Shanghai: A City on Speed
Shanghai is an absolutely beautiful city, but sometimes it seems almost too perfect. I have a feeling in the back of my mind this is some sort of utopian Sci-Fi city, a movie set, Disneyesque – or even the fictional “Capital” of the country of Panem in The Hunger Games.
Basically, it’s a city that has been built from the ground up in the last 20 years. So everything is new, and the architecture is among the most progressive in the world, featuring work from an international cadre of super-stars. It’s clean, sophisticated, and very, very contemporary. It’s hard to imagine we are in a Communist country.
We began the day appropriately, with a ride on the world’s fastest train – the Maglev. Reaching speeds of about 300 miles per hour, the train travels more than 18 miles in about seven minutes. German-built, the train is levitated with magnetic coils. The speed counters in the cars were, ironically, not working today, so there are no pictures of how fast we were going – you will just have to take my word for it.
Then we spent several hours in Old Town at the beautiful and picturesque Yu Yuan Gardens and the adjacent Bazaar in the surrounding streets. The Gardens date from the Ming Dynasty, and include lovely walkways, colorful flowers, bonsai-style plants and Koi ponds. The terrific weather and blue skies were conducive to large crowds today, meaning there was not an opportunity for any serene contemplation at the Gardens.
The shopping area was a nice combination of government-owned stores (no bargaining, but they take credit cards), private shops, kiosks and street peddlers. There were also several of the hundreds of Chinese Starbucks, a Dairy Queen and Cold Stone Creamery. BTW, KFC is also huge in China, and here in Shanghai we have also seen Hooters, TGI Fridays and California Pizza Kitchen. Most of the cabs are VW’s, and the cars on the road look very new; this is Audi’s biggest market.
It was a great morning, topped off by a really nice lunch at M on the Bund, a venture belonging to an Australian chef. We strolled along the famous Bund, Shanghai’s historic waterfront financial center, now resplendent with walls of patterned flowers. It was another great spot for a photo-op, this time looking back towards our Pudong Shangri-La Hotel and all the incredible high-rise buildings. A nearby building under construction will be 130 stories high, and the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week construction crews, finish one floor every week. You can see the sparks flying from the welding at what must be about the 100th floor. No OSHA or zoning restrictions here.
We returned to the Pudong side of the river through the kitschy Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a 50-Yuan, standing ride and rather bizarre sound and light show. No one with claustrophobia or Epilepsy needs to try this.
In the afternoon, we walked around the Huangpu riverfront on the Pudong side where our hotel is located. There is an elevated walkway ring next to the Oriental Pearl (TV) Tower, and dozens of high end shops, malls and cafes. When it opened at 5, we went up to the nightclub, Jade on 36th, on the top floor of the other tower in our hotel, for a cocktail and an even higher view across the river. We had managed another Belgian Chocolate ice cream snack at Haagen Dazs since there was not time for a proper dinner tonight. No time, because we needed to leave at about 6:15 for the 7:30 Shanghai Acrobat Show. A private troupe that owns shares in their own theater put on a lovely and dramatic show complete with the expected contortionists, ribbon performers, acrobats and even, incredibly, seven motorcycles racing in a round metal cage (I could hardly watch).
Tip of the Day: Wake-up America . . . China is coming on strong.