Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Crossing the Haungpu River

From Pudong to Puxi

With our hotel anchoring the futuristic skyscrapers and parks of the Pudong New Area, across the river from Shanghai proper, we faced the dilemma many tourists must deal with in Shanghai. Which form of transit to take into the city center? A taxi through the underwater highway tunnel ($2) seemed so New York, the subway -which was clean and efficient (and only $0.30!) seemed ok, but I for one had been pushing for us to take the Bund Sight Seeing Tunnel. Described in tour books as:

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel connects underwater the junction of the Bund and the Nanjing Dong Lu Road on the west bank of Huangpu River and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower on the east bank of Huangpu River. Completed at the end of 2000, it is the first under-river pedestrian tunnel with a total length of 646.7 meters. Escalators are installed at its entrances and exits, and hydraulic pressure lifts are especially designed for the handicapped. The highly advanced automatic non-driver traction compartments will be used to carry passengers and it takes about 2.5 to 5 minutes for this modern clean and light vehicle to run from Puxi to Pudong. Its maximum capacity is 5280 persons per hour. Modern high technologies will be applied in the decoration of the tunnel, providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery. Tourists will be deeply impressed by the visual and audio enjoyment, fun and excitement while passing through the tunnel.Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is one of Shanghai's new urban tourism transportation projects. Shanghai Lujiazui Development Co., Ltd. jointly invested in and constructed it.

Now, I don't know much, but I do know that if a tourist attraction uses the word "Modern" more than once in describing itself, it is probably 1) not that modern and 2) definitely something I want to see! I was even more curious as to what exactly "providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery.." would be exactly. Even now, after having transversed the tunnel I'm not too sure. But here is what transpired.

First, you enter the tunnel facilities after negotiating a small public square full of shady salesmen standing round the entrance hocking fake Rollexes. Of course these salesmen are bright, anyone foolish enough to be attracted to a "sight seeing tunnel" might be interested in fake luxury products. I wasn't.

After purchasing a ticket, you make your way down an escalator to the boarding area. The ceiling above the escalator is plastered with a bunch of fake vines and recording bird sounds.. I suppose this is the "natural scenery" part.

At the bottom of the escalator is the boarding area. Cool looking plastic like pods emerge from the tunnel onto a turntable which queues them up for the return journey under the river. Fortunately, me and my posse got a pod mostly to ourselves. The doors close with a "Whoosh" and off we went.

As promised the "sight seeing tunnel" (an oxymoron if ever there was one) does deliver with "providing the passengers with background music as well as pictures, patterns and views about people, history, culture, science and technology and natural scenery." As you leave the boarding area you are treated to some techno-ish music, strobe lights, and the first of several pronouncements from a disembodied voice (all in english). The first pronouncement is: "METEOR SHOWER!".

As you progress through the tunnel, you move from the "Meteor Shower" phase to some sort of fish scenery. The disembodied voice announces "FOSSIL VARIANCE!" (I giggle and somewhere in my subconscious I hear South Park's Cartman say "Sweet!").

After the fish/fossil motif, the pod moves into an area with bright, lava like projections on the tunnel wall. The voice announces "NASCENT MAGMA!" I nod in agreement.

At what seems the very bottom of the tunnel, the view is dark, black light-ish. around the cars are those air blown, inflatable people with wavy arms (like at car dealerships) they are all 'dancing' about. The voice announces, "WALTZ!" and some electronic Waltz music plays. As I am unsure if this is a comment or command, I simply stare slack jawed at this impressive sight. I'm guessing this is the views about people section?

Of course you can't have dancing without judgment, or at least that's what I learned from Footloose. So after the "Waltz" section the car enters a bright colorful area and the voice proclaims "PARADISE & HELL!" The bright lights of paradise (as see in the link picture) give way to more menacing music and what looks like a reprise of the lava portion of the trip.

By this time, I'm so worked up in all the feature of the 'tunnel' and its kitschy glory that I almost pass out...the rest is a blur. While I doubt the "Bund Sightseeing Tunnel" will takes its place along the great artifacts of Chinese Civilization, like the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and the Terra Cotta Army, it proved to be a highly amusing way to cross the river from one side of the city to the other...it certainly is better than DC's Metro system.

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