Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Parks in Shanghai: A Sentimental Recollection

I love the Eskimo lifestyle. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner and Nanook of the North are two of my favorite movies. At the same time, I never had any plans to go to the frozen wastelands of the far north.

I regret to report that the frozen wastelands of the Far North have come to me. Some could accuse me of a certain lack of fortitude. It doesn't actually snow in Shanghai, for instance. I've heard that can be rough. And I haven't had to buy my first scarf yet, either, or my first pair of gloves.

Still, it is with a wistful melancholy that I look back on my pictures of sunny days spent at Shanghai's parks. I've had my word on the eccentric Fuxing Park, but parks serve a larger set of purposes within Shanghai. Not least important is to absorb the heat and pollution from the extremely crowded city.

But of course they also offer a respite from the surrounding. Yan'an Park is in the center of the city, a minute or two walk from the downtown on one side and the large shopping streets of Huaihai Lu on the other, but the lilies and the willows make you want to kick back and have a picnic.

Although to be honest, you'll probably have somebody motion you off the lawn if you did try to do that. The free parks have a strict no-romping-about policy. It's pretty much stuck to, leading to the strange sight of large green empty meadows, with people sticking to the concrete pathways. The parks have a set of rules, most of which are pretty obvious, but some that are weird:

Rules against teasing cicadas or fish? I took a picture and had a laugh. Although it didn't seem quite as odd when I saw this lady apparently doing just that - she was picking up some fish or something with her umbrella, then putting them back in. Odd.

The parks are also popular places to exercise - you'll see people playing basketball, working out at the outdoor gyms (mostly stretching), or even working on tapdancing routines. The basketball players are pretty good, and the sport is very popular in Shanghai. At these courts near the center of town, it's impossible to get a empty hoop until they turn off the lights at 9 pm.

Century Park is an example of the pay parks they have in Shanghai. It's in Eastern Shanghai, the Pudong district, otherwise known as the boring part of town. There's a few other such parks, all around Shanghai. The park costs $1.25 to get in - most parks in Shanghai are free, but these are very large, and allow you to sit on the grass. As shown on the left, this park anchors the neighborhood, and on a nice weekend, will get really crowded. To me the area seems like a bad place to live, but I've heard the apartments are extremely exensive. There's frequent meetings at the park, and for one picnic I had there, we were surrounded on both sides by the face-to-face meetings of online dating services!

The parks are all well kept up, both the pay and the free ones, with workmen constantly keeping the park in the best condition.

Even small parks usually have spaces set aside for the kids to play. Usually it's a playset, but People's Park has a fountain to run around in.

1 comment:

Oaktown Crack said...

So that's where we went wrong, we were using fishingpoles when we could have been using umbrellas.