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 :).
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.