Monday, 4 May 2009

Shanghai: Yuyuan Garden

Back in early November, me and a friend managed to find a bargain flight deal to Shanghai, and spent a very enjoyable long weekend there. The theme for the weekend was getting lost, and it started as soon as we tried to find the subway stop at the airport which apparently no longer exists. So we had to take some dodgy looking bus into the city centre, and get on the subway there. We accidentally managed to get on the wrong train line on the subway, a fact we only noticed when it became apparent that the buildings outside rather slummy looking, or as Lonely Planet would no doubt put it, ‘charmingly authentic’.

Getting lost on the Shanghai subway isn’t all tears and frustration though as it is infested with some of the best bakeries in the world, which I presume to be some sort of legacy from the French. I purchased, and then consumed like a famine struck Ethiopian, this half-doughnut half-danish concoction filled with berry jam-syrup. Later on in the week, we also discovered the joys of a bread roll covered in a slab of real bacon and cheese, which, again, sustained us through a few geographically difficult moments.
We decided to spend our first afternoon at Yuyuan Garden, a Ming era garden. I think we spent more time getting lost than we did at there, as it’s located at the back of the Old Town Bazaar. Think of cartoon old China, then throw in a liberal sprinkling of spangled souvenirs, Starbucks and McDonalds, then imagine that the person who designed it was drunk

The garden itself was beautiful, and, blissfully, almost empty on a chilly but sunny midweek winter afternoon. It was also one of the most fun, and playful, traditional sights I’ve been to. There was a sense of joie de vivre and intimacy that contrasted with and complimented the formal layout: the garden was divided into sections using white walls topped with black dragons. Entering a new section you were unsure what you would encounter: a pagoda, a pond, beautiful lush plants and twisty trees, intriguingly shaped stones or a weathered statue. Often it was a combination. Sometimes you could catch an intriguing glimpse into another area, to tempt you on.

It was somewhere you could imagine men gambling, women laughing and children running around. Whether they ever did or not is a moot point, but I enjoyed myself imagining it.

The swarms of goldfish were quite impressive to behold. We obviously would not have thrown a piece of chocolate into the pond, just to see if they would eat it. As we didn't do that, I can't tell you that the fish gobbled it down.

We had caught a bus to the Old Town area from our hostel, and naively assumed that the bus stop would be on the same street, roughly opposite the one we’d got off at. We wandered up and down, being assured by people that it was ‘just down the street’ until we wondered if we had finally been broken by China and had developed a form of joint insanity that manifested itself as an inability to see the bus stop that was clearly evident to everyone else. Then, on a side street we saw our bus stopped in traffic. The driver refused to let us on, and look very smug about the fact, so to find out where the bus stop was we had no choice but to run along after it once it started moving. The bus stop, obviously, was located two streets and several blocks from it’s partner.


  1. You are so lucky to be in those gardens. My eyes are feasting on these shots. Thanks!

  2. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.