The Bund is a major tourist attraction in Shanghai. It is where the Huangpu River splits the city from the old city on the Western banks to the new part of the city called Pudong on the Eastern banks. The older part of the city along the banks of the river has distinctly European or more specifically British architecture. There is a building somewhat similar to Big Ben in London for example. Pudong on the other hand is very new and the architecture depicts the modern status beautifully. Lots of reflective glass on very very tall buildings, odd shaped buildings, spherical buildings and cranes absolutely littering the skyline. Today I was going to investigate The Bund. I mapped out my path and took off on foot. It is 5km from where I live and I had walked some of the route two days ago so I was confident that I would make it without getting lost. The data on my phone isn't working so in all honesty if I get lost I have no google to save me (not that it did a great job of that two weeks ago!) The great thing is that there are a couple of prominent buildings on the shores of The Bund so if I kept them in sight I would definitely make it!
It is an overcast day and slightly cooler with a breeze, perfect for walking around the city. I was warned about the weather and how hot Shanghai was by several people before I came here. I was told that it is brutally hot and humid in summer and quite cold in winter. Hot! Pfft! I can easily do hot! I am from Darwin. To be honest it is hot, but, not as hot as Darwin. It is humid but no where near as humid as Darwin. I sweat it up just as well as I did in Darwin, but you just have to embrace the sweat. It stays hot throughout the night also, which I don't mind. So far Shanghai your weather is appealing to me. I may change my mind in the winter though.
And so I walked. I walked past the three Cartier stores in a 3km stretch of Huaihai Lu (Lu means road.) Gucci, Burberry, Apple, Tiffany & Co... I'm sure you are getting the picture. It is absurd how frequent these luxury retail brands appear on the streets here. Then I came across Marks & Spencer's, Gap and a few more retailers that are a little more in my price range. Marks and Sparks as I like to call it also had a food hall. "Pink Piggies, I will be back for you!" I thought with a smile on my face. (They are a sweet that Benn introduced me to when I was living in London and only available at M&S) The walk was fairly uneventful and I made it there in a little over one sweaty hour.
When I landed at the Bund I was basically in the middle. So I turned to the left and walked all the way to the end of the official part of the Bund (you can imagine it continues on for a long time with companies trying to cash in on the tourist dollar.) I then turned back and walked to the other end. As I was walking back marveling at the intensely modern vista of the Pudong side of the city, with the architecture so vastly different and so modern in comparison to the very colonial side I was on, I was stopped by a Chinese girl and asked if I would take a photo of her in front of the Big Ben-like clock tower. Her English did not seem that good but I understood her. I took the photo and she thanked me and then started talking to me.
"You very tall, where you from?"
"I am from Australia." I replied as slowly as she asked me. I thought "oh this is nice to speak to someone, she must want to practice her English on me." The questioning continued and as she spoke more her English and the complexity of her sentences markedly improved, suddenly a wave of suspicion washed over me. She asked more specifically where in Australia I was from. When I replied "Darwin, it is up..."
"Oh yes, yes I know where Darwin is. It is very up the top and very small. Very small city not many people. Have you got any friends in Shanghai?"
"I have my husband and have met a few people" I replied wondering where this was heading. People who live in Australia don't even know where Darwin is let alone that it is a small place. I'm sadly not kidding. I've had Australian telemarketers ask me where Darwin was, whilst trying to sell me something over the phone. Seriously if you are going to try and make small talk at least know all of the capitals of the country. Anyway, I digress. I was observing this girl. She was probably in her early 20's and well dressed with a lovely white dress on. She was wearing her hair out and it was long, black and flowing in the lovely breeze. Her shoes, bag and umbrella were a pretty purple colour, she was small and slender and a very attractive girl. As I was sussing her out there were some things out of place and three things particularly caught my attention;
1. Last night Greg's boss was discussing the autobiography of Li Na. The Chinese tennis player who was the first Chinese individual to win a Grand Slam tennis match. Her words, I am paraphrasing here, stated that 'Chinese are very intimidated by Westerners as Chinese just do as they are told from birth. They do not think, they do not create, they just do as they are told. They do not like to speak to Westerners for no reason as they feel inferior.' She was speaking to me for no reason.
2. Wealthy Asian ladies are intentionally hair free, pale skin to show that they are wealthy and are not peasants that work laboriously, perfectly made up and matching. You can absolutely tell who has the old money and who are the new money in this country. She had armpit hair! Lots of it!
3. She knew a lot about Australia! That is unusual for someone who hadn't been there. She knew too much. It was strange.
She started to tell me about her friend who was working but was going to meet her soon. They were going to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Would I like to join her as I have no friends and I could meet a few people? BAM! There it was! A scam. I had read about this scam before I arrived in China! It was written by a traveller who was on The Bund, asked to take a photo, got chatting, invited to a tea ceremony, drank more than just tea, there was Baijo (rice wine) also and before he knew it he was left with a bill for about $500USD and minus a few personal belongings. I was excited! I started smiling to myself and wondered how long I could drag this conversation out for before she got sick of me. I started asking questions about her and telling her stories about Darwin and Australia. I asked specifically where her friend worked and why she was in Shanghai. She was from the city of Tsing Tao where they make the beer. Strange that she was from a famous city that most people who have been through China know about. Not many tourists would have avoided ordering a Tsing Tao beer at some point in their stay.
She started to look at her watch. I asked more questions. She started to shift from one foot to another. I asked her to help me with my Chinese pronunciation. She looked around scanning the crowds of people walking by. I asked her what her favourite tourist attraction was in Shanghai. Then it came...
"Are you coming to this tea ceremony or not?" She ever so politely tried to say through her annoyance.
"Oh no thank you. I am heading home." I replied in a sickeningly sweet voice. She stomped off and sat down on the wall about 6 feet away. I skipped off on my merry way totally chuffed that I avoided being scammed. In all honesty, if I hadn't read that article I probably would have considered going along. It sounded fascinating!
I started on my way home, stopped at Marks and Sparks but to much disappointment no 'Piggies'. I found another horribly over priced western style supermarket and reveled in its normal-ness and cleanliness and continued home, scam free. Thank you Internet!