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Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

It's Labor Day today, a Federal holiday back in the States and a day off as well for those us working at the U.S. Consulate in Shàng​hǎi 上海 (one of the perks in this line of work is the observance of both American and local public holidays). Unfortunately, my daughter still had to attend school and my wife wasn't feeling very well, so I had the morning and afternoon all to myself. So I began this day of rest by taking the Metro to Nán​jīng East Road station 南京东路站, and from there walking over to the city's most well-known area, the Bund 外滩. The warm weather and clear skies made for some nice views looking across the Huáng​pǔ River 黄浦江 toward the Pǔ​dōng 浦东 district:

Pudong was where I was headed today. There are several ways to get there, such as by ferry or subway, but I chose the strangest route: the Bund Tourist Tunnel 外滩观光隧道. For the rather steep one-way fare of 50 RMB ($8.20), you step into what can only be described as a capsule that whisks you under the river to the Pudong side. But there's more to it than just that. You are taken through a psychedelic light show that can probably only be truly appreciated with the help of LSD, while announcements in Chinese and English intone such mind-blowing concepts as "Heaven and Punishment" and "Magma". During the two minutes or so I was in the tunnel, I was reminded of the trip Dr. David Bowman took at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The video and pictures posted below can't begin to convey the utter bizarreness of it all:

It was with some relief that I exited the Bund Tourist Tunnel. The whole experience is such an exercise in kitsch (there's even a Believe It Or Not museum on the Pudong side) that I was glad to get back to reality. Reality in Pudong means the Oriental Pearl Tower 东方明珠广播电视塔, which dominates the skyline: 

It's an eyesore, but an impressive one at 1499 feet (457 meters), and it isn't even the tallest building in Pudong. That honor belongs to still-unfinished Shanghai Tower, which will stand 2073 feet (632 meters) high when finished next year and is already the world's second-tallest:

My purpose for coming to Pudong was not to go to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, but to visit a museum that would not be suitable for those under the age of 18. In other words, I wanted to take advantage of having a day off while my daughter was at school to check out the China Sex Culture Exhibition. However, I was to be denied the opportunity to see such items as the "saddle with a wooden stump for punishing adulterous women", according to my copy of The Rough Guide to Shanghai. The museum was not where my guidebook said it would be, i.e. close to the exit from the tourist tunnel. I searched in vain, but couldn't find it anywhere, and it wasn't listed on any of the area maps. Actually, I wasn't surprised, as the fact the museum wasn't mentioned in Lonely Planet's Shanghai guide (a more recent edition than the Rough Guide book) led me to suspect that it had either closed up shop or moved to a more discreet location. In any event, I was too shy to ask anybody for directions. 

Fortunately, though, one museum was where the guidebooks said it would be, at the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Shanghai History Museum 上海城市历史发展馆 turned out to be very interesting, and worth the 35 RMB ($5.70) admission fee. There were displays on transportation, such as this model of a public bus from the 1930's...: well as more traditional modes of getting around, such as sedan chairs and wheelbarrows:

Dioramas abounded,  such as this one of a pharmacy...:

...and this one of a teahouse, which didn't have very many customers...:

... probably because most of the townsfolk were at another teahouse, watching a performance of Chinese opera:

There were also depictions of typical street scenes...:

...and a few mementos from the days of the International Settlement, like these boundary markers:

...and this bronze lion, which once stood guard in front of the old HSBC building on the Bund:

All told, the history museum was very informative, well-captioned in English and would be an entertaining place to bring the kids to see.

Leaving the Shanghai of the 1930's, it was time to re-emerge into the 21st century:

I spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling along the riverside promenade Bīn​jiāng Dà​dào  滨江大道. The buildings of the Bund were visible this time on the other side of Huangpu, including (going from left to right in the photo below) the Fairmont Peace Hotel 和平饭店, the Bank of China and the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China:

At one point, the promenade provided an unexpected sight in the form of a small marsh with wading birds looking for food in the none-too-clean river water:

I continued along Binjiang Dadao, stopping for a raspberry tea break at Starbucks and looking at more of the buildings along the Bund. In the photo below, the building on the right is the old Customs House 上海海关, completed in 1927 and which has a chiming bell tower. Next door on the left is the original Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters, in front of which stood the bronze lion seen earlier in the history museum:

Time for a self-portrait:

Eventually I arrived at the ferry dock, where for a mere 2 RMB (30¢), I bought a ticket and boarded a ferry for the short trip across the river back to the Pǔ​xī 浦西 side. Pulling out into the Huangpu, we had a clear view of the Shanghai Tower:

The view from the stern:

Looking back at the Pudong side as we got closer to Puxi:

The view from the bow:

The Bund welcomed us as the ferry pulled up to the dock:

Looking back at the ferry after getting off at Puxi:

While it would've been nice to have had the family along today, at least I didn't have to listen to anyone complaining about having to actually use their legs for the purpose of locomotion. It's been a relaxing three-day weekend, but work beckons tomorrow. From Wednesday of next week, however, I'll be on holiday for two weeks in Japan and Taiwan. In the meantime, there are a few more attractions in Pudong that might be worth further exploration...


  1. It was in my Lonely Planet's Shanghai guide, however I couldn't find it also.

    Searching on the web later I found that it had been closed down (from memory I believe by the government).

    1. I have the latest edition of Lonely Planet's guide, published in April of this year, and it's definitely not listed in the Pudong chapter. It doesn't surprise me that the government would shut it down. Thanks for looking into it!