After doing part 1 of the historical creek tours back in December (on the first day of the extreme cold snap) we happily turned up for the second part only to find that it was the coldest day of the vacation. Not -2 with wind chill but still pretty cold for a 2 hour walk. But we game-fully plodded on.
This half of the Suzhou Creek was home to The Lanes or cramped housing for poor people. In fact our guide’s family had lived there before being rehoused in the 1980s. The area has been redeveloped with business buildings and smart hotels now and is no longer the place for people to buy their cheap clothes from.
In the 1990’s the city authorities wanted to turn the Suzhou Creek area more upmarket so invested in high rise office buildings and couldn’t understand why all the shops closed down…people no longer lived in the area! They have now encouraged more residential building to bring people back to live here with some of the apartments among the most expensive in the city.
This sector had previously been a thriving commercial area and contains the first Shanghai Chamber of Commerce. Interestingly the gatehouse remains and from the bridge you can still see the red banners of the Cultural Revolution. Although politically sensitive the paintings have remained here.
Kevin and I have discovered that no trip to an Asian country is complete without a look at their historic post office buildings!!! (See blogs about Yangon and Hi Chi Minh) Shanghai is no exception and we were shown not only the impressive colonial exterior of the central post office
… but also the interior which boasts the longest post office counter in Asia!
Sadly with the advent of email and social media only two windows now ever open! They do also have an interesting postal museum which we were whisked through. We were told it was a small museum but I reckon that you could easily have spent half a day in there (which would have been welcome to have escaped the cold…)
We then walked along the Creek past the Sassoon building ingeniously built in the shape of a S which was used to house Jewish refugees to an innocuous residential block that had been used in WW2 by the Japanese as a prison for foreign journalists and other such reprobates! Finally what was the foreigners hospital. This was a vast building run originally by the church for paying rich foreigners like the British but with a number of beds with free treatment for other nationalities such as Malays or Filipinos who fell sick.
The building has since been renovated and turned into The Bellagio, an upmarket hotel. According to Feng Shui, water means prosperity which is why there is a beautiful fountain at the entrance. This is also why many Chinese restaurants the world over have fish tanks or other water features somewhere near their entrance, to welcome money into the business.
This hotel is definitely prospering. And it has been beautifully and sympathetically renovated. I loved the grand sweeping staircase decked out in Chinese New Year decorations.
Here you can book suites for private dining where you get your own mini bar and toilets! Each floor has a different colour theme. minimum spend £60 per person excluding drinks.
But my favorite part was the walkway to the external gallery. it was like something from a science fiction film.
Outside we were treated to spectacular views of the Creek
And the financial centre across from The Bund