Shanghai, puzzles, and bladder pressure.

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. DSC_0022

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: DSC_0027



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….

IMG_1791This looks like something out of Gotham city doesn’t it? Grab your pollution masks and to the Batcave!


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!


21 thoughts on “Shanghai, puzzles, and bladder pressure.

  1. How cool it must’ve been to visit that city. I love the concept of the puzzle entrances (though I could do without the potty ones!), but that pollution is scary. I can’t imagine being exposed to that long term. Icky.


  2. Wow, so interesting. The pollution is a bit scary, but I love the other shot with the plane trees! I kinda like the idea of puzzle doors, but I’d be the same as you; not quite as enthused by them if I really had to go.


  3. Wow! I can tell you right now those puzzles and mirrors would give me a high blood pressure heart attack! My impatience and claustrophobic feelings would do me in!

    My first sighting of a plane tree was in Paris – i had not heard of them, and the mottled, marbly-colored bark was fascinating (ah, I see a tangle pattern forming), and they do make a lovely canopy.

    What futuristic architecture – i imagine ShangHai is a cornucopia of old and new, but the pollution is simply catastrophic. It reminds me of Mexico City back in the 80s. I did enjoy your “clear day” photos 🙂


    • Ooh, platanes would make for a great pattern! Looking forward to seeing your pattern if you do it. But yes they make a lovely, shady canopy. And it’s nice to get a bit of greenery in a city.

      Actually there wasn’t as much “old” as I was expecting in Shanghai, it’s almost as though Beijing has all the old, and Shanghai the new.
      The pollution was disgusting. What’s scary though is that from what I hear Beijing is far worse. I’m so excited to discover Beijing, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, etc, but the thought of facing that pollution – agh.
      Glad you enjoyed the clear day photos though 🙂


      • Yes, Beijing sounds so alluring. Do you wear a Protective mask? That stuff’s gotta be lethal; those particles in the lungs

        Have you visited VietNam? That’s the Far East country I’m most interested in – the biking company I’ve traveled with offers a bike trip there. It sounds like a great way to see the countryside.


      • No protective masks in HK, but I hear they’re a must in Beijing…

        I have done parts of Vietnam, although I haven’t done much inland, doing it by bike would be great though!
        Another one if you’re thinking about this part of the world is Cambodia. We’ve been recently and you can cycle around the temples in Siem Reap – they are mind blowing!


      • It’s hard for me to imagine being in any of those countries because photos can’t portray the sounds, smells, and climate of those environs.


  4. Also, Celine, – just a “heads up” that I’m posting my response to your Liebster Award tomorrow (Monday) with linky back to your Liebster post, etc. 🙂


  5. That brings back memories. I visited Shanghai several years ago. The bathrooms took some getting used to. But since I spent the summer in Wujiang (three hours away) I got used to “the hole.” But the pollution was bad.


    • Oh wow, so you went off the beaten path! Did you pick up some Mandarin?
      I have to admit I haven’t done much of China, although we have been to Yangshuo (did you hear of it when you were there? it’s the place on the 20RMB note) which was beautiful.

      It is a fascinating country but some aspects of it (bathrooms, spitting, pollution etc) are pretty off-putting, at least compared to other countries in Asia – even compared to Hong Kong!


  6. I love that you shared this in all its immediacy and sometimes even urgency.I was crossing my legs for you and wondering how I’d fare – I have a tendency to push when I should pull, and a hugely left-handed worldview…

    Those pollution pictures make me mighty thankful for my semi-rural and currently intensely green view – out my window, right now, across yards and fields, I can see a gray-green wedge of Vermont’s Green Mountains. No remarkable architecture, but the family of birds nested in the eaves (grackles, I think), is growing up. I’ve been listening to the babies’ voices change, these last days.

    Eager to hear and see more of your travel experiences! =D


    • Oh I envy your green view – I look straight onto dirty 6 or 7 story buildings, although that’s all about to change when we move later this week! I cannot wait! 🙂

      And I’m actually planning a bit more on China when I get the time so watch this space! 🙂


  7. Ha! I love the idea of having to solve a puzzle to gain entry, but I imagine repeated trips to the restroom could become increasingly difficult as you’ve consumed more alcohol, lol. The pollution is unbelievable and it’s sad that they don’t consider trees worthy of the space.


    • Haha yes I imagine they must have had a few ‘accidents’ in there at some point! 😉

      With Hong Kong thankfully we have big open spaces for hiking where it’s all greenery which does make up for the concrete jungle we have to live in the rest of the time.


  8. Yikes! I don’t think I’d have much patience with puzzles in the bathroom. I’m really bad with puzzles… 😉 I love those trees – so cool to have a tunnel of greenery. I’d love to see them draping around those beautiful buildings. If they could even survive that pollution!


    • That’s a very good point – I wonder how the trees survive that smog or if they have to plant new trees regularly….

      And yes the tunnel of greenery was beautiful, and it felt so European too, was nice to get a little taste of home 🙂


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