Thirty years ago Mr Wren and I took two weeks off work to backpack around China. We ended up in Shanghai and ever since then, anyone who knows me will tell, I have always wanted to live in Shanghai.
Last week we were back in Shanghai, and as I watched the masses of people out enjoying a Sunday stroll on the Bund it was hard not to be impressed at how far China has come, since those days.
Back in 1987, we stood in Tiananmen Square, before Beijing Tank Man and the uprising. We endured several slow & tedious trains around the country before Shanghai's Bullet train became the fastest train in the world. We even called into Hong Kong on the way home and admired the skyline. Little thinking that we'd end up calling Hong Kong home or that sleepy Shanghai would give Hong Kong a run for its money as a World Financial Centre and become the world's fastest-growing Skyscraper City.
|The Seagull on the Bund is the small pink building on the left riverbank.|
Back in the Eighties, us lovebirds stayed at the Seagull Hotel on the Bund. It seemed quite flash in those days, we found it on our return, still standing but rather forlorn and overshadowed by developments around. We wandered the streets looking for what had caught my imagination.
What I loved about Shanghai thirty years ago were the contrasts. I could feel the rich heritage and influence of the British, French, American and Japanese. The narrow streets with colonial houses lined with Plain trees.
I was captivated by the old history from the days when Shanghai was known as the 'Paris of the East', the exciting, raunchy city renown for vice and indulgence which became closed off to the outside under Communism.
It had a bit of everything, I loved the British and American influences which meant I could read some things in English, talk to some people. I loved the exotic feel, I was intrigued by the Communist rule. I loved how it felt stuck in a point of history, a bit like the band still playing when the Titanic went down.
In those days when we used old telephone boxes and couldn't look up where to go on the internet, even then, we somehow knew that the best night out in Shanghai was at the Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel.
Fast forward thirty years and we're back, not for the night but for the weekend. The Fairmont Peace Hotel as it’s now called is still the best-known hotel in China and guess what, the band are still playing.
It looks a whole lot flashier than I remember and has been fully renovated, maintaining all the original Art Deco features but with all mod cons!
We were looked after superbly by the Fairmont team who gave us the best seats in the bar for our trip down memory lane.
|The famous Charlie Chaplin staircase of the Peace Hotel, Shanghai|
Some of the musicians who played for us thirty years ago are still playing. The average age of the musicians is well into their eighties.
Which makes me feel better as when you start saying we were here thirty years ago, you know some people are thinking you ain't no spring chicken... Well, we certainly are compared with the Jazz band!
What a night we had. The Peace Hotel team presented us with a delicious chocolate Happy Anniversary cake and the band played a song for us. I thought it was:
‘if you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy...’
but Mr Wren was not too sure…
Fat chance of this in Shanghai anyway 24 million people live here, double than when we came in 1987.
I still could live here for sure, what do you think?