Monday, July 23, 2007

Of summer in Shanghai

Day 3 (Part I)

I woke up real early today. About 7.30am and accompanied my mum to the Jin Mao tower. She had a meeting while I was venturing there to savour breakfast at the Grand Hyatt---supposedly an experience to remember as the Grand Hyatt Shanghai is the tallest hotel in the world, occupying the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao tower. I figured having breakfast so high in the sky had to be quite a treat.

The Pudong financial district.

Breakfast was pleasant enough. I didn't have much of an appetite but the view was spectucular. My glass of water wasn't completely clean---I could see things floating in it, ewww---so i had juices instead. I wanted to eat steamed mantou, but they didn't have any there. Instead, the chefs, a bespectacled chap who looked vaguely Thai Chinese and a kind matronly lady, whipped up for me some vegetable buns which I didn't have an appetite for. But it was such a nice gesture. I tried to eat as much as I could but I wasn't feeling quite well, so I nibbled on it and hoped they weren't offended.

Breakfast at the Grand Cafe.

Breakfast with a view.

A view of the Bund from the Grand Hyatt.

Showcasing the zoom prowess of my camera. Heh.

Still feeling queasy, I took a cab back to the Shangri-la, packed some bottled mineral water (I have issues with the water in China, somehow it doesnt agree with my stomach and i think it tastes funny), took my guide book and went to the Shanghai Museum. The cabby was the one mentioned in the previous post, who mistook me for a Japanese. Upon realising that I was a Singaporean, he said, Singaporeans used to look down on China's Chinese, but now that China was a rising power, Singaporeans are now respectful of China's Chinese.

To that I had no reply so I just kept quiet. (Or did i say "err...") But still, there was favour from God, as mentioned in the previous post.

The Shanghai Museum

Off at the Shanghai Museum where I spent about 4 hours checking out the exhibits. I rented an audio guide which I found particularly helpful. It is this telephone like device whereby you punch the exhibit number and listen to an audio commentary regarding the aforesaid exhibit. The only problem was that some of the exhibits were hard to find---i had just listened to commentary of exhibit number 223 and had a hard time finding exhibit 224. Finally, after enlisting the help of the security guard, I learnt that the exhibit had been removed. (I seem to recall him muttering re ben ren under his breath).

But I really enjoyed the Shanghai Museum. In Singapore, most museums don't have really old artefacts as Singapore is relatively young, history wise, so it was nice seeing really ancient sculpture, coins and yes, porcelain and such on display. And I have no idea why, but i found the museum very romantic. Like it's a nice place to hold hands and look at exhibits together. Then again, my notions on romance have always veered towards the unconventional. Apparently I'm not the only one. I saw a Caucasian man kissing his girlfriend in front of a Tang Dynasty exhibit, and there was another Caucasian man holding hands with his Asian girlfriend at the coin exhibit.

Maybe museums are just romantic. Period.

I espy a young man who, judging by his dressing, looks rather Singaporean. Branded flip flops (check), graphic tee shirt (check), cargo bermudas (check). I keep running into him and I realise that he goes about the exhibits the same way I do---carefully peering at each exhibit and reading each commentary---while most people just give cursory glances. He looks Japanese though and like me, he is all by himself. Maybe this is how I might come across if I were a guy.

But I digress.

The museum is cold and so i hurriedly go through the exhibits on the top floor such as the furniture exhibit, the calligraphy exhibit and the minorities exhibit. I learn about the Assyrians, Scythians and other people who traded on the Silk Road---they all have exotic sounding names, including one particulary group that escapes my mind but who believed that deformity was beautiful, and so on their coins, they made their king look as deformed as possible.

I like the Shanghai Museum gift shop too. As expected, it is much bigger than the hole-in-the wall branch at Xintiandi and is stocked with many books on China---novels, business and travel guides, including the risque Shanghai Baby, which i thought was banned in China. Well, apparently not. There are also lots of souveneirs. A pair of Japanese guys buy a set of bookmarks, while I ponder at this huge pot and wonder how it would look like in my living room.

The museum is cold and my legs are tired. I leave and flag down a taxi to take me to Bund 18.

Photographs from:, and my own camera

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