Shopping Along Nanjing Road

After being used to the sweltering heat of Shanghai, we went for our walk around Shanghai. Nanjing Road East is a pedestrian street that is one of the busiest of its kind in the world – it has thousands of shops, millions of people, and a whole lot of street hawkers shouting “Hey mister, hey lady, wanna buy a watch?”. The road goes for a couple of kilometers and ends at the Bund, which is a large pedestrian walkway bordering the Huangpu River.

So the walk down Nanjing was a bit of a gauntlet for us. We clearly stood out from the crowd as foreigners and as a result were easy targets for the street hawkers. One thing I’m finding in this city is that a smile gets you a long way and is almost always reciprocated. We were here during the daytime but at night it’s absolutely lit up with dazzling lights…there’s definitely no place like it at home. Eventually it turns back into a “regular” street (with very narrow sidewalks!!) and leads you down to the river.

To actually get to the Bund you have to go through an underground walkway since it crosses a perpendicular street. When you emerge at the other side, if you look back at the area from which you came you’re immediately faced with a street lines with beautiful European colonial buildings that make you think you’re back in the 1920s. The Bund itself is a bustling, wide walkway that locals and foreigners alike can enjoy. Directly across the river is the area known as Pudong, which 10 years ago was swampland but today is a showcase for some of the most modern architecture in the world. That’s the area where you can see the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. At night it’s lit up and is a very impressive sight to see. The day we went to the Bund was especially hot and muggy, and the heavy smog reduced our visibility somewhat but you can still see the main sights in the pictures. On our walk back to the hotel we stopped in one of the colonial buildings along the Bund. It housed numerous high fashion retailers including an Ermenegildo Zegna shop, which as most of my friends here know is one of my popular men’s fashion houses. It certainly didn’t disappoint – it was three floors of men’s fashion nirvana. That said, the prices certainly weren’t any lower than you’d find in other parts of the world – so I didn’t buy anything. But I’ll be back!!

That night I wasn’t in as good spirits as I was earlier in the day. I was dealing with a couple of things with the hotel staff and some of the immigration folks that frustrated me because of the language barrier. This is a place, as I’ve been saying, that you need to process bit by bit. Otherwise you become frustrated and burned out. For example if someone here doesn’t quite understand what you’re asking of them, rather than admit it and ask for clarification they’ll give you an answer they hope is as close to the mark as possible, and that it will satisfy your query. Or they’ll give you the answer they think you WANT to hear rather than the one you NEED to hear. I know it’s a way of helping you (and them) to save face but it can be very frustrating since you sometimes feel like you need to process their answer, ask yourself if their answer truly reflects an understanding of the question, and evaluate whether you need to pursue it further. Since we don’t always know what we don’t know, it also puts you at risk for hearing an answer that misdirects you – potentially in ways that aren’t always easy to rectify. Anyway I guess it was a combination of fatigue from the jet lag and profound frustration. That said, it was a lesson learned and I’ll try to keep it in mind for the next time. Besides, nobody told me this would be easy.

The Bund area is also a popular destination for Chinese tourists and a couple of these groups even requested to take pictures with us. We noticed others trying to sneak pictures of us. While Western tourists are not new to Shanghai, it is uncommon sight outside of the China’s major cities. Communication so far is not easy but it is manageable. Its always helpful to have one person who can speak mandarin in the group. Hopefully my ability to communicate improves as I progress in Chinese class.

James Ashe is an American traveller, who loves trave all over the world. Kungfu Panda is his pet name for his China travel articles as he travel around China by China Airfare . See more about his China tours blog and China Airfare tips just log on the ChinaTravelDepot.com, which sponsor his China vacations in China.