Jin Mao Tower!

I remember back in 2003 reading about the Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai’s skyline. I was only ten years old back then. I have been very interested in all things skyscrapers my whole life, and I remember then and there deciding that the Jin Mao Building in Shanghai, China was the best looking building in the world over 1000 feet tall, or at least in my ten-year-old opinion it was. At 1,380 feet high, the Jin Mao Tower was the fifth tallest building in the world. I liked its sharp, pointy look, and how it wasn’t fat like all of America’s skyscrapers. I liked the tapered look that increased in frequency as it went up, which made it look even taller than it actually was. I liked it’s lighting at night. I liked how it wasn’t box shaped. I liked how it had a spire but not an excessively tall one. I liked how it looked next to the Pearl Tower. I remember picturing in my head the day that I would be able to visit and go inside. I know. I was a weird ten-year-old.

Fast-forward 11 years, and here I am in Shanghai! Sitting in the shadow of the Shanghai Tower and Shanghai IFC, the once fifth tallest Jin Mao Tower seems to have been eaten by its taller neighbors. Being the smallest of the “big three” downtown, the Jin Mao Tower draws very little attention today. People seem to forget that it is still the 15th tallest building in the world. While the Shanghai Tower represents China’s future, and the Shanghai WFC represents China’s present, the Jin Mao Building represents China’s past, and what was once the tallest building in China is now the third tallest on the block.

Jin Mao Tower (the left building of the Big 3). It's shrinking!

Jin Mao Tower (the left building of the Big 3). It’s shrinking!

I didn’t forget about the Jin Mao Tower though. Yes, it only has the fourth highest observation deck within the quarter mile radius of downtown, not even enough for a city level bronze metal, but I knew 10-year-old me would be mad at if 21-year-old me even hesitated.

It was 120 Yuan for a ticket. I waited four days for the weather to be perfect before I decided to go. The elevator ride up to the 1,116 ft. high observation deck took only 45 seconds. The elevator operator and I were the only ones in the elevator. Who even comes to this building? The views from the top were great. The observation deck took up the whole 88th floor, offering 360-degree views of Shanghai. It was a cool vantage point to be able to look down at the rest of the Shanghai skyline 1100 feet below. But then I would look to the left and the Shanghai Tower would be looming another 1000 feet above me. And then to the left of that was the Shanghai WFC building also towering 500 feet above me. Only in Shanghai.

Looking down at the smaller buildings, which are all about the height of the tallest building in Charlotte.

Looking down at the smaller buildings, which are all about the height of the tallest building in Charlotte.

Looking up another thousand feet at Shanghai Tower. Hmm.

Looking up another thousand feet at Shanghai Tower. Hmmm.

The observation deck had some nice information to read, and some cool comparisons of the Jin Mao Buildings to other buildings around the world. They also had a lot of Yao Ming memorabilia in glass displays. There was also a glass window looking down at the second largest hotel atrium in the world, something I had forgotten I had learned when I was also ten.

All in all, it was a really fun solo trip for me. It made me feel very nostalgic. I don’t know why, I obviously had never been there before. I spent about 150 minutes at the observation deck, so 135 more than the average visitor. I know ten year old me would be proud.

 

Jin Mao Tower holding together China's present and future. Without it, the other two would be meaningless.

Jin Mao Tower holding together China’s present and future. Without it, the other two would be meaningless.

One of the tallest atriums in the world, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. This building also has the tallest laundry chute in the world, so at least it won something.

One of the tallest atriums in the world, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. This building also has the tallest laundry chute in the world, so at least it won first place in something.

 

Things People Do on the Bund at 6am

With all of the delicious food here in China, I often find myself wondering why no one here is struggling with obesity. It’s hard to find someone who is even just a little overweight. Outdoor exercise seems to be major part of Chinese culture, especially for older people. Whether it be running ten miles or playing a game of chess, many Chinese people know how to spend time outdoors. On any given morning, the public parks are usually full of people engaging in some sort of activity.

To my surprise, the Bund is always bustling with thousands of people on a 6:00am Sunday morning. There are the hundred or so photographers lined up along the railing with their tripods facing the skyline to capture the smoggy sunrise. There are the many old guys filling the sky with their kites. There are the groups of ladies practicing some choreographed dances while competing who can play their music at the highest volume. There are the various people practicing tai chi, the old men yelling at the river as loud as they can, the flamboyantly dressed guy listening to his headphones while screaming the lyrics in falsetto, the walls of people walking backwards shoulder to shoulder as if they were playing some sort of reverse red rover with everyone on the bund, the people clapping their hands with every step, the people both walking backwards and clapping, the people playing badminton, chess, and street tennis, the out of place laowai in their business suits making important phone calls, the group of 50 joggers screaming a countdown from 100 to 0 interrupting the important phone calls, the lines of jogging soldiers in training with the stragglers being dragged by their collar by the higher-ups, the people slapping their forearms until their skin is bright red, the people taking a break from their jog to smoke, and the countless other people doing things I don’t really understand.

This pro was one of the many kite flyers I would see at the bund. Emily and I tried flying a kite at the Bund once. After about 40 minutes, all we had accomplished was tangling 40 feet of the kite string around me and wrapping our kite around a light pole. Apparently it is harder than it looks.

This pro was one of the many kite flyers I would see at the bund. Emily and I tried flying a kite at the Bund once. After about 40 minutes, all we had accomplished was tangling 40 feet of the kite string around me and wrapping our kite around a light pole. Apparently it is harder than it looks.

The cool thing is that everyone is always doing something. Unlike during the afternoon when the Bund is packed with tourists who are just there to block the walkway and take 100 selfies with the Shanghai skyline, the morning is filled with people who have woken up early and travelled all the way to the Bund to engage in some sort of physical activity or hobby. Despite the smog, outdoor activity is still a major part of life for many people here. I like the diversity of activities that I see on the bund, even if a lot of them don’t make sense to me. Diversity of outdoor activities is something I feel is lacking in America. Everyone there is either walking, jogging, or cycling. No one is ever getting together to practice sword dancing or to test out their homemade kites. No one ever takes their bird cages for a walk or goes roller blading in their underwear. It makes me happy to see so many older people meeting up with each other to engage in an activity or hobby they all enjoy. It makes me feel like everyone in Shanghai is friends with each other. Yay!

These ladies were swinging some sort of dragon ribbon around themselves while performing tricks set to music. I really don't know what to call it. It was cool though.

These ladies were swinging some sort of dragon ribbon around themselves while performing tricks set to music. I really don’t know what to call it. It was cool though.

I feel like that back in America, not as many people engage in outdoor activities, especially among older people. Maybe it’s just because I don’t live in a big city or spend my early mornings at the park. It seems most people in America just go for a short stroll around the park and call it good, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not as exciting as the scene here in China, where you’ll find 65-year-old guys having a pull up contest with cinderblocks tied to their feet.

I photographed some of the photographers. This was another popular activity on the Bund. These people looked very professional.

I photographed some of the photographers. This was another popular activity on the Bund. These people looked very professional.

Some older gentlemen warming up and stretching on the Bund. The People's Heroes monument on the north end of the Bund seemed to be a popular warmup/stretch spot.

Some older gentlemen warming up and stretching on the Bund. The People’s Heroes monument on the north end of the Bund seemed to be a popular warmup/stretch spot.

 

Jogging the Shanghai Streets

Most people look forward to Sunday morning as a time to sleep in. On Sundays, I personally enjoy sleeping until 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon and pulling myself together in time for dinner. Here in China however, I usually wake up around 4:50am on Sundays to go run. I have found that early Sunday mornings are the best time to run because of the lack of traffic. I don’t have to spend 80% of the time waiting at crosswalks for my light to turn green. I also don’t have to weave in between pedestrians and moped riders on the sidewalk. It is very nice to have the Shanghai streets all to myself. As long as the air quality is healthier than “unhealthy”, I am good to go.

I usually run from our Tohee apartments to the Bund, a distance of about five miles according to Google maps. After I arrive at the Bund, I’ll run a mile up and back the length of the Bund along the Huangpu River and finish at the East Nanjing metro station where I take the subway back to Tohee, a two and a half hour, round trip for a total running distance of about 7.5 miles. Then I usually take a shower and then sleep another four hours until noon. On my runs, I always carry a five Yuan bill in one shoe for the subway ticket and some toilet paper and a wet wipe in the other shoe just in case. I might also carry my iPod for the subway ride home and to check the time. While l like listening to music while I run, I don’t do that here since there is too much going on. Unlike the cross-country trails at Davidson, I don’t have to worry about crossing 40 major intersections during my run, or people riding down the sidewalk on their mopeds.

There are many things I enjoy about running in Shanghai. First of all, the pet dogs in Shanghai are a thousand times better behaved than American dogs. In America, about 99 percent of dogs are incapable of leaving joggers alone. In China however, dogs couldn’t care less about joggers. The dogs here get an A+. Secondly, compared to Davidson, Shanghai is a very big and dense city. There is always something interesting to look at. I always feel a sense of excitement when I run the streets here. Also, the subway means I can explore further out from home because I don’t have to run all the way back. I can just find a subway station nearby and ride the subway seat home.

Of course, my favorite part of running here are the spectacular views on the Bund. The view of the Shanghai skyline with the sun rising behind the buildings is one of my favorites of all time. It makes me proud to be Chinese, and I’m not even Chinese. Having run along the River Thames in London, around the Opera House and Harbor Bridge in Sydney, and up and down the mountains of the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, I can safely say that the Bund is my favorite place I have run. Aesthetically, Shanghai has my favorite skyline in the world, and there is no better place to view it than the Bund. Not only the view, but also the hundreds of other people exercising along the bund helps make it a wonderful place to run. It’s nice to be surrounded by other joggers young and old, local and foreign.

I feel there is no better way to see a city than to jog its street early in the morning before everyone wakes up. It is always my favorite part of visiting new places. Jogging these streets will be one of the biggest things I will miss about Shanghai.

View of the skyline from the Bund. The clouds hid the sunrise this time around.

View of the skyline from the Bund. The clouds hid the sunrise this time around.

The route I take to the Bund. This is the best representation I could find. It's 2014 and Baidu, Yahoo, Mapquest, ArcGIS, Openstreetmap, and Google Satellite view couldn't show me a map of the path one would take from Tohee to the Bund. The best I could do was this unhelpful Google map view that shows 493 unwanted extra routes and a choppy random blue line that somewhat represents a route of some sort. Not to be confused by the rainbow of 32 other lines representing roads and subways that couldn't be removed. I just don't understand anymore.

The route I take to the Bund. This is the best representation I could find. It’s 2014 and Baidu, Yahoo, Mapquest, ArcGIS, Openstreetmap, and Google Satellite view couldn’t show me a map of the path one would take from Tohee to the Bund. The best I could do was this unhelpful Google map view that shows 493 unwanted extra routes and a choppy random blue line that somewhat represents a route of some sort. Not to be confused by the rainbow of 32 other lines representing roads and subways that couldn’t be removed. I just don’t understand anymore.

Here is a fellow group of runners I saw on the bund. I decided to stop and take a photo of the people taking photos of these runners.

Here is a fellow group of runners I saw on the bund. I decided to stop and take a photo of the people taking photos of these runners. They thought I was weird. 

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