A Short Interlude in Swampy Shanghai

The skyscrapers of Pudong lit up in technicolor at night.
The skyscrapers of Pudong lit up in technicolor at night.

After five days of enjoying the beautiful Beijing spring, I headed out to the airport one evening and boarded a flight to Shanghai. As I stood on the tarmac waiting to ascend the plane’s steps, I looked around and thought to myself how absolutely perfect the weather was.

PERFECT. Absolutely perfect.
PERFECT. Absolutely perfect.

Two hours later, I de-planed into the Shanghai Swamp. Even after years of living in the city, I had conveniently forgotten just how hot, humid, and oppressive late spring in Shanghai can be. I checked into the Astor House, as usual, and quickly found that the hotel had not yet turned on its central air conditioning system. I’m not saying that I’m the one who convinced them to do so, but … well, I voiced a strong request.

My first day in Shanghai was intensely sunny and hot, and as I walked along the Bund in the morning I felt sympathy for the many young couples having their wedding photos taken there that day. They must have been broiling under all those layers of fabric.

“Think cool thoughts … cool, happy thoughts …”

The following two days were foggy, humid, and rainy. As I walked on the southern end of the Bund one morning, I noticed that the old mixed-use buildings on Jinling Road (shops below, apartments above), under whose distinctive arcades I had often passed, appeared to be prepped and ready for a date with the wrecking ball. I had heard that this was in the works, but it still jolted me to realize that the shops and apartments are now vacant, and that the next time I come through Shanghai this once-familiar area will likely look very different.

Jinling Road—likely the last time I’ll see these buildings intact.
Jinling Road—likely the last time I’ll see these buildings intact.

The French Concession, however, looked mostly as I remembered it. I love how the neighborhood’s signature London plane trees grow toward each other to form a tunnel of green in the spring and summer months. It almost made the weather feel cooler.

The illusion of cool.

My primary reason for being in Shanghai is something that I will be writing about elsewhere, so stay tuned for that.

The old buildings on the Bund never fail to impress me, even in the rain.

Three days is never enough time in the city that I consider my second home … except when it turns itself into the Shanghai Swamp. In that case, three days is more than enough time—especially when more good weather awaited me back in Beijing.

Tomorrow: Liaoning Province

3 thoughts on “A Short Interlude in Swampy Shanghai

  1. Your delightful article on swampy Shanghai reminded me of living there in pre-air conditioning days when monsoon/typhoon rains made for circumstances where the local English-language papers would print photos of Chinese using row boats to maneuver the flooded streets near the Bund. Another memory was of not being able to sleep through the heat of the night and listening to drunken Japanese soldiers celebrating their night off, singing and dancing the tanko bushi.

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