A Canadian in Beijing: Floating Billboards on The Bund

Since I’m on vacation here in Shanghai, it stands to reason that I ought to act like a tourist once in awhile. I have been snapping photos like one since I arrived, to be sure, but besides visiting The Great Wall, I haven’t yet taken in many historically significant sites. For once, I read a guide book and took the advice of the pages therein. They advised me to take in the waterfront in Shanghai, particularly on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The Bund, also known as Zhongshan road, is an historical section of waterfront that stretches a little less than one mile on the western front of the “Pu Xi” (West City) and looks out to the eastern part of Shanghai known as “Pu Dong.” It is raised and separate from the roadway and proved to be a popular tourist destination on this sunny day. I was among them and I got the requisite photo taken across from the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower as well as one of the tallest in the world, the Jin Mao Tower. (Hard to believe that, coming from Toronto and knowing the scale of the CN Tower!)

The Bund is part of the Huangpu River, an essential shipping route and regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for many years. There are lots of cruises available in these waterways that are flanked by huge corporate modern structures intermingled with a diversity of architecture from many different cultures across many centuries. It’s clear that this port has long been an international one, and not just because of the wide diversity of faces we can see walking along and snapping pictures just like us.

I thought it would be a great place for a romantic stroll on a warm evening and this thought warmed me into stalling and going to the edge of the walkway to peer over. I stared out into the river to see muddy waters below. My gaze followed the river’s current out and north-westward where the waters were guarded by Nikon and Nestle and other multinationals.

Between their buildings and my perch, there was a boat cruising slowly across the harbour with a giant screen and constant television advertisements flashing brightly for all to see. I could think of nothing more I’d rather NOT see than commercials at that moment. Talk about muddying the waters… A floating billboard on the Bund?!

I took that as a sign that I had seen enough. I turned and left, having walked only about halfway.

Still, I am happy and grateful to have seen an historical section of an ancient port, and this moment of its development is no less valid. It, too, will eventually become part of history.

Pic of me by Sarah Keenan