Sky Walk: a test of courage on the 100th floor
Scarcely have we arrived back at ground level than we find ourselves in front of another colossus, the World Financial Centre. With this edifice, Shanghai – in the truest sense of the word – has cemented its position as the financial magnet of Asia. An architectural triumph in steel, concrete and glass, it rises up vertically almost half a kilometre into the sky. ‘The building accommodates a first-class financial centre, a luxury hotel, several shopping malls and, at 474 metres, a 750 square-metre sightseeing hall.’ The spectacular location is frequently used for art exhibitions. On the 100th floor, Eric challenges us to a test of courage: we should try the Sky Walk, a 50-metre-long corridor with a glass floor. Visually, there is nothing to prevent us from going into free-fall. Your brain screams ‘No!’, your glands produce floods of adrenalin, and your knees shake uncontrollably: certainly, we were too preoccupied with our bodies to speak. Some visitors scream out in panic at the view below them, others are frozen in shock. Bravely, we work our way step by step towards – presumably – a safe base, where Eric and Vanessa greet us with broad, sympathetic grins. Slightly later, over a cup of coffee in the restaurant, the fear evaporates, to be replaced by a strange sense of elation. Clark Kent off, Superman on!
Takinig the world’s fastest lift up to the world’s highest indoor observation deck
Next up, a third shot at vertigo: At a speed of 64 kilometres per hour, the world’s fastest lift whistles us to the top of the 632-metre Shanghai Tower. To offset the effect of wind at this altitude, the highest building in China winds up snakelike into the sky. Its design is a perfect amalgamation of statics and architecture. Which is reassuring, because typhoons are no rarity here. A double-glazed façade guarantees a pleasant atmosphere in the interior. ‘The principle is similar to that of a gigantic thermos flask,’ explains Eric, on the way to the Top of Shanghai Observatory, the highest indoor observation deck in the world.
To help get our pulse rates down to normal again, our hosts suggest a stroll to Yuyuan Garden. Without warning, Vanessa heads off towards a bike sharing station. She uses an app on her smartphone to unlock our bicycles, which we mount and then ride noiselessly through the park. What a contrast. Time here appears to have stood still for four hundred years. We glide past pavilions, rockeries, ponds and monasteries while the gentle breeze caused by our motion carries the twittering of the birds to our ears. ‘After the fall of the Ming dynasty, the gardens fell into a state of disrepair. In 1760, work was started on a 20-year period of reconstruction, only for them to be severely damaged again during the Opium Wars in the 19th century,’ explains Eric. ‘What you see today is the result of a restoration project that began in 1956 and was completed in 1961.’ ‘Look there!’ exclaims Vanessa, pointing a large stone full of holes, its shape reminiscent of a piece of Emmental cheese. ‘That’s the famous Jade Rock. It’s over three metres in height and has 72 holes. When they light an incense stick directly under the rock, the smoke wafts magically through all the apertures.’ Indeed, a delicate wisp of smoke wraps itself around the rock like a silken veil.