Shanghai in Photos
I'm a little conflicted about Shanghai after spending about 10 days there. Without a doubt, it is an amazingly modern, shiny, commercially-oriented city that is becoming a 21st century New York City or Hong Kong. It's alive with energy and fun. However, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels like something is missing. Sometimes I feel like Shanghai has no heart.
For the traveler, Shanghai offers only glimpses of old Shanghai. Everyday the old parts of the city are being bulldozed to make room for skyscrapers and shopping centers. Shanghai is not a place to reflect on the past, but consider the future. Modern commercialism is alive and well in Shanghai and it sometimes beats you over the head. As a Dutch guy we met put it "I feel like a walking wallet in Shanghai". Indeed.
Many times we've discussed how China is more like a young country than an ancient one. Some say that it is only about 20 years old because the Mao's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) essentially erased all things Chinese. I think this is the case with Shanghai - it is like a teenager who is working hard to find the identity that will define them as an adult. The symbol of this adolescence to me is the Pearl City Tower.
The tower was built in 1994 and I imagine that it was to be a symbol of a city that is focused on the future. Unfortunately, I think the tower looks less like the future and more like what people thought the future would look like in 1950. With garish pink glass and blinking colored lights at night, the tower appears dated and conflicts with the elegance found elsewhere in the city. I chalk it up to a teenage "phase".
The elegance I refer to can be found in the same picture above on the right - the 88 story JinMao tower. One of the top 5 tallest buildings in the world and built four years after the Pearl City, I consider one of the most beautiful skyscrapers I've seen.
And the inside is equally as impressive - especially the highest hotel in the world, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. The hotel starts on the 56th floor and reaches 33 stories to the top, including a dizzying atrium the whole way up. We checked- rooms cost about US$240 and it's located in Pudong- a business district.
One of Shanghai's proud possessions is a what is called the "fastest train in the world" called the MagLev (Magnetic Levetation). We were a little disappointed because the top operational speed is supposed to be 429 kph (267 mph) but our train only got to 301 kph (the speed is displayed inside). Still impressive, but I think we were a little spoiled by the Japanese Shinkansen, which offers a much smoother ride, despite not floating on air.
If you get a chance, I sincerely recommend getting a haircut in another country. It offers a truly local experience. I chose to go to a place that was a bit more stylish than I would at home, but it was worth it (US$8). Approximately 75% of the time I spent there, I was being massaged, which was a total surprise - all I needed was clippers and I could do the haircut myself. As Richard mentioned - this photo looks like I'm being mercilessly attacked with a machete. It's just an arm massage.
The Shanghai folks are surely the most stylish in China that we have seen and just as concerned with the darkening effects of the sun as others in Asia, where whitening creams are advertised everywhere. The photo below was taken in the sun- not the rain. All the umbrellas are for the sun and represent a giant hazard to my eyes.
Despite some of my mixed feelings, I really did enjoy the time in Shanghai and would go back in a second. I suppose I just had different expectations. It is clear from being there that it is a city of the future. What Shanghai will become and how they deal with things like air quality is going to be very interesting.