skyline. A mere 88 floors. In spite of what I was told when trying to buy a ticket, it was a clear view. I would have been more impressed it I had seen this before Hong Kong, but it was still decent.

I've been very impressed by Shanghai, and wish I had longer to explore more of it. I still have one more day, of course, but only one thing is happening tomorrow - EXPO!

Love you all


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