Well and truly Shanghaied!
09 May 2012
I remember once asking my father - who was a chief engineer of a Norwegian merchant ship that travelled the world - what it meant to be Shanghaied. Somehow this word had cropped up in conversation and I was intrigued. What could it mean and where was Shanghai?
I'd got out my school atlas and opened it on the page showing ‘The Orient’. And there was Shanghai on the east coast of China halfway up. An important seaport and a centre for international trade, it said, with interesting European architecture along the river promenade called the Bund. I was intrigued.
Growing up in Oslo - a small city on the very edge of the world - I knew I wanted to travel and explore exciting far away places when I grew up. The school atlas was crammed full of exciting far away places. Where to start?
Alas, it wasn’t that easy to explore the big wide world. A few trips around Europe when I was small. Visiting Sweden one school holiday, England another. As I grew up summer holidays in the sunny and warm Mediterranean became the norm, but the truly far away places escaped me, they were always just out of reach.
Then at last I was able to justify a visit to the far east. A big birthday was coming up and there was the World Expo in Shanghai at the same time. Could I swing it? ‘Let’s go to Shanghai for my birthday’, I said. My wife was all for it. We were very excited.
Then there was the question of where to stay. ‘On the Bund’, I said. We went online and started doing our homework. We soon discovered that if you’re on the Bund you can’t see it, but if you’re on the other side of the Huangpu River - the Pudong side - you have a fantastic view of the Bund.
We discovered there was a newish hotel on the river called the Shangri-La with great views across the river. It wasn’t cheap by any reckoning, but hell we thought, this was a special occasion so let’s splash out. We booked a room overlooking the river and started saving up for the trip.
We arrived at Shanghai airport and what excitement it was to take the Maglev – the fastest train in the world - to just a few blocks away from our hotel. Then a cheap, metered taxi took us the rest of the way to the magnificent Pudong Shangri-La on the river. And what a hotel it was – probably one of the best hotels in the world - and certainly the best we’ve ever stayed in.
Our room was up high with the most wonderful view of the river and the Bund there before our very eyes. What a spectacle at night with the illuminated boats just gently floating by. A trip of a lifetime.
And did I ever discover what it means to be Shanghaied? Yes, but that’s another story.