Passport to Adventure

29 May

(it’s surprising what movie titles you can find when armed with access to IMDB – we could have had ‘The Yellow Passport’ from 1931 (appropriate, considering the colour of an ETD), or ‘A Passport to Hell’ (1932) (perhaps a bit defeatist), or even ‘Passport to China’ (1961), Passport to Rio (tricky with my flights) or 1922’s ‘The Missing Passport’)

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So, no show from the mysterious (and really annoying) Jin. His phone is out of service now. So, armed with 1045 Yuan, I make my appearance at the British Embassy, where the really helpful Tania sorts out what looks like a play passport with my itinerary typed into it. I suspect she has provided as much leeway as possible for the arrangements, but I have to follow this pretty closely. At least I can get moving again. The next challenge is getting a train seat. Friday night there are no seats, and the prospect of an 11hour train ride without a seat horrifies even me… so I go for a really uncomfortable seat on the Saturday trip to Beijing. A bit late, but I think if I move fast I can do all I want.

So, what else is to be told about Shanghai. If it weren’t for pickpockets, I really like the city. Some of it looks like it was built by an unimaginative child with his first Lego set – but other buildings look like they were created by Pablo Picasso overdosed on acid and caffeine.

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The walk by the river on the Bund is magnificent, although it’s even more fun watching the crowds with their cameras taking joke pictures holding up the pearl of the Orient tower (a radio mast). The buildings on the embankment (well, actually the river is higher than the street now) are like a history lesson – the original British Embassy, with allegedly the longest bar in the world, the Peace Hotel, buildings created with the express instruction to be taller than the one next door, the home of the Gang of Four, an odd signal tower…

On the way back from the entry-exit bureau I take a trip through the new Pudong area, the skyscrapers that you can see from the Bund..it’s a green city full of trees and space – every now and again there’s a little garden for workers to relax in, wonderfully designed with water features and enclosed away from the roads. It’s just as well, because it’s crazy busy. People seem to move in waves of humanity. I feel like Neo in ‘The Matrix’ but without the woman in red. No, sorry, there she is. No-one waits for people to exit elevators or tube cars either.. it’s all barge and shove.

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And still I get people engaging me in ‘copy watch, bag, iphone, ipod, memory card, massage, lady massage….’ – whereas elsewhere in Asia they just call out as you pass, here they leap out from behind buildings, fall in step with you and follow you up the street… a couple of them are getting wise to the cheerful Englishman who’s ‘quite happy just walking’. The seller of strap on skate attachments for shoes (like primitive heelies – did these come first?) ignores me now. But just how do Europeans survive if they live here? Do they just become immune to it all?  I ask a couple of touts if I there’s a secret to shutting them up. Apparently not.

I wander round some of the old town – tragically they are mostly converted to souvenir shops piled high with copies of Mao’s little red book.

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And then I find my way to the oasis that is the Yuyuan garden. This is a 14th century Chinese garden in the middle of the city, a hamster maze of little buildings, pagodas and towers in amongst piled up rocks, carp ponds and bridges and surrounded by acers and ginko trees. There are gorgeous carvings and little tableaux on the roofs – just a wonderful and magical place even if it does seem to be full of businessmen looking to see something of Shanghai after work.

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No apologies for the numbers of pictures of the gardens – I really loved this little tucked away place – I felt completely at peace, very much complete and whole. But if does occur to me that I should apologize to my mother for my grammar (a schoolteacher – what can I say?). Starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and’. Or ‘starting’ if it comes to that. Although I do try to keep my apostrophes under control. Sorry, Mum.

And then the Bund at night – another visual skyline shock of lights and tourists. The Pudong skyline is lit up, while the tour boats compete with each other – and with the buildings – for garishness… there must be 30 or 40 boats in procession up and down the river, each one lit with a million lightbulbs.

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Now, this blog has got badly out of control in terms of time order (I may be losing the plot)… but I think I will talk about the museum another day. Oh… and Timmy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow…..

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2 Responses to “Passport to Adventure”

  1. Nikki Rose May 31, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    The Yuyuan garden looks so peaceful, Tim!… But the rest of the city sounds rather crazy

    How are you doing? :o)
    xx

    • Tim Hodgson May 31, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      Doing good now.. although my little leggies are tired… Beijing is brilliant!

      Tim xx

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      *Timothy Hodgson* /Author, leader, teacher, adventurer, visionary/

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