A last minute business trip and suddenly I was whisked off a plane to Beijing for work.
It was last fall, in the third quarter, and it was cold, grey and dreary.
I had booked a room in Howard Johnson Paragon Hotel as it was located a mere 5 minutes from where my first assignment would be held. After reaching the hotel, settling in, preparing the materials for the next day, I collapsed on the very comfy bed.
The view from hotel room the morning I woke up was somewhat lacklustre, given it's central location.
It must be the weather, I thought.
I packed my materials and got ready for a full day of work ahead.
After work, I had the fortune of being brought out to dinner at a fancy dinning location, famed for it's traditional performances and contemporary style dishes. The traditional 变脸 performance was incredibly impressive.
In between writing reports and shuttling from place to place, I managed to find time before heading to Shanghai for the next assignment to visit the famous Tian An Men Square.
Rather sadly, the sharpest memory that remains of the visit was how strong and cold the wind was as it blew directly at me, while I tried to make my way across the massive place.
I shot an incredulous look at the indifferent guards, standing solemnly at their positions.
They must be dressed very warmly, I thought, enviously.
I had a bit more time on my hands so I headed to Sanlitun road, where the Lomography Beijing Gallery store was located.
The walk from the nearest train station to Sanlitun road was full of foreign embassies; it was quite an interesting sight.
Unfortunately when I reached it was too early and the store had not yet open.
I strolled down the road and popped into a little store called 'Possible Cafe', just a few doors down from the Gallery store, and had some warm cocoa there.
After that I spent the afternoon strolling for a bit in Sanlitun Village, and took a cab back to the hotel for my flight to Shanghai. Nicknamed 'Paris of the East', Shanghai is the epitome of luxury and modern living in Asia. It was the first time I had been there and I had high expectations of the place, given the rave reviews and positive comments from friends and colleagues.
Unfortunately Shanghai and me got off to a rocky start-
A bad experience with a cab driver who almost drove off with my luggage had ruined the first day for me.
The following day I was swamped with work so I had no proper time to explore the city.
It was only during the weekend that I finally had a breather. A friend who had spent a semester studying in Shanghai sang praises of the Bund and told me to make a visit to the place while I was there.
When I reached, I was incredibly overwhelmed.
It must be my upbringing? or my personality?
Nothing about the cityscape or the bright lights enchanted me. It was no different from the familiar concrete jungle in Singapore that I had grown up in, or the dazzling lights from the skyscrapers in Hong Kong.
To me, Shanghai was just another city.
And the Bund was nothing spectacular.
strangely, it was the very ordinary streets that charmed me.
The excited-looking tourists on Nanjing East Road; the huge signboards from all the restaurants and stores along the road; the afternoon sun splayed across the concrete pavements;
it was the small simple things in Shanghai that charmed me.
I wonder if I revisited these things,
during a different time, a different season,
would I feel the same?