Hanging Out In Shanghai
I travelled once more to China with my wife this year for Chinese New Year’s, visiting my wife’s parents and relatives for the brief period of just over a week.
The week of Chinese New Year, this year from February 11, and the week preceding it is a time of travelling chaos in China. The whole country is on the move. Children of all ages are expected to visit their parents wherever they may be. International students and others from abroad must return to visit their families, so flights are crowded.
But we made it there for the rounds of constant banquets and socializing, which is a nice trick for me since my Chinese is only of the most rudimentary kind. There was a lot of gesturing going on, and occasional words of English and French to help along the way.
For a camera this time, I took along my fairly new Olympus XZ-1, which is basically a bunch of electronics in support of a pretty fine lens (down to f/1.8) for a compact camera. I played around in Photoshop for some of the resulting photos.
This first photo is in one of the downtown areas with the typical masses of residential apartment skyscrapers moving into the distance. The smog in Shanghai is much less of a problem than the infamous stuff in Beijing, but is still present. (I was pleased to see blue skies in Shanghai while we were there.)
This downtown location has what amounts to a private garden in the midst of the surrounding apartments. There are a lot of gated residential areas here.
The next photo is the interior of an older Shanghai hotel where my wife went (with me in tow) to order a select menu of dishes for one of the banquets.
This is an intense matter, I observed, for Chinese, and especially for the women who pour over menus in great detail looking for just the right items for the occasion. Notes are made, discussions with hotel staff ensue, crucial decisions are made.
The weather was just above freezing when we were there, and like most places the lobby was not heated. A chilly breeze blew in the door when anybody entered, and all the hotel staff in the lobby wore heavy winter coats. But then the sun came out….
Of course, getting around in Shanghai is most easily done by taxi. The next photo is from the backseat, on the driver’s side. A common complaint of taxi drivers these days, my wife says, is that business is down due to so many people buying their own vehicles (and as the frequent traffic jams display). There was a marked difference from even a couple of years ago in how often one could find an available cab.
Usually in the Shanghai cabs, from the backseat position on the passenger side you’re looking a small TV screen with ads for watches or liquor cycling over and over again. On the driver side, I noticed the ad like a seal shown here in the lower right corner. It proclaimed that Chrissie Chau, one of the Top 100 Sexiest Women in the World would be appearing at a nightclub called Richbaby in March.
This amused me. In a country of approximately 750 million women, to be in the top 100 sexiest is surely a staggering achievement. How are such things measured? And who does the measuring? Apparently in this case the magazine FHM (formerly For Him Magazine) has taken on this massive if arrogant chore.
I’m fascinated by city alleys anywhere…. they always give me a sense of off-stage life. Particularly in China, the alleys intrigue me, since especially in the older areas they were how most people used to access where they lived. Shanghai as it modernizes has lost a lot of that old alley culture, but it still persists in many parts of the city.
One day we went to the Qi Bao area of Shanghai, which is an older heritage part of the city, I guess you could say.
It was a day off for many people, so the streets were jammed. On the way to one of the main streets sat this musician playing for his supper.
There were shops selling knickknacks, bakery goods, dried fruit, paintings and much more. Here’s an example from one of the knickknack stores… an ersatz stage with strange players.
This is an area of picturesque canals as well.
I was happy to catch this shot of a boy enjoying a snack.
Besides alleys, I find doors evocative, the symbology of leaving and entering, of thresholds and openings and privacy. Here’s one….
And finally, a shot that’s been manipulated to look as timeless as possible, of a Qi Bao canal and its bridge: