Shining, shimmering, splendid...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shanghai - I love it. It really has been music to my ears... literally. You see, the last few days have been all about music. Allow me to start at the night which has no name. Calling it 'the marathon night of karaoke excellence', 'the karaoke night of the devil of the death' or 'one of silliest nights ever' just wouldn't do it justice. Hence, it shall remain nameless and live in folklore for eternity. No doubt there will be some of you at home with questions. Let me put your minds at ease with some answers in anticipation:

1. Yes - there was Billy Joel.
2. Yes - there was 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin (and how!). I'm sorry Mel - I did feel like I was kind of cheating on you a bit by singing this with someone else - but you'll always be my first...
3. Yes - there was Especially For You. Ha!
4. No - there was no Friday I'm in Love, much to the disappointment of those involved in the night which shall remain nameless (and they know who they are). THis led to constant humming and singing of the Cure song for the entire next day. It continues, intermittently, in my head right up until the present...
5. Yes - there was a whole heap of other cheesy stuff. A whole fucking heap. I mean, how could there not be when you spend 8 hours in a karaoke venue. Absolutely brilliant english music selection. Brilliant...
6. (a) Yes - a Chinese family invited us in to join them in their karaoke suite;
(b) yes - we did; and
(c) yes - we dominated.
7. Yes - there were the best ever - and this is no exaggeration because i don't exaggerate - chicken wings ever in the history of the world ever...
8. Yes - Partyworld (pronounced in the same manner as PartyCake should be pronounced) charged us a mint for the use of their marble tiled, grand, lavish karaoke suites.
9. Yes - I did have McDonalds in the morning (how did you know?). It was a saviour. Bacon and Egg McMuffins taste the same the world over.
10. Strangest revelation of the night? Not that we had spend the entire night in a karaoke room, but that CHinese family also had, all 15 of them, grandparents and all, on a Thursday... Brilliant.

To Jess, Kyla and Christian, once again spread across the world: a night of fucking genius. Top 5 ever? Why not... Photos uploaded as they become available.

I must admit that this may not have been the first time that Aladdin or Bill Joel had been unleashed upon the fair city of Shanghai. You see, the morning before the night with no name, I wandered out of the hostel to discover a piano shop. Enquires revealed that for a mere 10 yuan per hour, I could play one of these pianos. Brilliant... Needless to say, an eclectic array of sound echoed through that piano store, from Chopin and Liszt, to the cheesy classics mentioned above, to the Chris and Mark specials luckily not understood by the Chinese. I can't tell you how good it was to sit at a piano again. All I can say is - brilliant...

It would be wrong for me to focus entirely on the cheesy music of Shanghai, however. Shanghai has a little bit more to offer. I realised just how much more from atop Jinmao Tower. Jinmao tower, presently the 4th tallest building the world, features an observation deck on the 88th floor, which I was fortunate enough to ascent on the most glorious day in the history of Shanghai. From the top? Ridiculous views. Clumps of skyscrapers at every turn, construction dominating any image that your mind processes. Apparently, 50% (aka 1 in 2; aka half) of the world's cranes are in Shanghai. That's a silly stat. Hindered by only a city smog (which was really quite minor on this day), Shanghai continued at the same density, on all sides, until my eyes could take me no further. The only logical thing to conclude is that shanghai continues forever.

The more and more you see of Shanghai, and in particular from its summit, the more you get the feeling that Shanghai is an unfinished city, with more building in the process of construction than actually complete. Pudong, the area featuring the greatest number of skyscrapers, and only open for development in 1990, is a strange place. During the day, apart from tourists, its broad, clean avenues are deserted if compared to the rest of the city. The presence of ever more modern and differing building n this surreal part of the world actually reminds me of Las Vegas (without James Caan). Is this where China is heading?

Shanghai isn't a city of sights (like Beijing - but what City really is?) - it's all about walking. Random walking along the Bund, upward gazing in Pudong, strolling and admiring in the French Concession. The tree lined streets in the French Concession are beautiful, even if they are merely a Parisian rip-off. DOn't get me wrong - some of the more traditional parts of Shanghai, such as the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar and People's Square are nice, and the finger food in the bazaar is easily the best I've experienced in Shanghai (chicken wings on a stick = brilliant), but they don't compare to the beauty and significance of Shanghai that is epitomised by its modernity.

And so, I leave Shanghai with mixed feelings - reluctant to leave for want of scratching the surface of this amazing city, but realising that such an understanding can only come with time - a lot more time. Without a doubt, of the places I have visited in China, Shanghai would be the most desirable place to live. 20 million Shanghainese agree. The majority seem distinctly middle class - seemingly enjoying a similar middle class existence to you or I (well - may be just me because I can't really speak for all those damn lawyers and private school kids that I know). Everything reflects this, but in particular the Shanghai fashion. Different from much of CHina, the Shanghai locals seem extremely fashion conscious and remind me much more of Korea. It's still not Milan, but it's not really China either.

And so, with a mind on design, I conclude with the Top 5. Whilst I was thinking up a topic for this Top 5, unlike many of the previous Top 5s, I wanted to explore the essence of Shanghai - the new, emerging Shanghai. Given this, there could be only one topic. No - not karaoke. Skyscrapers. Top 5 skyscrapers in Shanghai. Ok - a proviso. Me? Hardly an architectural genius. This is all about personal preference, factoring in size, aestethic qualities and what the Australian Idol judges would call the X-factor. Note - this is a pictorial Top 5, so please refer to the photos. Make sure you get the short comments as well.

Meanwhile, i'm off to Suzhou.
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