Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shanghai: New York with Asian Flare

After 5 days in characterless Guangzhou (which was 4.5 days too many) we have reached the urban oasis that is Shanghai. And it is just so easy here. The air is cleaner, the sidewalks are wider, the city is actually walkable as opposed to the congested pseudo-highways of GZ, and everyone speaks fairly good English, better English than in Hong Kong.

Shanghai's colonial past gives it this wonderful sense of history with ponderous brick buildings of British banking companies on the Bund side of the river overlooking neon-lit massive skyscrapers on the Pudong side (all of which was built only in the last ten years). Shanghai feels familiar if you've ever lived in New York. It's basically like Manhattan if Chinatown took over. Imagine Rockefeller Center with a couple of red paper lanterns hung up outside and you've got the feel of this charming city.

It appears that the city has taken note of its architectural legacy and despite the proliferation of wacky cloud-grazing buildings, they have one eye on the past as the other eye darts forward into he future. Old restored art deco buildings on the Bund have been refurbished into posh restaurants and boutiques, there are alleyways of old colonial row-houses and mansions where laundry still hangs from the balconies and scooters dart through momentarily breaking up the idyllic quiet that pervades these old neighborhoods.

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