Shanghai Surprise

Shanghai Travel Blog

 › entry 34 of 45 › view all entries

What a different view of China! I knew that Shanghai would be unique, but I was not prepared for how swiftly this city is dashing into the future. The skyline is straight out of a sci-fi movie, and the people clearly have no desire to be like their counterparts in Beijing.

Most impressive to me is the Shanghai approach to traffic control. While Beijing has focused on building overpasses and tunnels to make pedestrians walk around traffic, Shanghai has decided to make the traffic go around pedestrians. There are many elevated roads, and crosswalks are clearly lighted to allow pedestrians to cross busy streets. In fact, at most intersections there are police who halt cars and reprimand people who try to jaywalk. It's a MUCH friendlier city for walking! And a much cleaner city too (in terms of litter), although the smog is still quite bad here.

"Movin' on up.

Much to my surprise, I am personally living in HIGH LUXURY (quite literally). My Internet friend, Shawn, has arranged a hotel for me that is truly 4-star quality. This two-room business suite would easily cost over $400 per night in New York City, but Shawn has arranged it for less than $60! I have breakfast by room service each morning, a full gym, pool and sauna, and 24-hour Internet service. And did I mention that I am just below the penthouse level, on the 28th floor of a downtown high-rise? A guy could get used to this kind of lifestyle!

Fascinating history

Shanghai has a remarkable history - and a bit like the USA's "Wild West" days. In Chinese Imperial times, it was a small fishing village. In the mid 1800's the British found it useful for selling opium to the Chinese - and they started the "Opium Wars" to protect that trade.

The British took control of half the city, and the French and Americans claimed parts of the city as their own, as well. Surprisingly, each group was able to (forcibly or commercially) stake out their own corner of the city as sovereign turf. They were not subject to Chinese law - only to the laws of their respective consulates! It became a wild city, full of 1930's-style extravagance and decadence. Sadly, Chinese were mostly excluded from this wealth and privilege - and were used mostly just as slave-labor in their sweat shops, etc.

The Japanese subjugation threw most of this into disarray in the 40's, and shortly thereafter the Chinese Communist Party was born - right here in Shanghai. Although they rallied to expel the foreigners, wean addicts off opium, and teach the prostitutes another trade - Communist rule was like throwing a dark wet blanket over the former giddy party capital of Asia. It was only 16 years ago, that the "modernization" of the country was announced - and Shanghai was tapped to take the lead.

And jeez... it appears that it has never looked back!


Me: As a "tourist attraction!"

While walking along the river, I was approached by three young Chinese. Usually I ignore people who start talking to me - as they inevitably only want to sell me Chairman Mao "Rolexes" etc. But I could see that these three were holding up a camera, so I thought they wanted me to take their photo together in front of the skyline. But they actually wanted to take a photo of ME. So, flanked by two of them, the other snapped our photo. I tried to chat a bit with them, but could only get that they were students from Yunnan Province - or was it Hunan? Regardless, this hasn't happened to me since I lived in Thailand years ago, so it was quite good for the old ego. (Emphasis on the "old" in that comment.)

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photo by: Chokk