A second business trip to Shanghai in mid January 2018 refreshed my impression of this city they called 午夜城 or the midnight city.
‘You thought things die down by 10pm? People only start entering the pubs after 12’, said Wendy, my colleague, my tour guide and possibly my best friend for the next 4 days.
Never a fan of nightlife, i found myself strolling along the enchanting Nanjing Pedestrian streets, a popular tourist attraction near my hotel.
I was holding a bag of buns while sipping warm Nanyang milk tea against the chilly wind.
The sea of neon lights and displays were colorful and mesmerizing. People were chatting and laughing aloud in cafes, many were entering restaurants and streaming in and out of boutiques.
Now you know why this city never seems to sleep. It has its ugly side, no doubt.
I was constantly stalked by ‘tourists’ – from young attractive women to old wrinkled granny – who wanted to befriend me.
First was a middle-age man who asked if i needed a massage, before showing me photos of attractive masseurs. Then, 3 young ladies approached me on separate occasions. Interestingly, they all claimed to be tourists who lost their way and asked for directions, before suggesting to have a meal together.
An elderly granny also claimed to be a teacher from Beijing, shared a truckload of experience about China’s education system and invited me to have coffee with her and one of her students (a sweet young face with LV handbag who appeared out of nowhere!)
Scams like these are common in Shanghai, cautioned Mike, my hotel concierge. They take you to shady pubs, order ‘expensive liquor’ without you knowing and you end up paying thousands or become crippled.
Dangerous. I learnt about such trickery long ago from Nat Geo’s Scam City. Its good to watch tv sometimes!
Shanghai’s weather was cooling with a temperature of 15 degrees celsius by day and -2 degrees by night.
Coming from extremely humid Singapore, I chose to wear my polo-T and my grossly undersized, decade-old windbreaker. Wendy thought I went bonkers, so did my colleague Serene and her hubby Aaron.
They were aptly attired, saved from curious stares and giggles. Honestly, it felt more cooling than cold.
After work, Wendy drove us to 城皇庙 or the City Temple of Shanghai. Its a folk temple located in the old city of Shanghai where residents and tourists come to pray for peace and good fortune.
By night this place is transformed into a beautifully-lit night attraction, patronised by souvenir hunters and food lovers.
Sure there are Mcdonalds and Starbucks, still, the venue exudes strong historical character and charm.
If you ask whether if its more beautiful in the day or night, I can assure you the busy morning scenes will take your breath away.
On the third evening, I braved the biting chill and marched happily to the People’s Park (人民公园), located along Nanjing Road, near Shanghai’s main shopping district.
The park was beautifully sculptured to exude a signature ancient feel. I could create a poem right there and then (maybe under one of those trees!)
The park was colonized by folks draped in thick winter wear. Many were playing chess, mahjong and poker cards while surrounded by onlookers.
I saw some exercising on pebbled-laden paths and a few elderly men doing their evening jogs.
Its refreshing to see diverse tree floras from this temperate coniferous region.
The People’s Park was created in 1952. Though it looked (and smelled) prehistoric, it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the city with nearby museums and Shanghai’s main shopping street.
One of the most popular nearby shopping malls is the Raffles City Shanghai, located opposite the park and near the famous Shanghai Bund.
Raffles City is a skyscraper that bears the iconic CapitaLand logo. Many Singaporeans who visited the mall felt they were back in Singapore.
Well… I found Bread Talk there, but i was disappointed because there wasn’t a Toast Box or a cafe that sells a decent cup of Teh C.
Maybe I should set up a Teh C or Teh Tarik stall there one day, who knows?