A stone’s throw away from the Bund is the Shiliupu docks. Recently rebuilt, for the hefty sum of three billion RMB, the dock saw its official opening on Saturday. Unfortunately, it seems that the only thing the dock is open for is critique.
Shiliupu dock (Shiliu – 16, Pu – Stores) is one of the city’s oldest wharf areas; it played an important role in the development of Shanghai and helped it to make a name for itself in the shipping industry. Unfortunately, it was also the dock that time forgot. Over the last couple of decades, growth on both sides of the Huangpu River, the development of Pudong, and the adoption of other methods of transport led to its decline in business. The dock was demolished in 2004 after the government declared that it would be rebuilt in to a ‘water tourist centre’.
It was set to re-open alongside the Bund earlier this year, but construction took longer than expected. However, the delay was okay since this hotly anticipated new venture would combine the best of old and new, turning it into what Shanghai promised would be the world’s leading water tourist centre. With this in mind we were rather excited at the promise of sauntering along the river, grabbing some food, some conversation and lapping up some of the 150 years of history. We decided to head down there, camera charged, new writing pad, brand new biro! What greeted us, however, was one big wave of disappointment.
The dock is being coined a ‘water tourism centre’. It boasts shops, leisure facilities, and restaurants to suit all budgets. On paper, this dock is pretty snazzy. Unfortunately, what you see is not what you get. On arrival you are struck with a slight level of confusion. Where is it? What is it? Am I here? Signposting clearly wasn’t the designers’ forte (although apparently more are on the way).
A small, discrete, yet colourful archway marks the boundary between the Bund and ‘16 Pu’ – the new hip modern logo (must have taken an age to think up, eh?). Along the promenade is 12 berths filled with sightseeing ships that look like they have seen better days. Unfortunately; the ‘new and old’ that was promised is only too evident from the commercial endorsement blazon across some of slightly run down boats. In berth 12 was a pricey little number. It looked like the Rolls Royce of the boating world and was named ‘Predator’. Several barges carrying logs sailing past it on the river provided a stark contrast.
It seems that, whilst discrete, the archway leading to ‘16 Pu’ was acting like a glass wall. The crowds of people on the Bund virtually stopped and the promenade of Shiliupu dock was littered with only a handful of people. The architecture along the promenade is nice. It provides shade and the small grassy areas were nice to sit on. The up market restaurants along the promenade (who all missed a trick by not putting tables etc outside) were slightly out of our budget, so we decided to head below ground and check out the ‘commercial and leisure’ facilities that they offer.
Unless you’re in need of a pound of carrots, some basil and a Haibao, you’re probably not going to find much. Groceries and more Expo souvenirs are probably not the first thing on your mind as you’re about to take a sightseeing cruise. Expecting some clothing boutiques, perhaps the odd souvenir shop, a high street store even, we were rather let down when we were greeted by a ‘Family Mart’.
As we explored the three floors, things didn’t get much better; two expo souvenir shops, a smoothie bar, a burger king and two convenience stores. Other than that; every other retail unit was boarded up with large ‘Opening Soon’ signs. ‘Opening Soon’ yet no sign of development; don’t hold your hopes up!
Clearly the docks operator, ‘The Shanghai Huangpu River Assert Management Co’, was pressured to open. Construction work on the building itself is still being carried out. There were entire corridors shut to the public….simply because there is nothing down there. Several escalators broken. Plants waiting to be installed. Water fountains had no water. We came across the waiting area and ticket office. Currently 2 companies operate from the dock and a 50 minute tour between Nanpu Bridge and Yangpu Bridge costs 100 yuan. There weren’t many people taking either company up on their offers though as they waiting room was barely half full.
We spoke to a group of 7 American tourists waiting for their tour. One lady, Anna, 43, told us that she hadn’t even realised her group had left the bund! After informing them of a brief history of the dock, they said that it was a shame that they’ve gone down the ‘modern road’ and taken away its character. They said it could have had much more charm. Charm is definitely something it does lack. Given its entrenched historical roots, you can’t help but to feel that the developers could have done more. The promise of a ‘new and old’ partnership has not stretched much further than the Hyundai advertising on one of the ships; the oldest thing we saw was one of the cleaners!
If, despite this, you fancy going down and having a gander (perhaps in a few weeks when the teething problems are ironed out) you can take the metro to Yu Yuan, leave via exit 1 and walk for about 5 minutes east along Renmin Lu. Alternatively, take the metro to Nanpu Bridge and take the 65, 928 or 910 bus from the bus station nearby.