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People's Square (Shanghai, China)

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People's Square in Shanghai, China.

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      28.11.2012 16:35
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      A disappointing square in a very atmospheric city

      People's Square was top of my list of attractions to visit when we were in Shanghai in June. I had always wanted to see one of these giant public squares in communist China to explore with my own eyes and see what all the fascination was about. I didn't want to visit the square on my own as I thought my husband would appreciate the experience. I had to wait until he had a free slot in his busy schedule, when he would be able to go walkabout and leave the stuffy conference room.

      We walked to the Square which is in the Huangpu district of Shanghai next to Nanjing Road. It wasn't a very long walk but it seemed to take ages before we arrived at the subway junction. If travelling by Metro you need lines 1, 2 & 8. Don't worry; the Chinese Metro isn't as wild as some guide books make it out to be. I wish we had taken a train as the humidity on that day was bad and slowed our pace down.

      It was exciting leaving the underpass to walk up stairs to find ourselves in front of an amazing skyline. This skyline envelops People's Square and I cannot emphasize strongly enough the beauty of Shanghai's skyscrapers. The buildings surrounding the square are colossal in size and so eye catching. Most of the buildings are hotels like the Raddison New World Hotel, a tall, tube like edifice topped with a spherical capsule that looked like a space ship. One that really stands out is the two pronged silver building that is the Meridien Hotel. It is like a mammoth sized memory stick. The Shanghai Government building is an austere looking building sat next to the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. It may be sombre and unsmiling but I quite liked the shape of the building. It looked the part with red flags flying in front of it and buses and cars whizzing past. The Shanghai Museum which is in the south corner of the Square has its own cylindrical shape and is interesting to look at too.

      At the entrance of the square there is a row of launderette blue cubicles. These are public toilets with their own attendant sat at the end of the row on a chrome chair. The man looked like a doctor dressed in a pale blue uniform of matching jacket and trousers with white shoes on his feet. For some reason I was fascinated by this row of loos, there was something bizarre about the location, the design of the toilet block had a B52's look about it and made me smile.

      I wasn't actually taken with the Square at first; in fact I was very disappointed and said to my husband, 'Is this it?' I don't really know what I expected but I wasn't impressed and thought that nearly all the squares back home in Warsaw were far grander and more interesting than People's Square. For a start, it lacked shape and there wasn't a focal point so instead of looking at the square you end up staring at the backdrop of skyscrapers. The reason for the missing focal point is because there never was one, the site used to be a horse racing track owned by the Shanghai Race Club, and buildings were moved from other sites in 1949 so that the square could have a kind of architectural presence and be of some importance to the people of Shanghai. It was much smaller than I expected and rather drab. There were some flower beds but they weren't exciting or particularly colourful so I was disappointed with this. The central fountain wasn't switched on either so this was another disappointment as I had heard stories about people dancing to the musical fountain.

      The positive side to the visit was the atmosphere of the square, I liked it. People were laid back and seemed happy to relax. It was fun to watch families feeding white fan tailed pigeons with their children. These birds were very tame and seemed to be everywhere. Some people strolled around at a gentle pace, others ran as they flew dazzling kites high in the air, some practiced Martial Arts and others sat and talked. It was busy but not noisy, there was an aura of peacefulness and I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere. It also seemed very safe and I didn't feel threatened at all.

      After visiting the Square we walked underneath to find a labyrinth of shops and passageways linking the many entrances to the Metro. This was an interesting experience in itself as I love Chinese tacky neon signs. Even though people were darting around, the speed wasn't hectic. I was very surprised by the movement of people in Shanghai, it was on par with Warsaw where people plod rather than walk in a hectic way, like they do in London.

      I'm glad I visited People's Square because it would be silly to travel all the way to Shanghai and miss it out but I wasn't impressed with it. Of all the attractions I saw on my trip this was the most disappointing.

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