Ah, the Chinese wedding car
. I haven’t seen one for weeks – presumably san fu
‘s stinking weather means it’s off-season for weddings
in August. But now at the tail end of the month the temperature has dropped to a practically chilly 35 degrees and only 91% humidity, which means weddings are starting to crop up all over the place.
This wedding car was parked on the Bund yesterday, on the footpath, right outside Cartier. I don’t know why there weren’t parking cops or Cartier doormen all over it like a rash, hauling them newlyweds off to parking hell. Perhaps the wedding was being held inside the store?
The rest of the entourage cars were parked nearby in an alleyway, all six of them. In China, the number of cars in the wedding entourage gives people an indication of your status, so seven cars = pretty well-off, but certainly not rich enough to afford anything at Cartier. Odd numbers are good. Avoid four cars, because the word for four sounds like the word for death. Not auspicious. Anything more than eleven cars is getting into serious status territory – filthy rich, or high up in the Party, or both. Luckily, the cars don’t need to be matching, so you can call up all your mates and have them sticky-tape roses to the car doors and meet you en route.
One wedding car rule is set in stone – the lead car must be different from the others, and it must have a wedding pair of stuffed Disney characters stuck to the bonnet, plus a heart-shaped floral arrangement and a special wedding themed license plate cover. Hello Kitty pairs are okay, but only if one of you is Taiwanese, or if the shop has sold out of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.
The city is looking amazingly fabulous right now. I love it! The dreariness of winter has vanished and in its place, an explosive riot of rainbow neon and LEDs has transformed Shanghai into a city of lights. Before Expo began, the lights of the buildings along the river were turned off at a sensible and practical 9pm, even though the city itself never sleeps. Now the Bund has taken a leap into hyperspace with every conceivable surface covered in pink, red, blue and green fluorescent neon lights; the Pearl Tower looks like it’s ready to rocket off into the stratosphere at any second; and all the high-rises have been transformed into giant TV screens. Guess the Party will be footing the electricity bill for all this then…
The Aurora building in Pudong has the best display – 50 storeys of animated Coke advertisements, electronic fireworks, Expo ads and my own personal favourite – I♥SH with a big pulsating red heart. Say it loud and proud – I Love Shanghai!
Have you been to Shanghai? Then you know the Oriental Pearl Tower, that sparkling pink and concrete sputnik that sits on the Pudong side of the river in Lujiazui. It is fairly heavily pink on a sunny day, and you could easily imagine it as the dream rocket of someone like, say, Cosmonaut Barbie.
But today Shanghai is struggling to be warm and the whole city is shrouded in a quiet grey mist. The Bund is almost deserted, and over the river, the silhouette of the Pearl Tower is just visible. I think it looks hauntingly lovely.
So from one extreme to the other….
After failing to get a seat to have high tea
at The Peninsula in Hong Kong I thought I may have more luck at the newly-opened Peninsula Shanghai on the Bund. I was right – no queues, no crush of tourists – although it was a weekday and the place had been open less than a month.
I have to say that I don’t understand why, when you have a prime piece of real estate overlooking the river, that you would decide to give the best front windows to the Chanel boutique, and put all your patrons in a back room with a view of the driveway. It is a lovely back room though, with calming tones of eau de nil and silver in the Art Deco finishes. And forget the tourists, the guests are all wealthy Chinese in town to do business, or wealthy locals dropping by to have a look and a cup of tea.
The High Tea itself isn’t half bad, if you like your tea English style. I particularly appreciate the pot of hot water with which to make your tea’s strength to your liking. Full points for the entire jug of hot chocolate though. Very thoughtful.
The Bund is the western riverbank of the Huang Pu river, a reminder of Shanghai’s colonial past in many ways, as most of the very English looking bank buildings lining it were built by the British. The Bund has been closed for renovation for no less than three years, so a double-decker tunnel could be built beneath it. Since arriving in Shanghai all I’ve seen is worksite hoarding, dust and trucks. It was finally re-opened just over a week ago, and so I thought it was time to check it out and have a walk along the river.
Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day so I took my bike on a meander through the Old Town, past Yu Yuan, via various back streets to the Bund itself. Once there I realised the rest of Shanghai had the same idea so we all took a walk along the river together. All 892,000 of us. A river of people.
I was forced to take a brief respite from the crowds upstairs at M on the Bund, nothing like a glass of Shaw and Smith Sauv Blanc and a slab of pavlova to build up enough energy to get back out there, find the bike again, and cycle home.
Later in the afternoon the crowds thinned a little and everyone was finally able to get a photo of themselves taken with the Oriental Pearl Tower (that big pink thing) in the background, which seems to be the main point of a walk along the Bund for most people.
It is an impressively lovely bit of river though – with the past on one side, and the pink and promising future on the other.