Sunday 22nd October 2017

The sky’s the limit in Pudong

Another weekend of extraordinary contrasts

This weekend has been one that I shall remember perhaps mostly for the differing images that it conjured up, ranging from the wide open spaces at Cape Nanhui on Saturday, to the teeming metropolis of downtown Shanghai today, and even that was far from uniform, especially with regard to the contrasting architectural styles to be seen on the opposite sides of the Huangpu River, with the stolid 1920s buildings on “The Bund”, the western side of the river, facing the extraordinary mountain range of skyscrapers across in Pudong New Area across the muddy river.

The (rapidly disappearing) wilderness at Cape Nanhui in the evening light was a calming scene

Sunset over the Nanhui wetlands

Buildings of different periods, each reaching upwards towards the sky

The stratospheric tower of Tomorrow Square contrasts with the gardens in People’s Park

Amazon Water Lilies, Victoria amazonica, survive outdoors in Shanghai’s muggy, clammy climate

The Lotus Pond was popular among photographers on a Sunday morning

Ladies were carrying brightly coloured parasols

The group walked slowly past the pond, showing their parasols to the photographers across the water

The Bund was the seat of colonial power from the 1850s, although most of the buildings date from the 1920s and 30s

The Fairmont Peace Hotel (1929) and to its right the Bank of China (1942), which was originally commissioned to be the tallest building in Shanghai

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building (1923) and the Custom House (1927) are two of the grand old ladies of The Bund

The North China Daily News Building dates from 1924

The older buildings along The Bund look out towards the river

The stupendous cityscape that Pudong New Area presents is in stark contrast to the 1920s architecture opposite it

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower has come to symbolise modern Shanghai

The Huangpu River’s muddy waters wind through the city, dotted with boats

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Wednesday 18th October 2017

Extraordinarily powerful description by FWC

A few days ago I was looking through some of the articles written by my grandfather, F W Champion, and I came across the following passage, which brought home to me again his extraordinarily beautiful writing style. It describes the view that he and my grandmother enjoyed when looking northwards from the foothills of the Himalayas, either from Naini Tal, Almora, Binsar, Kausani or Ranikhet. I was so moved that I sent it my friend Rosemary Fox, in Canada. Rosemary grew up in Lansdowne, another hill station, as did my father, and they would both have marvelled at this spectacular panorama as children. Rosemary said that these words had had moved her to tears, and I can well understand why.

One can gaze and gaze yet again at this snow panorama and yet never tire of gazing. In the dawn the sun rises almost behind some of the more distant peaks, giving them the appearance of being nearly black; an hour or so later the blackness will change to a dazzling white and the sun’s rays striking the mountains on one side will bring the thousand and one variations of shape and form into almost stereoscopic reliefs; by midday the sun will be to the south and the innumerable mountain peaks which in the morning appeared to be at varying distances from the spectator will now give the impression that they are all more or less the same distance away and will appear smaller and less inspiring; in the afternoon a few clouds will probably collect and some of the peaks will disappear from view altogether; in the evening the clouds will disperse and the sun having now reached the other side of the mountains will again repeat the morning’s process of outlining the peaks and saddles in sharp relief; then finally as the sun sinks below the horizon, the splendid array of peaks will turn to a lovely rose pink which gradually changes to the blue green coldness of the eternal snows by night – like life passing into death. Then there is the fairyland scene produced by this snow panorama when lighted by the soft glow of the full moon; the majestic sight of some lofty crest surmounting a fierce storm raging below, like a fine ship sailing confidently over a rough sea; the complete disappearance at times in haze, as though the mountains have retired into privacy behind a veil; the long drawn-out plumes of powdered snow flowing from the crests when a fierce wind is blowing suggesting that the gods of the mountain are warming themselves round a comfortable fire.

From “Haphazard Ramblings in Kumaon”, by F W Champion, Indian State Railways Magazine, c1931

The mighty Himalaya photographed by F W Champion, looking northwards from Kausani

Three of F W Champion’s staff gazing towards the holy mountain Nanda Devi, with the flat-topped Nanda Kot to the right

A rustic scene with Trisul in the background

The triple-peak of Trisul (now spelled Trishul), the trident

A glorious view of Trishul that I took in 2014

Trishul with Nanda Ghunti away to its left

The mighty peaks of Nanda Devi, formerly the highest mountain in the British Empire

The five peaks of Panchachuli

The panorama from Pangot, with a Mountain Hawk Eagle soaring above Trishul

One can gaze and gaze yet again at this snow panorama and yet never tire of gazing.

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Saturday 14th October 2017

Reach for the Sky

In total contrast to the old part of Suzhou, with its tranquil gardens, canals and narrow, winding streets, the modern part of the city seems to reaching for the sky, with skyscrapers going up at an astonishing rate. I took the bus from my accommodation to the modern city centre (a journey that costs the princely sum of 1 Yuan; about 10 pence), and then walked most of the way back, curving along the western shore of Jinji Lake.

From the wildlife point of view, there was little to be seen, other than a few egrets, and a number of skipper butterflies nectaring in the flowers of a shrub whose flowers look like hollyhock, but which appears much more bushy than that.

Suzhou’s modern skyline is pretty impressive

Happily, many of the canals have been well landscaped with trees

Apparently this astonishing building is nicknamed “The Trousers”

Am I in Manhattan, or Suzhou?

China ancient and modern

Don Quijote and Sancho Panza appear to have made it to Suzhou!

I do not envy the workers who are building this monster on the east side of Jinji Lake

Suzhou is really a city of contrasts

A skipper, perhaps Borbo borbonica, nectaring in the flower

Is this shrub a hollyhock?