Today is the National Day of China.
We have an appointment (at 11am) with Claire and Pascal Rechatin, friends of my friend Marie-Isabelle (who lived in Shanghai for 2 years). Claire and Pascal have been living in Shanghai for 12 years.
We go to their apartment, which is very close to our place (less than 1 km!). They very nicely propose to take the whole family on a bike tour of Shanghai today. We like very much the idea since we haven’t seen much of the city yet. Claire started by showing us a nice view of the French Concession from the roof of their building. It helps us to realize how green and “low” it is. We get ready with the bikes and we start our ride by the French Concession.
Claire brings us inside an ‘heritage’ house (built in 1921), in a poor condition and inhabited by a few families who share much of the facilities. We meet a lady who has been living there for more than 50 years (she is watching the military parade on television, live from Beijing, with her husband). She offers us some snacks. We are impressed how Claire dares to enter and wander into the house. Interesting visit.
It’s great to ride on the streets of the French Concession, lined with plane trees (‘platanes’ in French). It’s a great way to discover the city, especially today with very few cars in the streets.
It is indeed not only the National Day but it’s the beginning of the Golden Week, which is the name given to each of the two 7-day national holidays: the Chinese New Year and the National Day + the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival). Three days of paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven continuous days of holiday. These national holidays were first started by the government for the PRC’s National Day in 1999 and are primarily intended to help expand the domestic tourism market and improve the national standard of living, as well as allowing people to make long-distance family visits. The Golden Weeks are consequently periods of greatly heightened travel activity, with more than 700 million locals traveling. We prefer not to imagine the congestion on the main highways, in the train stations and the airports… It was a good idea to be in Shanghai during this week!
We stop at Tianzifang for lunch. We try something local, different; not great. We go inside the “wet” market that we tried to find during our previous visit here on Wednesday.
We then go to The Power Station of Art, in the South of the Old Town. They transformed a riverside power plant into a contemporary art museum. We don’t visit it but wander a bit inside. Nice place for exhibitions.
We take the ferry with our bikes to cross the Huangpu River. We pass under the cable-stayed Nanpu Bridge. Once on the other side of the river, we go up to Pudong.
Here is the Manhattan of Shanghai. Until 1990, the Pudong district was only a peaceful, flat and fertile agricultural land, the kingdom of fields, orchards and market gardens. The inhabitants lived there as peasants, at the gates of a metropolis in full economic explosion. Apart from a row of industrial warehouses, a few docks and some factories by the water, there was nothing. In 1990, the municipality decided to develop this part of the city to relieve Puxi. There is no shortage of space: between the river and the China Sea, Pudong extends over 522 km², an area as large as Singapore. The objective is to make Shanghai the heart and the driving force of the new “Chinese state capitalism”. In less than 10 years, in front of the old buildings of the Bund, a new town emerged from the ground. Skyscrapers with futuristic shapes, glass and steel towers, masterpieces of modernity and boldness, designed by the greatest international architects, were built at an impressive speed.
We go at the foot of 3 of its most iconic towers: The Shanghai Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Tower and the Jinmao Tower; the fourth one being probably the most famous one: the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
- The 632m-tall (Gensler-designed) Shanghai Tower is China’s tallest building (even the world’s second-tallest building after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai). It has a spiraling form.
- Echoing elements of Shanghai’s 1930s Art Deco heritage and a silhouette of Chinese pagodas, the shining tiered pinnacle of Jinmao Tower, 420m-high, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), is also a cherished Shanghai landmark. I quickly go up with Claire to see the impressive view inside the Grand Hyatt (see picture) and the view from the Cloud 9 bar (on the 87th floor).
- The 492m-high Shanghai World Financial Center is an astonishing sight (designed by architects Kohn Pederson Fox). It is called the ‘bottle opener’ (owing to the aperture at its peak). We go quickly up to the bar of the Park Hyatt but there are no table available. We just have time to glance at the impressive view on the illuminated city. It’s amazing how both the Bund and Pudong look much nicer at night, when lit.
It’s already 7pm when we take the ferry back to Puxi. It starts raining. We go back as soon as possible to the Rechatin’s apartment. We arrive wet.
Since they leave Shanghai for the Golden Week, Claire and Pascal nicely propose that we can use their bikes during this week. Great idea. We take the keys of the locks with us and we go back home.
On our way back, I go and buy very good Neapolitan-style pizzas at the nearby Gemma restaurant (recommended by the Rechatin’s). They receive a warm welcome from everybody at the apartment.
Thank you so much to Claire and Pascal for this great day. It was very pleasant and also very instructive for the whole family. They know so much about the city, the country and the local mentality. We learnt a lot. And thank you Marie-Isabelle to have put us in contact with your lovely friends.