Sunday, 19 October 2008


I don't know what it is about Shanghai that made me immediately love it so much. It's probably the architecture. The crazy angles and impossible structures that made the Beijing skyline so interesting are here, and in greater numbers. In fact, entering in the taxi takes me back to entering New York, but here the buildings are more spaced out, less overwhelming. Each one can be appreciated for the marvel of engineering and aesthetic design that it is. Walking down Nanjing Rd., the main commercial street, with Charlie (a family friend doing a language course out here) makes me embarrassed at how excited I was to find Wangfujing. Every building seems to be a multi-storey shopping centre or a moody market, and everywhere people, excitement, full restaurants and busy streets. Taking the metro - despite the crowds - is a dream, clean, spacious, air-conditioned. The board counts down to the second how long it will be till the next train will arrive. And when the counter reaches 0.00, whoosh, bang on time comes the train. It's not a perfect city, but it's so energetic it's hard not to be sucked in.

There are pluses and minuses everywhere, and my hostel is providing two counterbalances. My room currently has no window. They assure me that tomorrow I can have a room with one, but they told me that yesterday too. Meanwhile the internet is sketchy at best, unable to deal with Skype or even internet radio. That said, the room is cheap, perfectly clean and pretty big, so I'm happy to have it as a base.

One thing that hasn't improved from Beijing is the driving. I don't think I've described just how manic Chinese driving is. First of all, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are treated as quiet reminders at best. When a driver decides to turn a corner, traffic signals are ignored completely. As for the roads, the main ones can be divided into as many as six or seven lanes, which doesn't take into account the drivers' habit of using the lane markings as an overtaking lane. In Beijing we saw a car get wedged as he tried to gain a few yards down the tenth lane of a once six lane road. In taxis it's best not to look at the road, or listen to the horns around you, as your driver is as likely to be guilty of these violations as any.

I'm starting a language course Sunday for two weeks, so I'm doing my best to get as much of Shanghai in before I do. Checking out the markets tomorrow, hoping to find that £40 bespoke suit I've been promised!

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