The husband and I went to Shanghai for a long weekend just recently. I know it sounds pretty exotic, but for us it’s actually only two and a half hours by plane, so kind of like going from New York to – I don’t know, Boston? Philly? I have no concept really. Suffice to say it’s just around the corner.
So anyway – you know when you’re on holiday with your significant other, and it’s a Saturday night, and you decide to go to a bar together for a drink, and you just walk in through the door?
Well, let me tell you, that is SO passé. So 2013. It’s boring. It’s mundane. It’s banal.We westerners are way behind the times.
Why just walk through a door, when you can be confronted with a puzzle that needs solving before you are allowed through? Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, eat your Temple of Doom hearts out – some of us have to solve mysteries before we can order a cocktail.
Ok so I’m being a little over dramatic here, but we did go to a place where a simple puzzle had to be solved to open the door. There were cylindrical holes in the wall, inside which were lights. It was quite simple (*spoiler alert, if you’re about to go to Shanghai, look away now*), stick your hands in all the holes and eventually you find the one that opens the door, if you hit the right spot that is. There was a decoy that opened another door leading to a mirror. It was too dark to take photos – and also too dark to immediately realise that it was a mirror. *Luckily* I worked that out just before walking straight into my reflection. Trip to the Emergency Room avoided – result.
And it didn’t stop there. If you’re anything like me, a whiff of the fumes from a recently opened wine bottle is enough to get your tipsy. Ok maybe it’s just me. Not only that, but a cocktail also goes right through me, and I more often than not require a trip to the little girl’s room within a nanosecond of taking that first sip.
Now, normally when you go to the loo, you simply find the boy or girl sign and open the door. Well that is equally passé. We westerners are positively archaic in our bathroom arrangements.
How about having to solve another puzzle in order to gain access to the toilets? Let me tell you, you discover what you’re made of when you have to solve a problem whilst dealing with significant bladder pressure. Nothing quite like squirming in front of a door, trying to work out how the bloody hell to open it, to see just how well you deal with stress. Now I understand what Hugh Jackman had to deal with in Swordfish, when he had to deal with a *different* kind of pressure, whilst hacking into the FBI/CIA/some form of high security with a gun pointed to his head. It was basically the same sort of thing.
Turns out the door knobs of the toilet doors were for nothing, you simply had to push the other part of the door, i.e. next to the hinges for it to swing open. It’s all very gimmicky, but it was so much fun (I did briefly loose my sense of humour when I *really* needed to pee and couldn’t figure out the door – but it all worked out, you’ll be pleased to know that I preserved my dignity and did not soil myself.)
All jokes and interesting bars aside, Shanghai is one cool city. Part of it was once controlled by the French who did what they always do when in charge of a city: make wide roads lined with platanes (plane trees) which are ideal for strolling along in the shade. This is one thing I wish Hong Kong had, but space is far too rare a luxury here to allow the frivolity of trees on the pavement. On our first day it was sunny, the humidity was low (what a relief after sweaty Hong Kong!) so we enjoyed a long, relaxed strolled through this lovely part of Shanghai.
Here’s an interesting fact for you by the way, have you seen Her? It’s a film set in a futuristic version of LA. The shots of the city are in fact of Shanghai. It’s no surprise really, parts of it look very futuristic:
Unfortunately the pollution that is ever pervasive in big Chinese cities reared its ugly head. We got lucky on the first day, which was why I could take the photos above, but this is what it was like a day later – the first photo by the way is the same view as above with the pearl tower (the cool multicoloured one in the foreground with the big sphere half way up). It’s taken from a different point of view, and you can only just make out the Pearl Tower through the smog, to the right. On the first day it was visible as clearly as in that first photo….
It’s not as bad as Beijing from what I hear, but as you can imagine we didn’t spend too much time outside on that day – when you can taste and see the pollution as you walk about, it’s hard to enjoy the sights without feeling rather concerned for your lungs.
Hong Kong is far from clean as far as pollution goes, but I’ve never see anything so bad. So if you’re planning a trip to Beijing or Shanghai, one of those anti pollution masks cyclists sometimes wear might not be a bad idea!