Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Of summer in Shanghai

Day 5

Mummy and me have breakfast at the Yi Cafe. They have an excellent buffet breakfast---once again, they outdo themselves with their mind-boggling array of food and juices. The watermelon juice tastes a bit queer so I leave it be. Otherwise, everything is great. Next to our table sits an Indian man, an Indian infant and a Chinese teen. The Chinese teen holds the baby's toy. My mum thinks the Indian man has adopted both. I think that the Chinese teen is a hired babysitter. But neither of us ask them about it.

Afterwards, Mum and Dad go out together, while I continue my museum route. Today is Lu Xun museum day, and I am keen on seeing his memorial site or "gu ju" as it is commonly called here. Charlie re-writes the address for me on a slip of paper (I can't find where I put the slip Penny gave me on which the helpful people at the Soong Ching Ling museum write down the precise address of Lu Xun's and Sun Yat-sen's memorial sites). His handwriting is rather messy. I wonder if the taxi driver would be able to read it, but I then again, I know of people with messier handwritings (namely me) that are still legible enough (if barely). I take a cab from the hotel entrance and off we go.

Just that I end up horribly lost. The taxi driver drops me off at the curb (of what happens to be the wrong place), telling me that cars are not allowed to go into the park but that Lu Xun's house is in the park. I go into the park and see lots of statues of famous Chinese authors of the early 20th century, but none of Mr Lu Xun. It would be awhile before I realise that Lu Xun's house is not in a park, and definitely not in this park, but rather, along some streets. What's more, unlike the Soong Ching Ling and CCP museums---where memorial site and exhibit hall are within the same compound---Lu Xun's exhibit hall is some distance away from his house (which is his memorial site). His exhibit hall is located in a park though, aptly named Lu Xun park.

I don't find any traces of Lu Xun here but I see...

The former residence of H.H Kung aka the husband of Soong Ai Ling.

My his house is large. Then again, he was supposedly the richest man in China during that era. What I find surprising is that the current Chinese government still preserves this as a heritage site, for H. H Kung had close links with Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang, serving as Chiang's finance minister and, at one time, premier. And we all know that Chiang gets no love in mainland China.

This memorial site doesn't seem to include a museum though. So I walk past it and into the park proper.

The park is called Hongkou Park and it is along Duolun Lu. This was an area where lots of famous Chinese writers of the New Cultural Movement stayed, and here, you have their statues lining the park, with little stone tablets outlining the writer's significance.

And on a side note, you have this:

For those who can't see the writing, it says "The Historical Documents Museum of the Fourth National people's Congress Of The Chinese Communist Party...Please Visit The Museum From Here". But I'm not really very interested in this museum, mainly because I am unclear about the significance of the Fourth National People's Congress. So I give this a museum a miss.

The sign points into a courtyard, which has a XiaoYa Culture Art Co. Ltd. I wonder if I should take a look, but I am short of time, and I dunno how to tell the real from the fakes here in China. So I too give that a miss.

Instead, I wander around the park, looking at the statues dedicated to the writers, and reading tablets marking their former residence.

Statues like this...

The accompanying tablet states that this statue is of Ye Shentao.

And this is a tablet marking a writer's former residence:

It says "The Former Residence of Zhaoshiyan".

So this is how his former residence looks like. I wonder if they have kept the building almost exactly as it was, or if it differs vastly from how it actually was when Mr Zhao lived in it.

Other illuminaries whose statues are in the park include:

Guo Moruo,

Shen Yimo

Uchiyama Kanzo, (I wonder why the slightly bowed pose...is it to showcase his Japanese ethnicity, or is there more than meets the eye)

Apparently this was his residence. (Or was it his book store?)

This is Ding Ling, author and also a member of the New Cultural Movement. I wonder why she is portrayed looking like a schoolgirl.

I also come across a church. According to the inscription, it is the Hong-De Tang Church. Completed in 1928, it is the only church in Shanghai with the architectural features of a temple. Are there still ongoing services here?

It's hot, I can't seem to find much about Lu Xun here, and I am expected back at Ye Shanghai at Xintiandi at 1.30pm. I stop by the Master Arts Gallery to ask for direction to the Lu Xun museum. The ladies there tell me I have to walk all the way back to the entrance of the park, but this contradicts the advice given to me by another lady. I do head back to the entrance of the park and stop by the East Zili Continuing Education School, hoping someone there would speak English. A young lady there tells me that the Lu Xun museum is not here at all, but at Lu Xun park. That's it. I decide to go to Xintiandi.

I arrive at Xintiandi 20 minutes late, and look around for Va Bene, remembering tht Va Bene is just next to Ye Shanghai. I wonder if my parents would still be there. They are and they've already ordered the food.

Ye Shanghai next to Va Bene.

The food comes quickly and is accompanied by a jovial manager John Tang. Curiously, while Ye Shanghai is known to be the restuarant in Shanghai to sample Shanghainese food, it is run by Hongkongers. Similarly, Canton, a place renowned for its Cantonese cuisine, is managed by Shanghainese. The promotional material of Ye Shanghai reads something like this: "born in Shanghai, moved to Hongkong and now back in Shanghai". Quite peculiar indeed.

John is a nice chatty sort of fellow. He tells us about Hongkong, Shanghai, and Beijing. When is a good time to visit, what is nice to do, whether living conditions are better in Hongkong, Shanghai or Beijing etc. I learn quite a lot from him, about how things are run in Shanghai and Hongkong. John tells us that it is quite safe here in Shanghai as the Shanghai police are not corrupt and very efficient. He tells us that Hongkong is considered the gateway to China, while Shanghai is nicely at the crossroads between Hongkong and Beijing---it is two hours from Shanghai to either destination.

The food here is nice, and so is the decor. It looks like a great place to come in the evening when the glamour quotient is presumably upped somewhat. But I'm in a bit of a hurry. The museums, as I have been earlier told, close at 5pm and I have yet to see both the Lu Xun and the Sun Yat-Sen museums. Feeling frustrated about how difficult it is to get find the Lu Xun memorial site and museum, I hire the hotel driver to fetch my parents and I to the exact place so I don't have to get lost again, especially as I am running short of time.

Ye Shanghai at Xintiandi. Mummy says the toilets are a little too dark for her liking, but I tell her that this is part of the restaurant's theme of 1920s-30s Shanghai glamour.

The driver comes and picks us up, but he too gets lost and has to call for directions on his mobile.

Finally we reach the elusive spot.

It is a townhouse, not very big, tucked between other town houses. A few people take photographs there, but other than this commerative plate, there isn't much about Lu Xun to see here, especially since his former residence is not open to the public. So it's back in the car and off to Lu Xun's museum which is situated in Lu Xun's park.

Lu Xun's park proves to be about a 10 minute drive away. Boy am I glad for the car cos it is 38 degrees outside!! The driver stops us at the main entrance of the park, and we walk in to get tickets. Mum and me go in for a look. And find that EVERYTHING to do with Lu Xun can be found here. Lu Xun's photographs, books, letters, former clothes, the medical instrument the doctor used on him, pictures of his friends, the people he worked with etc can all be found here. Well, it isn't called the Lu Xun Museum for nothing. I guess that I didn't know that the life of ONE author could provide that much exhibition material. Well you learn something new everyday I suppose.

Strangely there aren't lots of people in this museum. Only and father and son team, and my mum and myself. Overall, the Shanghai Museum proves to be the most popular, followed by the Soong Ching Ling and Sun Yat-Sen museums. The CCP memorial site, Lu Xun Museum and the Shikumen Museum are rather devoid of people. I ponder buying a set of Lu Xun books to read, but figure that it'll be better getting it back in Singapore. The museum closes and I head back to the car.

The driver is waiting at the entrance. He opens the door for me and goes to the cafe to call my parents, my mum having left earlier. Next stop is the Chanel boutique at Plaza 66---something I had put off for a few days.

Chanel here happens to be more expensive than it is back in Singapore. As mentioned in the previous post, while there is no direct goods tax on top of the sale price, there is an import tax which is already incorporated into the sale price. But no matter. Plaza 66 is a lovely mall. Developed by Hongkong's HangLung group, it only stocks luxury brands. According to the booklet the lady at the information counter passes us, there are also a few restaurants. Many of the luxury brands that have set up standalone boutiques here are not available in, or don't have standalone boutiques in Singapore. This is unsurprising given Singapore's relatively small consumer market. Why set up in Singapore when you can set up in Shanghai with lower operating costs and a much larger market base to tap in. I wonder a bit on how Singapore will cope with that, but then my attention quickly turns to the mall itself. The layout of the mall is good, the boutiques and lanes are spacious and it is very clean. Mummy likes it very much.

I ask the information lady if she could call the driver back for us. She nicely complies. He picks us up and off we go, back to the Pudong side. Like John, the driver tells quite a bit about Shanghai, when to come (in april-may or in october), why (because it is harvest time and there are lots of fresh seafood), tells us about the Japanese trying to break into the market (i understand they are having a difficult time), about buying houses in Shanghai (you have to live here for a year first before you are allowed to buy a house, if not, you can try to get around it by paying much more for the house), of how Shanghai has changed etc. He points out some people standing by the road yelling and clapping their hands. They work for a restaurant and the manager is trying to boost morale or something of that sort. The driver disagrees with such methods. "Those in the know understand but think they are noisy, those NOT in the know think they have lost their minds", he says (or something to that effect). I tell him I think this is a Japanese or Korean run restaurant as when I last visited Korea, I realised the people there are quite fond of shouting and demonstrating in the streets (then again when I visited it was during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 so there was much reason to protest). And as for the Japanese bit, well, I once saw a Japanese television program that showed Japanese employees doing something similar. But I didn't tell him that last bit.

We reach the hotel in good time and it's time for dinner. Mum and I change for dinner and go to Gui Hua Lo for some more of their delicious food. We order the Curry Prawn again (I really like it), stir fried mixed vegetables (Mummy likes it), goose meat (very tender and juicy), mango pudding, rice and Chrysanthemum tea. They do not serve xiaolongbao for dinner. The manageress Penny recognises Mummy, and our waitress today is Sophia, a very helpful young lady. I tell the manageress about how much I like their fried mantou and how much i like mantou in general. She tells us she can get the chef to prepare a steamed one for us. So we order that too. In the end, Mummy and I are too full, and we have to pack the steamed Mantou and the mango pudding. We bring these upstairs to our room and head out to Cloud 9 at the Grand Hyatt. We meet a Singaporean lady in the lift. She works at Shangri-la and she recognises us as being at the Grand Hyatt bakery the day before.

But before we go, we have a little walk along the promenade at the back of the Shangri-la, which is along the Huangpu river, directly opposite the Bund. A man sells pirated goods at the entrance while a few guards sit a few feet away. I wonder why they allow him to continue at such a prominent position. Perhaps he has paid them off. The weather is warm, but there is a bit of a breeze. The are couples embracing along the rails, while peddlers tout goods along the walkways. We walk around a bit more, then its back to the taxi stand and off to Cloud 9.

The promenade.

The view of the Bund from the promenade.

This time, the taxi queue has 2 people in front of us, however, not many taxis seem to be coming in, and it is hotter at the taxi stand. But praise Jesus, one comes soon enough to pick us up and off we go again.

The lights are dim, the seats are comfy and the view is just great! Only problem is that there is no available seats at the non-smoking area for us. I guess lots of people must have read a lot about this place, especially after the superb review given by Newsweek, in which cocktails at Cloud 9 were described as a must try experience. So we gaze at the view a bit more, but leave as there were no forthcoming seats.

Cloud 9 at the Grand Hyatt.

Before we go back, we stop by the Super Brand Mall to pick up some stuff. It's near closing time so we don't have much time to browse around. We go to Sephora and Watsons, and I see a huge NEXT store upstairs. Then we head back to the room.

Just before I am about to sleep, a call comes from the concierge, and a quick stream of mandarin words comes through the receiver. I don't understand a word.

"Is this Leon?" I ask, remembering that he was the concierge on duty.

Yes it is.

Turns out, though it is 11.35pm, there is a man wanting to deliver a parcel. Ah ha! Mummy's cushion covers have arrived. "Send him up Leon".

And then I sleep.

Photographs from: www.hyatt.com, www.moveandstay.com/shanghai, my own camera.

1 comment:

yizhen said...

Hi! You look like you realy enjoyed Shanghai! The food sounds yummy! Yi Zhen :)