Crazy Bike Rides

Well it was a pretty nice May 1st holiday out in Shanghai. Maybe the best part being the three-day work week. I love a Wednesday/Should be Monday kinda deal.

The skies threatened rain the whole time but we only got a tiny bit the final night of break.

I put in an appearance at a student of mine’s birthday party , played with a bunch of kids , caught up with some gardening , did some drawing , and busted out a crazy 80km~ bike ride through the hinterlands of Shanghai.

I set out about noon on the Monday off , armed with a bag , an atlas, and some cash , with only one goal in mind , a man on a mission. I would reach the end of metro line 5! Minhang Development Zone! Wooo hooo!

Now keep in mind , there isn’t much out there really. It’s a good 40 km from the city center and is in a part of Shanghai where factories and farms intermingle. I had been to that metro stop one time before but never by bicycle. I wanted to see the path there.  To ride the metro there it would have been 3 different lines ( 9 to 1 to 5) an equivalent of 20 stops , one way!

Setting out I stopped at the Family Mart on West JianGuo Rd to grab breakfast . Those rice rolls wrapped in seaweed with a yummy filling inside are soo good.

West JianGuo Rd is a great leafy former French Concession street. One way  traffic for the most of the way , big trees, and lots of cool shops. A few minutes into the ride a biker in front of me has spit and I pass directly through the spray. This is one of those “Love China” moments. At the intersection with Hengshan Rd West JianGuo Rd turns into Guangyuan Rd. A guy pulling out through this intersection almost hits a police car and then has the nerve to blast his horn at the cops. Whoa.

I pass the Russian embassy on Guangyuan Rd and turn south onto Tianping Rd. The massive Zhaojiabang Rd looms up ahead. Goodbye low housing and trees , hello real Shanghai. Super tall skyscrapers zoom up and shoppers hurry onwards to the Xujiahui shopping area.

Hmm this was a rather bad intersection to choose. I have to hop off my bike and walk a bit west on the sidewalk to connect with TianYaoQiao Rd. This is a typical busy Shanghai street with cars, buses, taxis , and motorbikes all zooming around. Sometimes I wonder how I have survived so long. I continue down this street past Xietu Rd and Lingling Rd. Suddenly Shanghai Stadium appears. A massive white structure surrounded by high-rise apartment blocks everywhere.

Next up is South Zhongshan Rd and the elevated inner ring road which stands above it. This marks the southern border of the inner city. Things get more and more gritty after this point.

Continuing down TianYaoQiao I pass the Longhua Marty’s Cemetery and the huge glass pyramidal monument that rises out of the greenery. I turn left on LongShui Rd (Dragon Water Road hahaha!) and follow that as it becomes LongCao Rd and then CaoBao Rd. I could have continued south along LongWu Rd and passed the train station but a bike ride a few days ago had already taken me past that. It was time for new things.

Buildings are getting decidedly more shabby and I haven’t seen a foreigner in a while. I stop for some steamed dumplings and get juicy oil on my pants , and handlebars.

Reaching Guilin Rd I turn south , there is a nice park I’ve heard about here but it appears to have a ticket booth at the entrance. Paying for a ticket is a no-no right now. Following Guilin Rd south , I eventually pass under the HuMin Elevated Rd and then Guilin Rd becomes LaoHuMin Rd (or Old HuMin street). I stay on this road for a long , long , time. I pass a few Universities and the last foreigners I will see for a good 4 ,5 hours. After passing the Middle Ring Road LaoHuMin goes past a very unattractive part of town. Recycling centers and the smell of trash burning abounds. The road has gotten pretty bumpy as well. Passing a narrow bridge over the Dianpu tributary I see some nice factories (hah!). Soon after the Outer Ring Highway is passed and a bit further on LaoHuMin deadends into South HongMei Rd. Now if you are familiar with Shanghai you may recognize HongMei Rd as the pedestrian walking street with a bunch of restaurants , bars, and lots of foreigners. You would be correct but this is wayyy to the south of that. Nothing of interest here at all.

Looking at the map places us at east of Xinzhuang. The end of Line 1 and the start of Line 5! Only 8 more metro stops to go! 8 stops with lengthened distances between the stations cuz we out in the boonies now woo hoo!

Ugh South Hongmei Rd is an annoying street. Tons of recycling centers , bad-smelling , and full of big trucks pulling into the factories and blocking the bike lanes. I am also starting to attract more attention. What the hell is this foreigner doing out here on a bicycle?!? A few calls of “Hello!!” occasionally drift over. Weirdly enough a bit past the recycling centers are some exclusive gated communities with big homes. What person with money wants to live all the way out here?

Hmm , ok I’m nearing the southern limits of my map. Soon I will have to rely on my own navigating skills. Knowing this, I decided it’s time to head west and meet up with metro line 5. Line 5 is an elevated line and none of it  goes underground. If I can meet up with it , I can use the tall structure as my guide.

I turn off of South HongMei onto YinDu road and go. There are some shopping complexes here including a B&Q. Nearing what according to the map should be a crossing of High Speed Highway #4 , I think I’m in trouble. There is no bridge here. Only an entrance ramp to the car exclusive highway. There is no way I’m going anywhere near Chinese drivers doing 100km/h on a bicycle and the fact that it’s illegal to take a bike on that highway.

Thoughts of doom and gloom fill my head. What if I can’t cross at all? Is the mission failed?? I resolve to bike a bit further south (will be off the map now) and look for a crossing. I backtrack on YinDu Rd to South Lianhua and like always , go further south.

I tried again on JinDu Rd. Whoa , a surprise swank brand new set of high rises complete with a massive fountain in front. Looks like no one lives here yet though. Ahead , yes! , success! I can cross the highway here.

After two more streets I run into HuMin Highway again (and it has lost its overhead high-speed elevated road. It has gained an elevated subway line though! I found Line 5! Ok now for a boring part. I head south and south and south and south and south for a long time. Little clusters of homes occasionally break through the monotonous ride. Many more people talk about me and say “Hello!”

Eventually at the Metro Station Dongchuan Lu the road starts rising and bike traffic is prohibited. What’s this? Bridge Ahead?? This is where the Huangpu river has abandoned its Southern direction and started heading West. I didn’t realize that the Huangpu would be here at all! Quite a different view of the river from its Bund/Pearl Tower scene. This might have turned out badly but fortunately the metro line also veers east and I don’t have to cross the Huangpu. I merely turned east on Dongchuan and again followed the overhead metro bridge. Dongchuan has some pretty decent looking high-rise apartments but it still pretty sleepy. Eventually the high rises peter out and small factory gates line the road. It’s not dirty here though and there is an abundance of trees. I see a Johnson & Johnson factory out here. Near the JinPing Lu metro station I stop at a convenient to get some more water bottles , a hunk of bread, and a beer. It’s time for a break , my body is definitely feeling the journey.

Ok back on the road . I come to the awesome ShuiSheng Park ( I visited it the other time I was out here ) and I know the journey is soon halfway over (ahhhhh!!! I have to go back now!!). The metro line ends and I continue a little ways to see what is there. Eventually the last huge factory complex ends and all I can see is fields and farmers. Only a few bikers and scooters go by. Whoa. This is still Shanghai???

Mission accomplished but now it’s time to head back. I took a totally different path that took to me to the water town of QiBao . The rest wasn’t too interesting except for that at one point in time I saw something moving on the foot rest of a guy’s motorbike. At first I was thinking “Aww cute , that guy has a dog with him. But no , it’s Shanghai. It was a monkey climbing the guys leg and then doing a flip down to the foot rest. Go figure.


Picture Captions should read “End of the Line” and ” Shanghai?”

Old & New

Shanghai is a city in the throes of rapid destruction, rebirth , and change. Show someone the city from 20 years ago and the city of today and its virtually unrecognizable. Skyscrapers pop-up , new metro lines spread under the ground like earthworms digging, the old is demolished , and the new sprouts up. The pace of change here is incredible. The subway line I take to work was put in 6 months before I moved here and now a new line is being constructed even closer to my house. I can’t even imagine the city in 10 more years.

I was just doing some bike riding along the Suzhou Creek on Guangfu road (光复路) and took a couple of photos I thought really illustrated the old and new of SH. Another great place to witness this is in Old Town. Where you see the old style Shanghai with the new style Pudong skyline soaring overhead. I would have photos but my camera died yesterday.

Unfortunately I have problems with posting single photos on here but check out the gallery!