Shanghai rush: Revisiting the homeland

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I left Taipei for a quick detour to visit my niece Cymri in Shanghai, which is about a $400 round trip at this time of year. I had not been to Shanghai since maybe 1983, when it was still very industrial and kind of dingy. I had seen photos and videos of this redeveloped city and despite knowing that it looks nothing like the face of communism, I was still shocked to see how Las Vegas-like it had become.

There’s a ton of money being churned out of Shanghai, and big corporations from around the world transfer their employees here. As a result, it’s a very cosmopolitan city, with a wide variety of ethnic faces. More on that tomorrow when I show you my excursion to Pudong.

Make no mistake, though, it’s still China. The traffic here is crazy, and because no one category (pedestrian or vehicle) has the right of way, the first rule of the road is “don’t die.” I’m doing pretty well crossing the street here; it’s congested, but it’s not the madness that you will find in Saigon. Cymri has a scooter and zips around Shanghai like a pro, beeping at pedestrians and pushing her way through intersections playing chicken with everything except big buses.

I arrived at 7:30 p.m. and that was one of the most chaotic disembarkations in my life. Again, don’t forget that this is China. As soon as the plane parked, pandemonium erupted and everyone started grabbing for their bags in the overhead and started heading for the door. Unlike American planes, where people wait their turn to get off in an orderly fashion, on Air China it’s as if there’s a million dollars waiting at baggage claim. Getting off the plane, you may expect to get mowed down; you get another round of the Running of the Bulls when you get down to immigration. If you can afford to wait until the crowd passes, just hang back and wait; or if you are fast enough, rush ahead of the mass. Welcome to China.

Shanghai Rush

There are different ways to get to the city from Pudong airport. One is the high-speed Maglev, which reaches speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. It's a cool vehicle that you have to try once, but notice how empty it is? Like our rail project, it was created to fill a need but wasn't executed well — it cost $1.2 billion to build, but unfortunately, once you reach the city, you still have to find a taxi or metro to complete your journey. For many, it's easier to take the cheaper and more direct modes of transportation, despite the speed.

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My first day in Shanghai was a little more mellow. Cymri took the day off and we zipped around town on her scooter. The only thing is, in summer it is 90 degrees. Even the breeze is hot — it feels like someone is holding a giant hair dryer over the city and holding it close. It’s hot. Bring a hat, bring a parasol, and most of all, bring lots of sunscreen.

Aloha Shanghai!

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As you saw in the gallery, the Nanjing Pedestrian Walkway is quite a zoo! It’s something to see…an interesting look at how Shanghainese people spend their recreation time. Here’s a quick video to show you what the photos could not:

These are just the highlights. To see all photos of Shanghai, click here for the arrival and click here for the first day.