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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 48: 11 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAlong the Sichuan Zhong Lu, with its buildings in Venetian and Florentine Renaissance style, the door to an impressive office building bears the name 'Complete Sets of Equipment Corporation'.

The Opium Wars of the 1840s made drugs big business in China. Shanghai became the new centre, for only an hour up the river Huangpu was the Yangtse and a gateway to the heartland of China. This is what the re-appearance of the Florentine Renaissance on the shores of the East China Sea is all about.

I'm soon to see the East China Sea for myself, for at five o'clock we're due to set sail for Yokohama. The ferry goes once a week and if there is any delay we are in trouble again. But with a deep blast of the horn it pulls out into the river, dead on time, executes a 360-degree turn opposite the Zhong Shou Road (formerly the Quai de France), which is rather like making a U-turn on the M1, and heads slowly up the crowded river to the confluence of the Yangtse.

A magnificent sunset to match this morning's spectacular sunrise. The domes and spires of the city are outlined in red and gold before sliding slowly into silhouette.

An hour or two later, after supper, I walk out on deck. I needed that coat I didn't buy. The night is clear, silent and chilly. We're free of the metropolitan sprawl of Shanghai, and the only lights I can see are coastal beacons, and small ships a long way off. We could be on the open sea, except that the water below me is muddy brown. We're on the Yangtse, and still two hours from the ocean.

Ten o'clock at night, Day 48. On the Yangtse River, heading due East, the Reform Club still over half the world away.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 48
  • Date: 11 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shanghai
  • Book page no: 168

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