The Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), designed by Kohn Pederson Fox, was the second tallest building in the world (492m) at its completion back in 2007. It remains the tallest structure in mainland China, although not for long as you can see the construction of the funky Shanghai Tower taking place right next to it, which will reach a height of around 632m, making it the second tallest building in the world.
I know this story may be old news to some and I have told it many times over the years, but the aperture at the top of the SWFC (which makes it look like a bottle opener) was originally designed to be a circle (in Chinese mythology, earth is represented as a square and the sky as a circle), but since the the building developers (Mori Building Company) is Japanese, many Chinese (including the Mayor of Shanghai) took this as a slap in the face and protested that the design be changed. It seems that the love the Chinese feel for the Japanese is so strong that everywhere a Chinese person sees a circle they think of the flag of Land of the Rising Sun.
The walkway that makes up the top part of the aperture is home to the worlds highest observation deck, with some glass panes in the floor to really make your legs turn to rubber. I am certainly not afraid of heights or walking on this glass but it was quite the spectacle observing the Chinese jump away in terror as soon as they realized they were walking on see-through glass almost half a kilometer up in the sky.
You get amazing views of downtown Lujiazui as well as the Bund on the Puxi side of Shanghai across the river. Breathtaking stuff.
Rumors still swirl that a spire will be added on top of the SWFC (which cost: $1.2b) to make it architecturally taller than Taipei 101 (cost: $1.8b) and One World Trade Center in New York (cost: $3.8b), but I do not believe these to be true (rather thankfully, because I think that is cheating!). Although “taller,” One World Trade Center’s top floor is almost 20% (100m) lower than that of the SWFC.
Visiting the observatory (plus 2 other floors) costs something like 120RMB, more information on their snazzy official site.
This was my first trip back to the World Expo site after its closure back in October 2010. For quite some time I had been meaning to go check it out at night, and also properly see the Shanghai Arena up close for the very first time. Of course I waited until the thick of winter to venture out to Pudong and take a look.
That evening hovered around 1°C, so I packed on a couple jackets, a hat, gloves, and thick scarf… setting up shop in Yaohua Line 8 metro station before venturing out into the cold for 2½ hours.
I did my best to capture these impressive structures, but did feel something was lacking in the lighting department… especially when you consider how other things are lit in Shanghai. Or even when you look across Shang Nan Road (map) where both the China Pavilion and Shanghai Arena (aka Mercedes Benz Arena) are located, to see how impressively the Expo Axis is lit. However, all three of these structures are immense and still very much breathtaking.
Saigon AKA Ho Chi Minh City (locals still refer to the city center as ‘Saigon’, while using ‘HCMC’ for the larger metropolitan area… I just use Saigon because it sounds cooler), boasts a population around 10 million and served as the capital of South Vietnam leading up until the end of the war… so, lot’s of history. Although I wasn’t alive at the time, I have the images of the helicopter evacuations from the roof of the US Embassy branded into my brain… as well as the VPA tank crashing through the gates of the Freedom Palace, which pretty much marked the end of the American occupation of southern Vietnam.
At first glance the traffic is BONKERS. Saigon has 6 million registered vehicles… of which 5 million are motorbikes. Thank god they pay attention to traffic lights… mayhem [somewhat] averted. I’ve traveled my fair share and had prepared for the worst (from everything I’ve heard/read), but the Vietnamese people definitely have some common sense and general understanding of efficiency when it comes to dealing with traffic situations (very much unlike the people I’m currently surrounded by, who are utterly clueless in these regards). The relentless convoy of bikers does offer a challenge to those new to the game, but I found that as long as you went with the flow (which there certainly was, and everyone followed), it wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard others complain about. That being said, I rented my very own motorbike to cruise them mean streets of Saigon! (more on that later)
Day 1 saw the first excursion to get a grasp of the city, walking from my hotel located a good 30min from the city center, getting my first proper Vietnamese meal (a mean bowl of pho… oddly enough at the very same restaurant Bill Clinton visited some 10 years earlier), then visiting the Ben Thanh market and eventually finding myself at the Saigon Notre Dame next to the amazing Central Post Office designed by Gustave Eiffel, where I sent a postcard to Mom.
Taken over a month ago (yeah, I know… but it’s been a busy couple weeks for me) this was one of the first spring-like days to hit Shanghai. Originally I had wanted to see the “pr0tests” dealing with the Jasm1ne Rev0lution… but what we found were almost 100 “undercover” agents stationed all around the Peace (irony?) Cinema… it was a tense and creepy scene (made more so by getting stared at by each and every one of them; foreigner + camera = no good). So instead, we just walked around People’s Square and enjoyed the nice weather.
Another, somewhat coldish night… hit up Lujiazhui, Pudong [again] with the dope wide angled lens. Booyakasha.
Well, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo opened last Saturday May 1st… 6 months of crazyness now commences. Our first taste of “Better City Better Life“ occured immediately after, when our local government gave everyone in Shanghai an extra 2 days of holiday (+1 day for Labor Day). I took the opportunity to hit up the Yu Yuan Garden shopping area.
It was a zoo.
Yu Yuan Gardens (Fuyou & Lishu Road) is a tourist hot spot for buying (and haggling) for handicrafts… everything from traditional calligraphy brushes and chopsticks to ”new jade” (fake) bracelets and statues. I also happened upon a “2 Kuai Shop”, which is like the 99Cent stores I am familiar with in New York City, only difference is that 2RMB is equivalent to about $0.30!
Definitely worth a visit, just keep an eye on your valuables (tourist hot spot = pickpocket hot spot), and prepare to bargain hard. There is a Line 10 metro stop close by (“Yuyuan Garden“), but at the time of this writing this line is still in test phase, which means it only runs in the mornings, so keep your eyes peeled, or just walk from Line 8 Dashijie station.
I managed to hook up a sweet fake Zippo with classic Mao propoganda art on it (+ fluid & case) for 9.9RMB. Also don’t forget to stop by the infamous dumpling spot, but be prepared to wait in line.
In my twenty-something years, I’ve hit up twenty-something different countries, and without a doubt Shanghai is the night city of night cities [so far]. I don’t mean that in the sense of things being open (NYC gets that one, minus that stupid curfew), or in regards to nightlife (although no complaints here!), but that the lights are blindly turned on and are in essence: blinding, and furthermore, the crowds disappear (which is a huge plus!).
Let me put it this way: Shanghai by day = *meh*. Shanghai by night: *BLAHM*!
This set of images is from 3 seperate shoots, the first 3 images are around my office building at the end of Huai Hai Road East. The following 3 images are of my quick trip to Pudong to pick up a package sent from the homefront (thanks Mom, there is nothing in the world like Belgian D&L mayonnaise!), while the final 6 were actually taken right after the previous post, at Peoples Square.
Compare image #2 above with the one below… same location 6 months earlier:
And from 4 months earlier [see my full post on the graffiti wall]:
Xintiandi (新天地; xīn tiān dì), or XTD as I call it, is an area of restored shikumen, traditional stone houses and alleyways. It is the hot-spot in Shanghai, mostly aimed at tourists, with restaurants, bars, cafes, a shopping mall, and even a jazz club. I had previously blogged about an area called Tianzifang, similar to XTD only not as touristy [yet]… the locals still live there washing their dishes in the alleys surrounded by small artsy boutiques and quiet restaurants. Whereas XTD feels fake and incredibly pretentious, and if you happen to walk into one of the restaurants or cafes in XTD and see your bill, you’ll completely forget you’re in China.
XTD holds a personal record with my Most Expensive Beer Ever, from the Paulaner Bräuhaus… a whopping 138RMB (US$ 20.29) for a 1L mug of micro brew. There is also a Starbucks (obviously), and a steakhouse which serves a 500RMB (US$ 73) porterhouse, which might not seem like all that much, but if you know anything about Shanghai, you’ll know of the various Brazilian BBQ spots that serve all-you-can-eat steaks for 20% of the price.
But then again, who cares when the company is paying.
I also stumbled upon a park located just east of Xintiandi, called Taipingqiao.
And once again I must apologize for my slow posting… seems the Great Firewall of China struck again, taking out the proxy I was using before to access this blog. Now I am forced to use an alternative, UltraSurf, which is available for free here.