I have been in Shanghai for business since Sunday and wanted to share some impressions with my faithful readers.
To be honest, Shanghai is not really a beautiful city – at least not like Paris or Sydney or even Beijing but it is an incredibly impressive place. It is a busy city and one that is explosive in growth. In the photo to the right, back in my last visit to Shanghai back in 2005, the Pineapple building on the right had just been finished and I had a wonderful drink in the Cloud 9 bar on the 89th floor. The building completely dominated the skyline. Imagine my surprise on this trip seeing that in only 6 years, a new building that looks like a bottle opener popped up that nearly dwarfs its neighbor. I tried going up the bottle opener on Monday night but it was too foggy so I blew off paying 150 RMB to look at fog. The amazing thing is that the Chinese are planning yet another even bigger tower that I believe will be called the Twist next to these two…
A couple of other observations:
Internet: Twitter and Facebook are completely blocked here. And I can only write this blog from behind my corporate firewall because wordpress.com is also blocked by the Chinese firewalls. So, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Walking in the Pudong: on my ill-fated mission to go up the Bottle Opener, I walked from my hotel (Purple Mountain Hotel tucked away deep in Pudong) to the Pearl Onion building in the sweltering July weather and was completely soaked in sweat. Besides the disappointment with the tower, I walked past several mega-shopping malls in the Pudong
Financial District. It was a combination of the neon of Tokyo with the fakeness of Vegas. I mean that there was light and glitter everywhere, but that everything is so new and so intentionally flashy (“look we are modern China – admire us, please!”) and leaves a cold impression, at least on me. Besides getting a little lost on the way home, I wandered in a few of the remaining alleyways. Like in Beijing, the Chinese are destroying all the traditional neighborhoods and building mega-skyscrapers and office buildings galore. There are the remains of a local culture scattered helter-skelter around Pudong and they are a bit surreal. Basically between two rows of office buildings, you notice some low-rise 3-floor apartment buildings with rectangular structures sticking out with drying laundry from the balconies. Down on ground-level, there are occasionally alleys with local restaurants and shops where all the locals are shopping, eating and hanging out. There is a huge contrast between the flashy shopping malls where you only see a smattering of Chinese folks among the westerners that can actually afford the shops and these diminishing neighborhoods which are affordable for the native population. Communism here has really imitated the west in a two or three tier economy.
Huang Po: The river is about as broad as the Seine but has FAR more boat traffic on it. From the classroom where I was teaching, I saw huge cargo boats plying through the water constantly. They easily dwarf what I see in Paris. Also, there seems to be a psychological separation here as well. The Pudong south of the river is the aforementioned “modern” Shanghai which less than 15 years ago was just rice paddies. The Puxi (pronounced “push-ee”) area on the north side is the “traditional” Shanghai with the older neighborhoods and shops. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its share of shopping malls and towers, just that they are older and there is far more “authentic” Chinese culture on that side.
Tip: When here, don’t miss the Jazz Club at the Peace Hotel on the Bund. Drinks are relatively expensive – at least for Shanghai – but the music is great and the service is impeccable. Of course, don’t expect to see any Chinese folks – it is almost 95% westerners. This is another huge difference from say, Tokyo, where the jazz clubs are packed with Japanese and tourists alike.
Beer: Funny anecdote:
the some Chinese working in Korean restaurants like warm beer (really!!). Last night we ordered beer at a Korean restaurant in Shanghai and noticed it was warm. When we asked for cold beer, we were asked if we wanted ice with the beer. No fucking way, ice! Well, actually, what they meant was ice-cold beer. I just couldn’t fathom pouring cheap beer over ice cubes…LOL
OK so back to work 🙂