Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shanghai on My Mind

Just back, after a few days in Shanghai, a trip I find myself wanting/needing to make more and more often.  About two hours away from my small city by bus, Shanghai always delights, titillates, and inspires. It's funky, vibrant, and cosmopolitan, with a sordid but fascinating history, and on top of all that, for a megalopolis of 20  million (and counting!), it's surprisingly beautiful.  As with all big cities, everything is available, just about whenever you want it--culturally, gastronomically, historically, etc. I've seen a production of King Lear, gone to jazz clubs, drooled over architecture on the Bund, gotten New York-style pizza, attended the World Expo, ascended soaring skyscrapers, gotten my hair styled in an Italian salon, battled the crowds on the Metro, walked the old Jewish quarter, had Red Velvet cake, seen the collection at the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, marveled at the neon lights of Nanjing Road, and loaded up on books at my favorite stop, the Foreign Language Bookstore, among many, many other things. It's an addictive jolt of energy, and I discover something new and interesting every time. Here are some photos:

Foreign Language Bookstore, 390 Fuzhou Road

Tasty treats from Awfully Chocolate, 174 South Xiangyang Road

The Bund at night, from the Pearl TV Tower

I realize I sound like a rube here, but I AM a small town girl, and my first visit to Shanghai was nothing short of an epiphany.  I will always remember that first taxi ride, from the airport in Pudong, over to the Yu Yuan district, with the towering skyscrapers stretching out as far as the eye could see. That the city was home to over 20 million people seemed unfathomable to me.  The fact that humans built this, that the world could be so big, was a defining moment.  In fact, check out this stunningly cool time-lapse video of Shanghai, from Lost Pensivos Films, to get a sense of what I'm talking about:

Another thing that captures my imagination is the city's history, especially the years between 1842-1949. I'm currently reading Stella Dong's Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City, which presents all of the lurid details of the city's initial rise and it's early claim to fame as the "Whore of Asia". 

I can't put the book down, and it's given me loads of new insight and facts to ponder as I walk the streets of Shanghai, whether through the former French Concession, along the banks of the Huangpu River, or into the old "opium den and brothel district" around Fuzhou Road, and I'd highly recommend this book to anyone thinking of visiting or moving to Shanghai. Here are some more shots:

Amy's Bedroom, sex shop at 160 South Xiangyang Road

Glamour and glitz at the Westgate Mall, 1038 West Nanjing Road

Sunrise over the city

So, that's just a bit about my love affair with this city.  In short, far from being one of those poets and writers who requires peaceful surroundings to work, I find that exploring Shanghai gets my creative juices flowing, and I'm back with a head full of ideas, and can't wait to get back to work on the manuscript.  Also looking forward to the next visit in a couple of weeks!

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