Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shanghai Surprise

The fresh, crisp smog of Shanghai at 8 am.

Same view at night.
Shanghai is the closest thing to Blade Runner on Earth. It makes New York City look positively modest, quaint and dainty. I loved it. But the air was so foul that after walking its streets for four hours I felt dizzy and short of air. In China, you blow your nose and black soot comes out.
Beijing is to Washington DC as Shanghai is to New York: government vs commerce. Beijing is vast and grandiose, gray and sober. Shanghai teems with activity. There are street markets and luxury malls and the best neon signs ever.

The Bund. Shanghai still sports the monuments to its recent colonial past in a series of European buildings that were the sites for great banks, insurance companies and hotels. Some of them you peek inside to see banks of magnificent grandeur, lovingly preserved, but no photos allowed. The Bund is what remains of the foreign concessions and it is a marvel to walk in. On the other side is Pudong, the new development with the futuristic buildings. Shanghai is ruined forever but it is still one of the great cities on Earth.

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