Thursday, February 04, 2010

Yuyuan, Shanghai Old Town

If you are ever in Shanghai I strongly recommend the Renaissance Yuyuan gardens - it has a great spa (one treatment every day for the last three days of my trip - bliss!) good food, lovely modern bright rooms and is walking distance from the main modern streets of The Bund and Nanjing Road and also overlooks what we found to be the best but of Shanghai - the old town. This night photo was taken from the window of the lounge on the club room floor level. There is a similar view from the spa. The old town is actually an area of back alleys that are well worth exploring ( more photos next post) but the centre of it has a garden with beautiful pagodas, rockeries and ponds - the Yuyuan gardens. The shopping area (think silk scarves, pashmina, teapots, calligraphy pens and the like) is housed in the area with curly roofs and is - to our surprise - not full of western tourists but almost exclusively Chinese. In fact we saw very few westerners at all in Shanghai even in the hotel.

As you can see though - there are distinct signs of western influence along side the celebrations of year of the tiger.

In this area any westerner is going to be hassled to buy fakes. But I was highly amused that each time we went from the hotel it was,"watches, handbags, looeevooton,". When we were going back to the hotel loaded with bags of cheap pashmina, the same touts would run up, "You need suitcase?' Just walk on and they go away. Or we tried speaking French as they walked past. That confused some!
There is also another ploy which is to get you into a 'traditional tea ceremony'. Around Nanjing Road we encountered an amazing number of charming students who all wanted to practice their excellent English, all of whom were transfixed by Dennis' eyebrows and lo and behold all of them were going to a traditional tea ceremony and would be like to go? Well, no, because actually we already did that.
This is Mr Ma. Who employed a similar technique of stopping us in the old town to practice his English. we knew full well what was going on as soon as he said we could take photos from his roof top tea garden. "Free. No charge to look." But you know what, we like, tea, it was freezing cold. he was actually a very interesting conversationalist and we wanted to buy some stuff anyway. So we went with him and found a wonderful tea shop with beautiful wood carved walls which we would never have seen anyway. We paid for him to have tea with us - total cost for us all to have five different teas with explanations of how to make them all and their medicinal properties: £3! I confess to watching him drink each before I did to make sure it was tea and not rohypnol though!

So, if you see him around - he's OK, go with him! Really good vantage point for photos, no pressure to buy and no rohypnol! I

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