Tag Archives: Shanghai

A flash and inspiration at Moganshan, Shanghai

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For art lovers and explorers alike, Moganshan Art District in Shanghai, is well worth a visit – even if modern art isn’t really your thing.

Easily accessible by subway and a bit of a walk, the graffiti lined hoarding (that Banksy would be proud of) which leads you to a maze of exhibition spaces has an urban, industrial feel. It leaves you wondering whether you are actually entering a part of East London’s derelict industrial past rather than a contemporary corner of downtown Shanghai.

In a country where originality and innovative thought are largely quashed at birth and state controlled communication offers only diluted input from the outside world, the creativity and controversial pieces on display are a testament to the rebellious youth borne out of the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.

There is an inspirational mixture of sculpture, ceramics, paintings, traditional techniques combined with state of the art digital installations – some with a communist theme, both satirical and historic. Huge models and handmade goods have an interesting take on global icons and propaganda paraphernalia. There’s also a range of quirky eateries and watering holes, all showcasing the best work from some of China’s rising stars.

We stumbled upon one gallery with an opening party and were given a giant glass of French red – the first all trip and it was divine! That, combined with the cosmopolitan café culture vibe, an alfresco cappuccino and an eclectic display of talent in a peaceful, funky and modern setting was the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.

And, just when we thought we’d seen enough, on our walk back to the subway a guy cycled past on his bike shouting “Hi….You like?” only for us to realise his trousers were underdone around his waist and he was frantically flailing his flaccid penis around with the hand that wasn’t on the handle bars! Shocked and stunned we giggled our way back to the subway station like a pair of kids!

A perfect place to spend a Sunday in Shanghai, but you might see more than you bargained for!

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Enough to make me sweat…

Deodorant...apparently!

Despite being in central Shanghai – one of the most cosmopolitan and forward focussed metropolises in the world, finding basic toiletries such as deodorant was somewhat of a challenge. 

Antiperspirant, it seems, is not a common item in Shanghai, even in the most Western of stores. Having searched every supermarket, Seven Eleven and Family Mart in a three subway stop radius I found an old skool glass bottle of Nivea extra perfumed, whitening roll-on in Carrefour (highly unsuitable for a backpack that gets thrown from the top bunk of a train on a regular basis). And, despite my lack of deodorant, I refused to pay 50 Yuan (5 quid), as I’d already been fleeced for a tenner the previous week buying a razor.

So, I finally plucked up the courage to go into the pharmacy and ask! How hard can it be? Armed with my Mandarin- English dictionary, I approached one of the maroon smock wearing ladies for help. Actually, she got to me first and spent the next two minutes following me round in an uncomfortably close manner, trying to assess whether I was about to rob the place or perhaps hoping I’d buy everything that my roaming eyes stumbled upon.

After a couple of minutes of unsuccessfully reading the Chinese labels that lined the aisles and not being able to spot anything obvious, I put my new shadow out of her misery and got out the dictionary to show “deodorant”. To my horror the word was not there, but by then it was too late, I was in the hands of not one but six mature, maroon-clad and well-meaning pharmacy assistants wanting to assist.

Did I mention that no-one spoke English and I cannot speak Mandarin? So, in trying to explain my requirements I ended up acting out applying deodorant and miming “no smelly armpits”, to which they all squawked in agreement about what I needed, handed me a white, blue and yellow box and ushered me to the payment desk.

After parting with 14 Yuan (about £1.40), I returned to class with my bottle of liquid, detachable spray nozzle and what looked like ear drops. I asked my Chinese teaching assistant what I had just bought  – she had no idea! We looked through the items, instruction booklet (which had some drawings very similar to the mime I had just performed) and deduced that I had been given something for body odour – which I should not use under any circumstances!  

The experience alone had been enough to bring me out in a sweat. So, if you’re travelling for a while in China, take your own toiletries!


Six weeks in Shanghai

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For some reason Shanghai was like my own personal Mecca.  Arrival signified that I had made it overland across China and could do this traveling lark after all! It was a welcome (albeit brief) reunion of fellow Vodkatrainers, lost to individual itineraries for a few weeks. It also signified my first real taste of solo travel and the start of the rest of the year of adventure.

With no plan and even less of a clue the world literally was my oyster. As well as a very excited tummy, I don’t mind admitting that I was bewildered and overwhelmed by the possibilities that lay before me.

To be honest I didn’t have a Scooby what to do between Shanghai in April and Singapore in October, but I needn’t have worried, as it turned out to be the place where my trip unfolded unexpectedly and I loved it there so much and met so many great people, I stayed for six weeks!

Via the internet I signed up for a four week TEFL course with Orient Now and spent five days a week studying teaching techniques, observing 4 to 14 year old students at the DD Dragon English School in downtown Shanghai. Spending my weekends and evenings seeing the sights, even in six weeks, I was never at a loose end for something new to do or eat!

People’s Square, People’s Park  and People’s Avenue were amazing for people watching (funnily enough); shopping at East Nanjing Road and the “wanna buy a watch, iPod, DVD, bag” crew were always entertaining – if a little stressful; the beautiful Bund never grew tiresome with its Jetsons-esque city of the future at one side of the river and replica old London on the other.

The view from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre in Pudong was incredible (and if you go at 5.30pm and hang around you get to see day and night and the whole of Shanghai turning its lights on!). The view from the Oriental Pearl TV tower however isn’t so good, but the tower itself is one of my favourite buildings to date.

A mosey along the Ancient Culture Street with its Old Film Café and colonial and Chinese architecture is amazing. The Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Planning Exhibition, Moganshan Art District, Shanghai Downtown, the never ending shopping malls, the (very hands on) Science and Technology and Contemporary Art museums, plus the covert Communist Propaganda Art museum were a constant source of stimulation.

Only an hour and a half by train outside the mega city, the water village of Suzhou gave a break from the hustle and bustle and offered beautiful gardens, ancient temples and Venice style waterways to while away an afternoon.

Getting around was simple (if a little squashed) on the vast and inexpensive subway system. Or, getting in amongst it with the locals by bus was a sweaty and surreal way to travel to school (but for 20p you can’t complain!). And, if all that racing around makes you hungry, there is food to cater for every palette (and most budgets).

A sprawling metropolis with more cosmopolitan attitudes than can be found elsewhere in communist China, Shanghai is clearly going places. Fast paced, with its sights firmly set on the future, Shanghai is a “must visit”– even just for a couple of days.