From Guangzhou we flew to Shanghai. Shirley, a bright young woman who spoke excellent English met us at the airport. I had expressed a desire to see the historic Bund. A trip was arranged.
Shanghai, the current business capital of China has a history that goes back a thousand years.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the west side of the Huangpu river sported magnificent buildings housing the embassies and financial institutions of the many western colonial powers that were exerting their political and economic dominance over China. Glitz and glamor were the order of the day. It was known as the “Paris of the East”. The bank on the west side became a popular walk, the Bund, where colonial masters took ‘the evening air’ with their families. Just north of the Bund, the Huangpu Park was reserved for foreigners only, all others were kept forcibly out. The modern Monument to the People’s Heroes was later built there. After independence, those magnificent building were gradually turned into hotels, government offices and banks. They stand to this day, a testament to a bygone era, well maintained, brilliantly lighted at night and a very popular tourist spot. The Bund or Waitan, as the Chinese call it, is also a testament to colonial occupation and the fight against it.
In contrast to the glamorous west side, the east side of the Huangpu, Pudong, remained a vast collection of muddy farmlands, fishing villages and wharfs. In 1993 the Special Economic Zone of Chuansha, Pudong New Area was created. That bought in a radical change. Business and construction boomed. It is now the pulsating, financial heart of modern China with tall buildings like the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai Tower and World Financial Center, iconic buildings that have changed the skyline of Shanghai and recognized the world over.
We drove to the Bund, parked and walked to the promenade. It is a very popular tourist spot and therefore crowded with visitors taking pictures and selfies.
It was evening and I took a quick look around. On the west bank of the river, the traditional buildings glowed golden. Opposite, the colors of the modern buildings were purple, red and blue, almost psychedelic. Shirley told me the history of the Bund and the various buildings around us as we were walking. Then she took us to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower. That was a unique experience. We had to ride on elevators of different speeds and capacities. At each stop we got off and looked at the view from above.
We had a wonderful, panoramic, bird’s-eye view of the buildings of the Bund and Pudong from the highest point of the tower. Some of the tall buildings were shrouded in clouds with the bright lights glowing through them. It was an eerie but unique experience.