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
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!
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.
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
Me: As a "tourist attraction!"
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
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