Falling in love with old Shanghai

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
Trip End Jul 20, 2020

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Monday, February 26, 2007

So the Chinese New Year has passed; on the spur of the moment, I decided to visit my friend Priscilla in Shanghai. China during the New Year is bedlam; its imposible to travel before the official New year celebration and its chaos during the 10 day festival. I relaxed in Beijing for the weekend and then headed to Shanghai on Sunday. In the afternoon, we picked up Priscilla's friend Alan from the airport. To get there, we took the highspeed maglev train. It took 7 minutes from the center to the airport at max speed of 421 km/h. I would have been in heaven if this train had been running bteween Shanghai and Beijing; it would cut the 12hours travel time into 3. One day, not too far into the future, maybe next year for the Olympics, this wonder will happen. Let's sit back and wait.

On the literary site, I am expanding my horizon by reading China, Inc.:How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World by Ted C. Fishman. Amazon's review states that "China has the world's most rapidly changing large economy, and according to Ted Fishman, it is forcing the world to change along with it. "No country has ever before made a better run at climbing every step of economic development all at once," he writes, in China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World. China is currently the largest maker of toys, clothing, and consumer electronics, and is swiftly moving up the ladder in car production, computer manufacturing, biotechnology, aerospace, telecommunications, and other sectors thanks to low-cost, high-tech factories. China is also where the world is investing. In 2004, for instance, the city of Shanghai alone attracted over $12 billion in direct foreign investment, roughly the same amount as all of Indonesia and Mexico received. In tracing China's ascendancy over the past 30 years (with annual growth of an astonishing 9.5 percent), Fishman presents a flood of facts, figures, forecasts, and anecdotes and examines the implications of this unprecedented growth for China, the U.S., and the rest of the world."

Before China Inc., I read Red Dust: A Path Through China by Ma Jian. Amazon's review states that "In 1983, squirming under constant government scrutiny and mourning a failed marriage, writer and photographer Jian abandons his home in Beijing to journey to China's western border with little more than a change of clothes, two bars of soap, a notebook, a camera and Whitman's Leaves of Grass. It is the beginning of an arduous three-year voyage that takes him not only through little-traveled regions of China, Myanmar and Tibet, but through a careful examination of what it means to be a Buddhist, to live in post-Mao China and to exist in his own skin. A skilled storyteller, Jian narrates in prose that is spare and often beautiful his encounters with people who live in a region that "even today... is a place of banishment, populated by political prisoners, descendents of Turkic migrants, and the ghosts of buried cities." From the night he spends crammed under a bus seat next to a pile of dirty socks and clucking hens to his escape from Chinese militiamen who mistake him for a Burmese spy, Jian tells a powerful story that is no mere travelogue. Indeed, his journey exposes him to so many risks getting bitten by sheepdogs in the grasslands along the Yellow River, drinking foul lake water that knocks him unconscious that the sheer number of life-threatening incidents begins to dull their impact. Still, Jian offers a revealing, riveting portrait of a Chinese citizen who seeks truth and honesty in a society in which such a quest can be grounds for punishment. "

Oh, and one more mention. The week before the holiday, I attended a HC meeting at the bookworm in Beijing. The speaker was a fellow traveller from France - Ludovic Hubler who has been hitchhiking around the world for 4 years. his web site is chuckfull of photos and information; during his travels his gets involved with volunteer work and NGO's. He has been talking to schools in different countries about his travels and experiences - bringing the world to the classroom, so to speak. Check out his web site.

Looks like I got a bit sidetracked here; back to Shanghai. We went to Hangzhou for two days where we stayed at the local youth hostel. Felt kind of strange staying at a hostel again, even travelling again. I have only been stationary for 6 months; but getting out of Beijing with my little backpack and traveling for a couple of days was reminiscent of my earlier travel days. I don't want to get too comfortable here; its time to continue perambulating.

Hangzhou was crowded by holiday tourists; we managed to take it easy and walk around the lake and gardens, visiting a little tea house where we had a nice chat with the owners friend and where I almost ended up taking the little puppy home. After that, two more days in Shanghai (my friend lives in Xujiahui)where my favorite place to stroll around is the french concession area. The French Concession is the area of Shanghai once designated for the French. Today, the area's central Huaihai Rd is a busy shopping street, but the tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions still retain an air of the "Paris of the East". The important thing is to walk the small streets; forget about Huaihai Rd. unless you are a big spender. I went to see the house of a friend of my friend. The house os beautiful and has three stories. His appartment is in the third floor with access to the roof. Its marvelous and brought back memories of houses in Germany. I did a lot of walking, in fact I walked everywhere, Xujiahui to Xintiandi to the Old town of Shanghai and at night strolled alomg the Bund. I like Shanghai, its more vibrant, bold, affectionate, warmer and greener than Beijing. Shanghai has some beautiful parks and tree planting and green zones are part of the city planning efforts. What I did miss though are street foot stalls of which there are plenty in Beijing.

After I got back to Beijng, I relaxed by stuffing myelf with expensive western foods such as cheese and freshly backed dark bread. Yummy!! I also pampered myself; I got a new haircut from a Hong Kong stylist (not want I wanted but I like it) and I got a teeth cleaning and whitening. This was my first time I tried profesional whiting and I was impressed. No pain and my teeth look white again. It is supposed to last for 2 years!!
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