Shanghai in Video

By: leelefever on September 3, 2006 - 6:51pm

The music in this video is from a jazz bar in Shanghai called the Cotton Club, which we really enjoyed. Make a reservation or come at 9pm for a seat.

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Shanghai in Photos

By: leelefever on September 3, 2006 - 5:33pm

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.  

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Enough with the Heat Already!

By: sachilefever on September 1, 2006 - 2:19am

Everyday in Shanghai it seems to be 95 degrees with 95% humidity making it a chore to walk more than a few blocks during the day. Our East Asia hotel (US$45) is on a pedestrian thoroughfare, Nanjing Dong Lu, filled with Giordano and Sofitel side-by-side with small dumpling shops and McDonalds ice cream windows. Each evening at 5:00 we hear a saxophonist on a colonial balcony across the street begin playing overwhelmingly loud but somewhat soothing renditions of Tennessee Waltz and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. For us it signals the cooler hours have finally begun. 

Most of this trip has been over 88 degrees and we are both ready for the heat to be OVER. Lee has sworn off his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts, and I’ve found it’s a much more pleasant experience if I don’t wear tank tops here (more stares), so we are both down to two shirts which are washed every second day. I can’t believe China wants to have the Olympics during mid-August just because of a lucky number (It starts on 08/08/08). I wish luck to the poor athletes and spectators who will have to endure it…but I digress.

The countdown is now on for cooler weather!  After 6 days in Beijing, we jump on the train to Ulanbaatar, Mongolia where we are expecting to start days of 53F and nights of 33F! From there we go into Siberia and further into the cooler weather of fall for the rest of the trip.  Sweet relief!

We were so excited we decided to each get a pair of jeans, which we haven’t had all year. But it’s more difficult than you might think when every store’s largest size is still not enough. Coming out of the fitting room asking for the third time “Even bigger?” and seeing the clerk shake her head is a pride-swallowing scene for any Westerner. They would just take one look at Lee and say “No…too big.” Today we finally found a pair at Basic Jeans for about $28, and it will be just right for Siberia’s cooler temperatures.

Until then, we look forward to the saxophonist each evening and finally being able to be outside without sweating profusely, even if it’s still too hot to wear our new jeans.

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Indoor Snowboarding, Shanghai, China

By: leelefever on August 30, 2006 - 8:04pm

We missed doing this in Tokyo, so in Shanghai we had to check out the Yinqixing Indoor Skiing Park. It cost about $US18 per person for 2 hours and took about 45 minutes to get to from downtown Shanghai. It was surely worth it, not because of the quality of the skiing, but for the experience.

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Video: China's Three Gorges Dam Project

By: leelefever on August 29, 2006 - 6:25am

I've been playing with some other formats for our videos. This one is a documentary-style video, done as a narrative about the world's largest dam project, the Three Gorges Dam, and its effects on the locals. Part of our 6 day trip on the Yangtze took us to the dam through it's five locks. I hope you find the video interesting, even if I didn't eat anything strange.

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Back in the Game (in Shanghai)

By: leelefever on August 24, 2006 - 5:55am

Just a quick note to say that we've just gotten into Shanghai from the boat journey on the Yangtze and Three Gorges.  What an experience.  We have all sorts of things to say, but we need a little time to get it all together.  The boat had dial up Internet, but we abstained.  The withdrawal wasn't too bad.

Until then, here's something shiny to look at...

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