Saturday, February 24, 2007

The People's Square

People's Square is a large park in the center of Shanghai.

It's not as grand or as large as Central Park in NYC, but that's the obvious comparison. It's bordered on the North by the central shopping street of Nanjing Lu, the Bund is just a little to the East, and the large offices and shopping district on Huaihai Lu is just a little to the South.

It's mostly shops and hotels surrounding the park, including the occasional mega-mall. With the picture on the left, they like to stage a jazz band in front of the New World Mall. The People's Square area was once a rectrack at the center of the concession-era city. Some of the buildings date from that that time, especially alongside Nanjing Lu, where the new and old co-exist quite well. It's about the only place in Shanghai the new and old co-exist quite well.

That picture was taken from a corner of the square, known as the People's Park, just like in Berkeley! It's more paved than the rest of the square, there's crazy statues and sometimes art exhibitions. Below can be seen a kid rollerblading around, I'm proud because it's the first picture I've ever taken with decent panning technique:

There's a few businesses on site, including a second branch of Mac Dog - another Berkeley connection. Its mascot is a blatant rip off of Top Dog, a hot dog shack right off the UC Berkeley campus. But it not longer sells the fancy hot dogs, aside from having a choice of chicken, pork, or beef. It now specializes in sweet dessert drinks. There's also a Starbuck's, it's hard to see the sign in the picture below. But it's worth searching out, the rooftop tables have great views of the park. There's about five Starbuck's within a 1 block radius of the park.

To me the park is defined by pathways, often with benches alongside. It's a place for families and couples to walk around and chill. That's as opposed to Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, which is one massive, flat, concrete pavilion. Or a Western Park, where usually patrons are allowed on the grass, maybe kids can run around and play games. Actually this is the only case I've seen of people on the grass, it must have to do with being Chinese New Year's, and that the grass looks entirely dead anyway.

My old Lonely Planet has an interesting story about that, that the landscaping was done in reaction to the massive rallies held during the Cultural Revolution, making it impossible to have such large demonstrations on the site. Maybe the ralliers wouldn't want to trample the pretty flowers?

There's two buildings that can be seen in the above picture - there's a few large buildings inside the park, all with weird (if complimentary) architecture. The building on the left is for productions of musicals, they had a production of Disney's Lion Kind last year. The building on the right is the city government heaquarters. It's hidden by a tree, but really there's not much to see. Here's another building, a great location and I kind of like the weird looks. However the museum is incredibly boring - it's a Shanghai city planning exhibit!

There's also the Shanghai Museum, I went when I first came to Shanghai, I'll have to go again. I've heard it described as the best history museum in China. There's a fountain in front for kids to play in, on warmer days. People fly kites in the area, just as common is hawkers flying kites, and then trying to sell the kites to people walking by. Also when I first lived in Shanghai, I stayed in a hotel around the corner. I'd cut through the park at night, some of the pathways were evidently sleazy gay pick up spots. I'd get Chinese guys using English pick-up lines like "I like you, you like me?" as I walked through.

Huh, there's also an area which is more designed for the kids. Sometimes there's hosted arts & crafts outside, like painting. There's also carnival type rides, the same as could be seen in the US, such as these bumper cars:

As it's a busy area, there's lots of small shacks for the commuters and the passerbys, like newspapers stands, or small shacks selling quick drinks and food.

Finally, the park has a few bottlenecks, where crossing the road or entering the subway requires using underground tunnels that are too small:

No comments: