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Pudong

Started: 2016-02-22 19:21:01

Submitted: 2016-02-22 22:07:22

Visibility: World-readable

17 January 2016: In which the intrepid narrator wraps up his time in Shanghai with a visit to the Shanghai Museum and the observation deck of one of the tallest buildings in Pudong

After three days playing tourist in Shanghai, I'd seen most of what I wanted to see in the city, with the exception of the Shanghai Museum, and gawking at the skyscrapers in Pudong. I set out to do those two things on my last full day in the city.

It was raining in the morning, and I didn't feel compelled to walk the better part of a kilometer to the nearest metro stop, so I caught a taxi from the hotel to the Shanghai Museum, a couple of kilometers away in People's Square at the center of the city.

Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum

The museum held a giant collection of bronzes spanning thousands of years, which were laid out chronologically to show the evolution of bronze casting technique and the social and religious customs that surrounded them. (The building itself was supposed to represent a giant ceremonial bronze pot, which may have been an example of architecture going too far -- but it was hardly the only example of extravagant architecture in Shanghai.) I started in the bronze gallery, listening to the audio tour as it led me through the collection.

Bronze jug at the Shanghai Museum
Bronze jug at the Shanghai Museum

I looked through the pottery gallery, though I spent less time studying each piece. I was especially interested in the small exhibit showing how the kilns to fire the pottery were built, including a few dioramas of a pottery works and a larger-scale model of a "dragon" kiln, built on a hillside to exploit the chimney effect to pull air through the kiln.

I looked through the rest of the museum, though nothing was quite as interesting as the first two galleries I visited. The calligraphy exhibits, in particular, did nothing for me, since I can barely read a few dozen characters of printed Chinese.

Shanghai Grand Theatre and Tomorrow Square in People's Square
Shanghai Grand Theatre and Tomorrow Square in People's Square

I left the museum, gawked at some of the buildings surrounding the square, and took the metro to Jing'an Temple. I skipped the temple itself, except to look at the columns headed by four lions -- looking something like a Chinese version of an Ashoka column.

Lion column outside Jing'an Temple
Lion column outside Jing'an Temple

Behind the temple I found Jen Dao Vegetarian Restaurant, which apparently sprawled across several floors with different cuisines served at counters on each floor, but I found what I was looking for at the ground-floor noodle counter: a large bowl of noodle soup for ¥20 (about US$3). It was great.

Veg noodle soup bowl
Veg noodle soup bowl

I headed back to the metro and took line 2 east, back through the center of town, under the Huangpu River, and into Pudong. Here the streets were wider and the buildings taller than the older part of Shanghai across the river. One even sported a neo-Classical facade, which just looked weird and out-of-place in Shanghai, nestled uneasily among the other glass-and-steel international-style buildings in Pudong.

Ping'an Finance Building, Pudong
Ping'an Finance Building, Pudong

I walked along the Huangpu River, looking back across the river at the Bund. The rain had stopped but the sky remained overcast, putting everything under a gray light and causing the buildings in the distance to disappear under the haze.

The Bund viewed from across the Huangpu River
The Bund viewed from across the Huangpu River

I walked back into central Pudong, along the optimistically-named Century Avenue, which featured a large elevated sidewalk so I didn't have to fight with cars while walking. (Unlike India, cars in China tended to stay in their lanes and honor the traffic signals, but crossing the street was still fraught with peril because bicycles and motorcycles did not.) The three tallest buildings in Shanghai lined up next to each other on Century Avenue: The Shanghai World Financial Center (looking like a bottle opener), the Jin Mao Tower (a "mere" 88 stories tall), and the Shanghai Tower (the newest of the group, built with a twisted tapering structure, displaying a grace uncommon in skyscrapers).

The Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai Tower
The Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai Tower

Faced with my choice of observation decks to visit, I decided to visit the Jin Mao Tower's 88th floor. The tower was the tallest building in Shanghai when it was built in 1998, until its neighbor the Shanghai World Financial Center exceeded its height in 2007.

Jaeger with the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shangai Tower
Jaeger with the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shangai Tower

I paid ¥120 for a ticket to the top of the tower, and rode the high-speed elevator up 88 stories from the basement to the top of the tower, making sure to clear my ears along the way. At the top I couldn't quite tell if the floor was vibrating slightly due to the wind, or whether I was just uneasy being so high off the ground. I had a great view of the adjacent Shanghai Tower; I could see through the outer skin -- a mesh of glass and steel held apart from the inner structure of the tower -- into the interior walls that actually held the habitable space. It was a marvel of design and engineering -- and, I couldn't help but wonder -- possibly a marvel of speculative bubble-induced building.

Shanghai Tower
Shanghai Tower

From hundreds of meters above the ground, the buildings disappeared into the haze, making it difficult to see the city (and especially difficult to photograph). Only two of the surrounding buildings were higher than I was, and the design of the observation deck made it impossible to see the Shanghai World Financial Center. I quickly looked down the vertiginous open space forming the central lobby of the Grand Hyatt at the top of the tower and retreated to the relative safety of the elevator going back down.

Looking out at Shanghai from the observation deck on the Jin Mao tower
Looking out at Shanghai from the observation deck on the Jin Mao tower
Shanghai Tower and Jin Mao Tower
Shanghai Tower and Jin Mao Tower

Back on the ground, I grabbed a green tea latte for a snack at Starbucks, then headed back onto the street to wander around Pudong. I backtracked in search of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Building, which I saw referenced on a tourist sign, and soon found the building.

Shanghai Stock Exchange Building
Shanghai Stock Exchange Building

Barely two weeks into the new year, the Shanghai market was already in a tailspin, reflecting weaker-than-expected growth in the Chinese economy, and international markets (and my stock portfolio) were in danger of entering their own bear markets. I took a selfie in front of the sign, and posted it to Twitter with the caption:

Jaeger in front of the Shanghai Stock Exchange
Jaeger in front of the Shanghai Stock Exchange
"Hi, Shanghai? I came from America to find out what's wrong with your stock market and to ask you to knock it off."
Shanghai Stock Exchange Building
Shanghai Stock Exchange Building

I walked back along the elevated sidewalk to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of the weirdest buildings in Shanghai, now functioning principally as a tourist trap. I skipped the various observation decks but did visit the Shanghai History Museum in the basement. The museum featured a series of full-size reproductions of archetypal buildings from Shanghai's history, and spent most of its time on the period where Shanghai was dominated by the international concessions. The text in the museum took the standard approach that this was a reprehensible action by immoral foreign states (suggesting, by extension, that China's strong national identity today is a legitimate response to the past), but I managed to set the propaganda aside and enjoy the rest of the museum.

Pudong including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Pudong including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

I ate a snack for supper at the adjacent Super Brand Mall, then caught the metro back to my hotel, where I packed and prepared to take the train to Beijing the next day.

Traffic circle surrounded by skyscrapers in Pudong
Traffic circle surrounded by skyscrapers in Pudong

For more photos from my day in Shanghai, see Photos on 2016-01-17.

Revenge was a convenient byproduct.
- Commander Webster, "The Maiden Voyager", _The Voyages of the Galactic_