Ever sat in a restaurant and realised that the person sitting opposite you will have had an entirely different view from yours. Maybe you’ve got the view to the street and pavement outside, while your companion can see the hustle and bustle of the kitchens and the serving hatch. Your experience of the restaurant might be qualitatively distinct as a result of the simple matter of perspective and outlook.
Apply this thinking to the cities of the United Kingdom and you might suddenly begin to understand something of the particular character of one of the greatest of those cities – Liverpool.
The picture above was taken last night down by the shore of the wide River Mersey as the sun was starting to set. In the distance, the mouth of the great river is still lit as the sun drops in the West. I’ve been picturing the UK’s cities in my mind and their rivers – London and the Thames, Newcastle and the Tyne, Bristol and the Avon, yet none of these rivers open so clearly onto the oceans beyond like the Mersey as it flows in and out of Liverpool. As a Liverpudlian, your imagination is constantly drawn by this slipway to the rest of the world. To the cities of North America; Montreal, Quebec, New York and San Francisco. To the far shores of the antipodes; Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. To the Orient; Shanghai, Hong Kong and beyond. If you want a clue to the character, personality and outlook of Liverpool and it’s citizens, look no further than the River Mersey and the seven seas lapping at the city’s shores.
It’s nearly the New Year in China – and this year it’ll be the Year of the Horse.
Or maybe it should be the Year of the Rowing Boat for this happy crew.
I snapped this while being rowed lazily around the almost impossibly beautiful West Lake at Hangzhou, a sizeable city of a mere 8 million souls a little over an hour away from Shanghai by high speed train.
So many happy memories of China and hope to back there soon.
Sunday morning in Shanghai comes in different shapes and sizes. Just behind the Nanjing Road, cyclists, street traders and local policemen jostle for space.
While just a ten minute stroll away families and friends were having an altogether more relaxed Sunday morning in the shade.
Generations of young and old mix happily together.
While many of the young use a leisurely Sunday morning to take their technology for a spin, older citizens of Shanghai can often be seen in a more reflective frame of mind.
And everywhere there are children – the future of modern China.
Not quite sure what possessed me to take this shot. This was my second visit to China and the weather was warm and sultry – very different to my first visit. I was having a lazy stroll through some lilongs on my way to the Shanghai Museum when this leapt out at me. An interesting contrast with the futuristic skyline.
It had been a very busy day with no chance to enjoy the warm weather. Then as the meetings came to a close I took a walk outside the foyer of the hotel in Jiashan that we were staying in. Bright red banners flew proudly against the setting sun. For those of you wondering, Jiashan is about 100km from Shanghai – only 30 minutes by high speed train!
The Huangpu River slices dramatically through the two halves of Shanghai – Pudong to the East, and Puxi to the West. Lost count of how many vessels large and small sailed past me standing on the Bund. There were, however, at least six separate shipping lanes between the two shores.
Respect to the river pilots!
And Shanghai’s sleek skyscrapers provide a dramatic backdrop to the maritime hustle and bustle.
Not the easiest structure to photograph although spectacular enough up close and personal. Found this night time shot that I’d taken of the Pearl of the Orient tower in Shanghai.
You don’t have to look too hard to find signs of a growing taste for western products, from clothes to cars, as you move around China’s big cities. And that taste now extends to fast food too. This is McDonalds right in the heart of Shanghai.
It’ll be interesting to see how far and how fast this trend develops but there is plenty of evidence already that it’s catching on. Meanwhile, I was lucky enough to eat – and experience – traditional Chinese hot pot. This hot pot restaurant in Beijing had an exclusively local clientele – referred to as old Beijingers.
The principle of Chinese hot pot is a brass pot with a base filled with burning charcoal. Around the pot, a moat of boiling water, and everyone gets to cook their own food – strips of fresh meat, vegetables, and prawns amongst other things.
Very popular with the locals as you can see.
That’s my friend, Terry, shutting the draught out.This was Beijing in mid December after all! Terry’s a local and was keen to introduce me to this traditional way of eating. Really glad he did. The large goldfish weren’t on the menu you’ll be glad to hear.
Want to run a couple of posts on my visit to China before the end of January so this first one on life in the lilongs of Shanghai seems to fit chronologically as these shots were taken on my last full day there. Jonathan later confided that he thought he was taking a risk showing me these older, more traditional communities that are already starting to disappear, for fear I’d feel uncomfortable. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Although I was a bit surprised to see al fresco fridges were the order of the day for keeping the meat fresh!
Less unexpected was the washing hanging out to dry. Take a closer look at the background and you’ll get a sense of how modern Shanghai is encroaching on these traditional lilong communities.
Interesting that all the windows in the modern office block are sealed while out in the lilongs, windows are thrust open to the elements. Progress?
It’s very easy to present a romanticised view of life in the lilongs, where even a washing line of underwear can look attractive next to the bamboo.
Or the casual arrangement of fabrics that hints at an intrinsic design ethic on the loose!
Life is actually a bit of a struggle here and it’s far from glamorous.
Colourful and plenty of character in the lilongs for sure, but this old woman’s face shows something of the struggle endured.
A short distance away is the five star luxury of Shanghai’s ultra modern hotels. While here in the lilongs, things were that little bit more basic.
Yet the commercial urge was never far away even here though, with tiny shops tucked away where you least expect them to be. I bought a SIM card for my phone in one of these at a bargain basement price!
The lilongs are still there to see but are occupying valuable land in the heart of the city. A similar situation exists in Beijing with their hutongs. They’re a rich part of China’s heritage. As fascinating in their own way as the fast trains or the Great Wall. Get to see them if you can.
Late afternoon winter sunshine catches the detail on these residential apartments in an older area of Shanghai where the washing hangs out to dry. Now you see it.
In the streets below, vendors were selling all manner of food such as these fresh slices of melon.
Not sure what sort of dish was being conjured up here. Hot enough to warm up a chilly December afternoon though.
I was on a mission to find Chinese lanterns that afternoon so didn’t have time to sample any, although the food in this cabinet looked particularly tasty.