Thursday, April 21, 2011: Journey to 浦東 Pudong
Across the 黃浦江 Huang Pu Jiang, the major river separating East and West Shanghai, we entered 浦東 Pudong. a major commercial center and financial district. The whole area has changed a great deal since last time I visited. Last time, I came with my family to see the 東方明珠塔 Oriental Pearl Tower. The square where it is located used to be open and barren, with just the river and the tower. I was surprised to see the rising skyscrapers and intersecting highways. I still remember running with my younger sister around the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower and feeling free. Not anymore. Now we were stuck amidst honking cars and almighty commercial buildings and patches of green grass. In addition to the glamorous Oriental Pearl Tower, Pudong is a symbol of China’s economic prowess, home to the Lujiazui Finance and Trade District (陸家嘴 or “Lu’s Mouth”), Jin Mao building (金茂大廈 “Golden Prosperity Building”), Bank of China Shanghai (上海中銀大廈), Shanghai Stock Exchange, Shanghai World Financial Center, and the future Shanghai Tower.
On the drive over to Pudong, I was immediately glued to the Oriental Pearl Tower. It was one of the few sites I vividly remember from my childhood trips to China. In the car, I kept taking photographs of the tower. I was taking snapshots in the car, with the windows rolled down, with my head out the window, and with me cursing all the buildings getting in the way. I was totally obsessing over the perfect picture of this pretty-in-pink pearly tower. Xiao Chen did tell me I had plenty more opportunities to catch the perfect angle of the tower, if not more flattering and complete.
I can finally say I have been to the 黃浦江 Huang Pu Jiang. I always see it in dramas like Fated to Love You, thinking to myself, “Dang, I’ve never been to this famous river in Shanghai!” It was a pleasant walk, a light wind blowing against my face and a nice view of Shanghai. Xiao Chen gave me some history lessons on this area of Shanghai. Across the Huang Pu River was Puxi. He pointed out to me the old European architecture. The Big-Ben look-alike atop a beige, columnar building gave away the European influence. The buildings were a clear contrast to Chinese architecture, with their set, rectangular shapes, domes, and columns at the front façades. Back in the 1800s when Europeans colonized Shanghai, they stationed many banks, commercial centers, embassies, and companies along the river for economic convenience and development. A little further down was also a Jewish center. Nowadays, most of the buildings remain as financial centers or banks of China. However, they will remain a part of China’s history from the European Imperialism era.
The Huang Pu River in Shanghai is the end tributary of the major Yangtze River before exiting into the East China Sea. The river is a major divider of Shanghai into East and West. It also contains numerous tunnels for the Shanghai Metro and bridges connecting the two areas. It is also a significant source of drinking water for Shanghai netizens. I am not too sure if the water is consumable, speaking the color was grey-green, akin to the infamously-polluted Hudson River of New York. Last time I went kayaking in the Hudson, I was anxious that I might flip into the water. At the Huang Pu River, perhaps because I was comparing it to the Hudson River, I was imagining the worst-case scenario of falling into the possibly dirty water. No worries, my imagination was jumping off walls needlessly. I still enjoyed looking at the waters.
Aside from becoming an essential port area and dividing line, the Huang Pu River is the perfect place for romancing. I’ve seen it in dramas and Mom dared to ask Xiao Chen about dating Qing Qing. Particularly at night, the river is a romantic hot spot for honeymooners. The evening lights, the quietude, the gentle wind, the darkness, and the isolation, how much more perfect can the world be for two lovebirds?
The walk was pleasant because for the first time, we were not suffocated with tourists. That was because the tourists were on the OTHER side at Puxi. Looking across the river, I could see the flashing camera and the black swarming dots. Puxi is the main site for tourists because they get to see the river AND the stunning skyscrapers, like the Oriental Pearl Tower. Hehehe… I still think we got the better end of the deal: peace, space, time AND the tower.