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Linda-Marie Singer is The Live Wire

Linda-Marie Singer - Click to Enlarge
SONGBIRDS AND LINGERIE SHARE THE SAME “LINE”
IN SHANGHAI

 

Click to Enlarge By Linda-Marie Singer

Click on the thumbnail images to display an enlargement.

SHANGHAI, China: In Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” there’s a lot of singing about “washing that man right out of your hair.” With women wrapping their heads in colorful array and waving their bodies in the southsea winds, the number is catchy and well, clean.

Look up!  It's lingerie fluttering from laundry lines and willowsills.  Photo Walter Glaser
Look up! It's lingerie fluttering from laundry lines and willowsills.
Photo Walter Glaser
In Shanghai, China’s largest city with a population of 13 million, you won’t see many towels waving in the breeze. Instead, it’ll be songbirds and lingerie fluttering from laundry lines, windowsills, and bamboo cranes. With so little living space, the clothes may be clean, but the look is cluttered. Still, with undergarments waving in the wind, the locals are not self-conscious. It’s just the tourists who giggle and point.
Don't be tempted to rent a bike in Shanghai, home to 6 million bicycles.  Photo: Walter Glaser
Don't be tempted to rent a bike in Shanghai, home to 6 million bicycles.
Photo: Walter Glaser
Welcome to Shanghai where six million bicyclists pedal serenely at synchronized speeds, while motorists weave in and out of cabs, buses, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians. Heavy cranes sound their staccato rat-a-tat-tats as they tear down rickety apartments, stores, and office buildings.

No wonder Shanghai looks like a work in progress rolling towards the year 2000, the time designated to supersede Hong Kong as Asia’s most important city in the 21st century.

With so many people and such frazzle, you may ask what keeps Shanghai so alluring. The answer is simple: Location, location, location. Lying by the Huangpu River and only seventeen miles from the famed Yangtze, the harbor is the third largest in the world and bounces with life. The Bund (Embankment) is its main draw, and if you get down there at dawn, you’ll catch people exercising to Tai Chi and ballroom dancing.

Shanghai may still have that faded Colonial look, but it’s also cosmopolitan, friendly, fashionable and buzzing. Soon to have the biggest airport in all of Asia, a new development called “East Shanghai” will surface by the new millennium bringing more bridges, highway links and subways, making Shanghai the hub of international trade.

But the focal point may always be The Bund with its spectacular view of the Pearl of the Orient Television Tower. Visible for miles across the Huangpu River, it’s the highest structure in Asia and the third tallest in the world. To some, a more civilized way of enjoying the view is from one of China’s most celebrated venues, the Peace Hotel. Since the 1930s when it was owned by Sir Victor Sassoon, one of the country’s most prominent Jews, the Peace has kept its Art Deco flavor and remains among the top spots in the city. No wonder it's called The Pearl of the Orient.  That's the TV tower and The Bund. Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
No wonder it's called The Pearl of the Orient. That's the TV tower and The Bund.
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer

Wander around the galleries, and you’ll want to stop at The Shanghai Museum with its 120,000 Chinese cultural relics ranging from bronze, ceramics and calligraphy, to jades, ivory carvings, coins and lacquer wares.

ow did those women get up there?  The Shanghai Acrobatic and Magic Troupe, that's how.  Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
How did those women get up there? The Shanghai Acrobatic and Magic Troupe, that's how.
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
For entertainment, take in the Shanghai Acrobatic and Magic Troupe, located in the Park Hotel, and then hit The Shanghai Zoo for crocodiles and rare Chinese birds.
But now let’s take a breather at the Yu Garden, built in 1559, and known for its miniature landscaping. Located in old Chinatown, the area is also home to shopaholics! Yes, the celebrated Nanjing Road may attract 200,000 daily visitors, but they won’t find the goodies awaiting them in old Chinatown. What's Santa Claus doing with so many brassiers in Old Chinatown?  Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
What's Santa Claus doing with so many brassiers in Old Chinatown?
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
Fu You!  Well, not you, just a good place to grab some antiques.  Guide Mao-Mao from Cameron Tours points the way.  Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
Fu You! Well, not you, just a good place to grab some antiques. Guide Mao-Mao from Cameron Tours points the way. Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
While other countries have one or two specialties, Shanghai has a little of everything specialty at below budget prices. Take a day and discover famous hand painted crystal spheres, lacquered jewelry boxes, designer suitcases, antique watches and cameras, cloisonné, ivory and jade.



The deals and workmanship are unmatched. For instance, a 28” hard-shelled suitcase on wheels ranges from $12-$15; a string of fresh water pearls including the clasp costs only $1.50! Take note: The glass spheres that are painted on the inside with fanciful Chinese designs can be hundreds of dollars elsewhere, but in the alleys of Shanghai they’re as little as $25.00. The one I purchased ran $15.00, a faded kelly green bottle with decorations of children swimming in the springs, their suits a dashing red, orange, and blue.

Haggling is easy and expected. No one will yell or insult you or walk away. Instead, they will give you a sum, you will say no, and then you will compromise. For instance, here’s how I bought my Chairman Mao commemorative watch:

“How much is this?” I ask the vendor.
“$50 ” he says.
“What? $50? How can that be? Chairman Mao is dead.”
“Okay, give me $40.”
“How can it be $40?” I ask. “What about $15?”
“Hahahahahahaha.” (clutches heart)
“$20?”
(Reaches for a pen and paper on which he writes $25)
“Final price,” he tells me.
“Final?” I ask.
(clutches heart again)
“Okay, okay! Here’s the $25.”
(smiles)

The same rule applies in the famous Friendship Stores which are government run. Not realizing I could barter, I paid $60.00 for a full-length down coat made of silk valued at $300 in America. As you can tell, you will never overpay for anything. Of course, you could buy at Burberrys in Shanghai and spend typical Western prices, but why bother when you can find a silk blouse on the street for three dollars. And, by the way, if you don’t think China has changed much, take another look. Shanghai now has a Playboy store.

Shopping and trading actually began in 960 AD, but perhaps the city became world famous a century ago when it boasted more than 240 foreign banks and was known as the “Paris of the East.” With The Treaty of Nanjing in 1842 that brought an end to the Opium Wars, it became a divided city first controlled by the British, then the French, and finally by the Americans who formed “concessions” resembling foreign nations. Since they remained outside of Chinese law, the underworld flourished and Shanghai got its bawdy reputation for being decadently wild with “Taxi-dancing hostesses,” “Sing song girls,” opium, and free-flowing alcohol.

Shanghai was home to 30,000 Jewish refugees escaping from Nazi persecution.  Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
Shanghai was home to 30,000 Jewish refugees escaping from Nazi persecution.
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
Still, history shows us that the Chinese also played a pivotal role in saving the lives of thousands of Jews beginning in the 19th century when the country served as a focus of Jewish immigration. The Sassoons, Kadoories and Hardoons were three notable Jewish families who gained strong economic ties across China, while during World War II, the country took in 30,000 refugees who escaped Nazi persecution.

Today you can visit The Ohel Moshe Synagogue on Chang Yang Road and see a part of that history.

A stitch in time still saves nine in Shanghai...Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
A stitch in time still saves nine in Shanghai.
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
Now the spirit is free flowing in a different way. Lifted from Chairman Mao and his cruel Red Guard, you can feel a release of tension as you ramble through the great city.  It won’t be uncommon to The new China image with fashion models strutting...Photo: Linda-Marie Singer
The new China image with fashion models strutting.
Photo: Linda-Marie Singer

find families setting up a picnic table and eating outside on a main road, or women stitching clothing to make a few Yuan. Foreigners will stare at all this, but the Chinese are so used to it that they will even pose for pictures. This, surely, is the new China.

Zig zagging through alleyways and side streets, I found a place where women were doing Tai Chi in the park, punctuating the air with their hands, the exercise bringing strength and tranquility. Little birds accompanied them with sweet tunes arising from their cages, while owners sat back and explained that everyone and everything needs an airing. Even the lingerie dangling from rooftops.

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FOR ALL TRAVEL TO CHINA CONTACT THE EXPERTS AT:

CAMERON TOURS
6249 North Kensington Road
McLean, Virginia 22101

Phone: 800-648-4635 - Fax: 703-538-7124
Email: camerntour@aol.com
Web: www.erols.com/camtours/

Photo:  Walter Glaser

#  #  # 

Linda-Marie Singer "The LIVEWIRE" for Travel Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine & Proses." She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area. (More about this writer.)

Email: lindamari@aol.com - Web: http://www.i.am/lindamarie  

 

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