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China 17: Street life, propaganda posters and a Kiwi connection

In this penultimate China post we soak up more from the streets of Shanghai and meet up with our friends again for a classic Kiwi pastime. (And no I don’t just mean drinking!)

In a culture so different from your own, just wandering around and observing everyday life is so interesting – especially once you get away from the high street into the older areas.

We wandered the streets and alleyways, taking in the market stalls, lines of laundry, riding contraptions and human interactions.

Sometimes the alleys felt like you were walking into people’s back yards. And I guess that is the case but I’m very sensitive to boundaries and at times it felt a little intrusive. The communal kitchen was a case in point, though we must’ve been there between mealtimes as no one was around.

Our middle day in Shanghai was wet. Still there were things to get out and see, namely the French Concession area. We tootled out, grabbing the umbrellas that had otherwise been sucking up space in our bags, and used the metro to head south.

As the name suggests, the French Concession refers to a territory that was ceded for French settlement – this was in the mid-1800s after parts of China opened to foreign trade. Shanghai also had the International Settlement for Brits and Americans. These foreign territories existed for a century, plenty long enough for architectural influences to be stamped onto the city.

As we walked along the tree lined streets past beautiful big homes it often did not feel like we were in China.

We found our way to the Propaganda Poster Art Museum. Posters were a key form of communication for the Mao government, especially during the Cultural Revolution and thousands of colourful designs conveying specific messages were produced. This is a private collection which explains the somewhat obscure location, in an apartment building. It’s a popular place though. We walked around the rooms taking in the artwork and accompanying narrative. We left with a couple of prints which have joined the rotation of travel art at home (need more walls!).

The day finished off with the friends we’d stayed with a couple of nights before, meeting them firstly at a sports bar in the French Concession. In a city with loads of ex-pats The Camel Club (or just The Camel) is a popular place. We were certainly due for a spot of re-hydration but the main purpose of our visit that day was to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks live back home. The ABs won :).

Camel Sports Bar

Camel Sports Bar

After a quick turnaround back at the hotel, we all went to dinner. The lighting was so dim it was hard to read the menus let alone clearly see the food that duly arrived – but it was delicious! And a great way to spend our final night in China.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Such great pictures! I find China to be so interesting. I really hope to make it there someday. Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to see more!

    23 March 2015
    • Thanks very much. We barely scraped the surface but it was fantastic. Economical travelling too, once you’re there.

      25 March 2015
  2. Love your photos Hayley! And oh how I’d love to visit that Propaganda Poster Museum, must have been hilarious (and a tad oppressive maybe). Thanks for sharing stories & pix from your China travels 😉

    24 March 2015
    • Thanks Amit! One of the prints we bought was of ballerinas in a dance formation wearing military uniforms pointing rifles, so yes there were some interesting ones 🙂

      25 March 2015
  3. I think I like this last series the best. I surely got the feel of how crowed it is. Those places were bustling with activity. Wares and people with tiny streets and virtually no sidewalks. I found the French Connection area fascinating.That is all new info for me. Those huge non-Chinese looking homes are what impressed me the most along with a modern looking sports bar. I am more than stunned.

    24 March 2015
    • I really enjoy your reactions to these China posts Yvonne, thank you! We saw some great contrasts. Some of those big homes reminded me of New Orleans, perhaps because of the French tie-in there too.

      25 March 2015
  4. Sorry but my mind wandered and that should be “Concession” but who knows I reckon by a stretch it could be called connection. 🙂

    24 March 2015
  5. Janice Strong #

    Thanks Hayley for this blog soooo interesting. I did not know about the French, Brit and American influence. What a complex culture this must be. I too really like the Propaganda Poster Museum apart from being so creative and colourful incredible thinking and philosophy behind the posters. Awesome blog.

    28 March 2015
    • It would’ve been an interesting time to be in Shanghai, in the day of the international settlements. Most posters have apparently been destroyed so the museum is a pretty amazing resource. Thank you Janice!

      31 March 2015

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