Shanghai’s sci-fi skyline is a lurid and surreal view from The Bund, the city’s riverside boardwalk. Pedestrians cram the sidewalks between the river and the central shopping district each night as they walk down to take selfies with the light show.
The Oriental Pearl Tower with its famous orbs is the main attraction. The night we go for a look both the top of the Pearl’s tv tower and its neighbour, the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower, are hidden in fog. The light displays play off the mist.
Jenny and I have tickets for the Sightseeing Tunnel tram under the river to reach the Shanghai Tower. The tram trip is a two-minute ride through a weird and tacky underworld. A narrator promises you’re going through “massive magma” and “paradise and hell” as fairy lights, where they work, flicker red and green. We disembark under the purple and pink hue of the Pearl tower and walk a kilometre through a Disney street scene and pricey fashion mall till we finally get to the Shanghai Tower.
The lack of queue for the lift to the 118th observation floor at what would be rush hour on a clear night means we are met quickly by tower staff. An attendant holds a grey clipboard up to her chest and frowns. “Because of the weather this is all you will see.” If we weren’t leaving for Beijing the next day we would have put off our visit but there’s still the world’s fastest lift to take for a (quick) experience. We stop for a “free” photo in front of a green screen.
The lift is all mirrors and a screen showing the speed which tops out at 10 metres per second. My ride is punctuated by constant swallowing to clear my ears.
A wall of grey and our reflections in the observation floor’s windows greet us with not even an inkling of the light show from the buildings below.
Suddenly the floor starts cracking beneath my feet as it collapses in 3D animation. While I’m enjoying falling with the rubble the tower staff hurry me to join Jenny at the photo collection point. Our free photo hasn’t turned up but they’re keen on us taking another and fuss around tidying Jenny up. They don’t bother with me but I reckon it’s because they think I’m a bloke. We’re offered a series of our grinning selves superimposed on Shanghai backgrounds. Somehow the “free” part has got lost between the 118 floors and this collection will cost 200Y for six (about $40). While we decline the offer, an attendant reaches into a bin and hands Jenny a photo of us in front of a green screen. “This is free.”