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DOWNTIME TRAVEL


“Shanghai haS Succeeded in retaining moSt of the colonial buildingS from the 1920S and 30S along the bund. in thoSe dayS thiS waS the third biggeSt financial centre in the world.”


as it used to, although twelve layers of paint had to be meticulously removed to get down to the original pale green ceiling with its embossed red Chinese dragons. All that’s missing is the Emperor’s Table, a long wooden structure at which Sir Victor hosted his guests as they ate overlooking the Huangpu river. The biggest thing that has changed is the view. When Sir Victor used to look across the river to Pudong, he gazed down on a poor marshy area of farms and fishing boats. Now the same view rears up with more and more skyscrapers every year. Nevertheless, Shanghai has succeeded


in retaining most of the colonial buildings from the 1920s and 30s along the Bund. In those days this was the third biggest financial centre in the world. The stately Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was said to be the


North Korea South Korea


CHINA Shanghai East China Sea Macau Hainan


most beautiful building in Asia when it opened in 1921. The Customs House has a clock face based on Big Ben, the old Bank of Taiwan looks like a Greek temple and the North China Daily News office could have stepped out of 1930s New York. All these buildings are framed by


new development that is going up at a staggering rate. No guidebook to Shanghai stays accurate for long. Nevertheless the city is now protecting what remains of the Shanghai Sir Victor knew. The buildings of the colonial era French Concession have all been turned into trendy boutiques. The old shops and restaurants around Yu Yuan Garden are a major attraction for Chinese and foreign visitors alike, and outlying towns like Zhouzhuang have been restored to offer tourists a bucolic day out. Glamour has definitely returned to Shanghai.


Huangpu river A restaurant boat on the Huangpu river. At night the river is lit up with highly decorated boats that sail north from the ferry terminal, along the length of the Pudong shore and then change course in front of the Peace Hotel to return along the Bund.


Taiwan Hong Kong


Yu Yuan Garden Bazaar In the Yu Yuan Garden Bazaar, visitors can see Layang Pian, a form of Chinese peep show, being performed. Dating from the mid-19th century, Layang Pian was very popular in the 1920s and 30s but declined under Communism. The puppeteer Weitian Shi has revived this art form in the bazaar and provides all the voices himself.


Zhouzhuang An old industrial canal through Zhouzhuang has now become a major tourist attraction. Visitors can shop the length of the town, eat at a waterside restaurant and then take a boat back to the coach park. China’s 13th-century canal system originally reached as far north as Beijing.


The lobby at the Peace Hotel 100 / dECEMBER 2011


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