The best city (so far) we’ve liked in China. Too much to tell, even more to experience! Please dive in for the full story :)
Shanghai is the most dynamic city I have ever seen: it is always under construction
the skyscrapers are constantly being raised right upon your eyes
Due to the fast, clean and very effective subway you can travel through long distances in just minutes.
There is no limit for cultural life and education – You will find yourself in the forest of museums, theaters and art galleries
And finally, there are (less than in Hong Kong, but still) lots of non-Asian foreigners (guests, ex-patriats, de-patriats and so forth – I am not an expert in those castes yet :)
I am 99% sure that Beijing or Shanghai will be your first destination on Mainland China (should you choose to visit it one day). Those megalopolis (that should be both marked as “must-see”) are very different: simplifying the associations to the bottom Beijing reminds gray Moscow with its monumental buildings and structures, governmental cars, cold climate, soldiers and (hidden) aristocracy.
Shanghai spirit has (oversimplified again) some parallels with Hong Kong: very economically oriented, colorful and futuristic. Thousands kilometers away, I can’t stop looking on the pictures of the breathtaking skyline:
In Shanghai we finally stopped working on prepared kinds of organized schedule, bringing up some adrenaline and magnifying the surprise factor. We’ve popped up from the subway on Lujazui station and let the city to take us into the adventure. The beautiful (and expensive) Pearl Tower (the ultimate Shanghai symbol that can be found even on the heralds of the Chinese Lomography embassy) consists of several viewing levels and hotel rooms in between.
We’ve failed to find any kind of promenade nearby, but all the roads lead to the only accessible huge mall. Luckily, we’ve followed a group of locals and got to the ferry station that was transferring people to the other bank. The one penny journey lasted 5 minutes at most.
Who are those sad people? They are passengers and wait patiently to get on our ferry on Dongmen Lu station.
We’ve proceeded through a market and got to the South Bund district, stuffed with locals, tourists, shops, travel agents and crowned by a highly recommended (by Lonely Planet) Huxinting teahouse in Yu Garden
If you are a tea lover and plan to arrive to China you probably have very high hopes on the local tea houses. If it is one of your first acquaintances with the Chinese tea, I would definitely recommend to visit some decent tea house to experience the Gongfu Cha ceremony But frequent visits to teahouses might be less useful and will surely have high impact on your pocket: the place is for tourists and high-rank people to enjoy the luxury, discuss partnership terms and sign contracts. As about the tea quality and especially the service – for us it was a matter of luck (or its absence).
Where can a devoted tea lover learn and enjoy true Chinese tea as much as he can? Where else but the tea shops and especially the tea markets!
In any tea shop you can taste any tea before buying it. You can even taste several kinds of tea until you find the one you really wanna buy. The testing process is much similar to the Gongfu Cha ceremony, but with a single exclusion: instead of Yixing clay the teapot the seller uses Gaiwan which is tea-neutral, hence, does not contributes to the tea taste, so you really taste what you buy. Be strong and know: drinking litres of tea at once may take all your senses into a white night, followed by a moody day.
Now it’s the proper place to say a few words about the recommended Tea Market (Cha Cheng in Mandarin Chinese). If I remember right, the Tian Shan Tea Market is at the corner of WuYi Rd and Zhong Shan Xi Rd, just south west of the Zhong Shan park metro station. On the market, use your intuition and choose a proper shop very carefully.
Back to the first day, anyways: it got almost dark and at 18:30 if I remember correct there was kinda light show. The buildings on the other bank started to change colors and a huge TV was floating on the river with “Swarovski” advertisement :) Yet, a Symphony of Lights from Hong Kong deserves its Guinness World Record pretty strong :)
The first evening ended somewhere on Nanjing Road, well… According to Wikipedia, Shanghai population is nearly 2.5 times bigger than the population of Israel :) So that, all people from Tel-Aviv might silently fit among the rows of that long and wide street, fulfilled with shopping malls and craft skyscrapers.
We’ve left our passports for a visa extension next morning and started to meet “locals”. In prior, I’ve got some comments on my flickr pages. Two of them were from Russian-speaking girls, who live in Shanghai. First, we’ve met Sasha – she takes pics with LC-A. We had a beer and enjoyed traditional Chinese food accompanied with the stories about the adventures in the students’ life.
Next day we’ve dialed Katya’s number and the real tasting of Shanghai had started! We’ve walked through the city roofs night and day (mind the promote your film tip
We Tasted all kinds of food (except pork and seafood), drunk tea, coffee and beer
Bought some photo equipment and visited our first Chinese friends at their home! Please meet Adam, the professional writer and storyteller, Katya visualizes them trough the illustrations :) By the way, Katya is a lomographer too, when she grows up, she’ll have a lomohome of her own :)
A few tips to lomographers, coming to Shanghai: your first stop might be the (surprise!) 6-storey lomoshop [at the time of visit there were only 3 inhabited but the guys there have the real vision] (catch Aloho or anyone else before he finds you, making his best to be helpful :) There was even a bottle of vodka on the table and Russian songs were playing. “Russian lomo month” was the explanation. They don’t drink it being on duty.
Two photography equipment markets are definitely worth visiting. First one (the biggest) is the best place to dig for some old cheap camera (I’ve got my Mu-Dan there). Location: 上海市鲁班路288号（星光摄影器材城） Lane 288, LuBan Road,Xing Guang Photography Equipment Market (close to the LuBan Road subway station). Second, ison the 3-rd floor of the yellow shopping mall (next to Loushanguan Station) has at least two strong points: there is a museum of film cameras (both Chinese and alien). At the same floor nearby you’ll find a magnificent Holga gallery next to the an RGB studio – a very recommended place both to develop and scan films and to drop by just to shake hand to Hologon (this is his nickname) – a very very very kind man and a prominent photographer (author of the Holga gallery short and I think he is also one of the people in charge of the studio). He owns Diana Edelweiss too :)
X-mas congratulations where everywhere. Strange and funny: relatively a few people celebrate it, but the sales were still been widely promoted full-steam :)
We also couldn’t miss the Moganshan art center to get impressed of the local art style.
We came to Shanghai for 4 days, stayed for 2 weeks and it still was far Far FAR from enough! Few more days spent there, extended our visas for an additional month to enjoy China and jumped on the night train to our next destination – Hangzhou – the last of the Grand Canal cities we’ve visited and one of the most spectacular tea destinations in the Celestial Country.