Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

11/8/11: Shanghai, China

After leaving Ghuangxi Province and arriving in Shanghai the previous night, the contrast was stark. I was now smack in the middle of a very large, very modern city, the MV Explorer having sailed here from Hong Kong with my family onboard while I was away. Hong Kong’s skyline was impressive, Shanghai’s even more so. It was a bit strange returning to the ship, as most of the crew had been relieved in Hong Kong, and there were now few faces that I knew, especially in the dining rooms, where virtually all ‘our’ crew had gone home for two months. 

Laundry rods are hanging outside practically every window of every building, everywhere in China, even highrises!

Heidi, Reade, Tate and I got out to walk Shanghai along the riverfront, and we paralleled The Bund (the former financial ‘hub’ of Asia) as we found our way to a large market, the Yu Yuan Bazaar. We left the riverfront (an area busy with tourists), and meandered into the streets of Shanghai, where I was immediately mesmerized by a very old-looking neighborhood surrounded on all sides (for miles?) by relatively new construction, mostly highrises. As I was already lagging far behind, I couldn’t stop to take much of a look, and it gnawed at me (the way missed photographic or experiential opportunities often do) as we progressed toward our destination. 

Quite literally: 'bird eggs'. Apparently you eat one for good luck; any more, and it's bad luck.

Jackfruit; unfortunately, we didn't think to try any.

These young ladies were very interested to talk to Reade and Tate, and made it a point of asking if they had girlfriends.

We made a pit stop in a Starbuck’s, then had a great Chinese lunch followed by a pomelo I’d bought on the street and stuffed into our pack. The shopping was entertaining (Angry Birds paraphernalia, anyone?), and although we had come to see the Yu Yuan Gardens, the admission price was a bit steep, considering how little time we had to spend there before this evening’s ‘on-ship’ time prior to leaving for Japan. We saw some stuff we didn’t want to eat, some we did, and a whole bunch of items in between (wigs appear to be popular here in China). The boys were hankering to go back to the MV Explorer and play ping pong, so since Heidi had to get back for clinic, I decided to meander my way back toward that ancient-looking neighborhood to the south. 

Entering this neighborhood gave me a dank glimpse of what life must have been like for many—if not most—people in China up until the rapid cycle of development began in the last decade or two. Very, very small shacks and sheds with red tile or corrugated metal roofs, central walkways between rows of buildings, the occasional community bathroom. Each little apartment (I hesitate referring them as houses) had a water basin and countertop right outside the front door, and it seemed kind of like the present-day ‘water-cooler’ back home, as people were in close quarters doing what they had to do, chatting, or not chatting, moseying in and out of their front doors. This neighborhood was clearly very, very old, though I really had no concept of just how old it was. The people there seemed to keep it quite clean despite the fact that some of the buildings were practically falling apart, and there were far more bicycles in this area than I’d seen all day. 

I’m not sure how long this enclave along Yuelai St. will last given its proximity to the ongoing redevelopment going on in Shanghai, so I guess I’ll have to check in with Google Earth occasionally to discover this little neighborhood’s fate. [31°13.376’N, 121°29.793’E]

Ever feel like a traffic cone in the streets of life?

I count seven discrete buildings here, looking at the high-res image in Lightroom.

A member of the Party.

The MV Explorer and it's rather incredible berth in Shanghai.

Anyone seen the manual for this camera? Anyone?

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