February 18, 2002

My trip to Shanghai, December 2001

In December 2001, the planets aligned. I had a month off from school, I had a lot of vacation time built up at work, and airline rates were MUCH cheaper than usual. Plus, I had a friend who was living in Shanghai and invited me to come visit.

So I did.

The first thing I did was to go to sleep. The next day, I visited the Shanghai Museum.

I got to see an impressive collection of jade, plus an exhibit on the Maya. Despite being the middle of the afternoon, and despite getting a full-night's sleep, I felt way tired in the middle of my visit. A 14-hour time change and my constitution got torn up in a coup. It took me five days to get over my jet lag.

The weather was surprisingly consistent: of the 12 days I was in Shanghai, it rained on 9 of them.

I stayed during my trip at Shanghai University.

The left-hand photo shows the front of the campus where I stayed. When you enter the front gate and pass through security, that's what you see. The right-hand photo shows more of campus on a rare, cloud-free day; note the Chinese flag flying in the left-hand corner.

While in Shanghai, I made my very first visit to a Buddhist temple.

This is the side view of the Jade Buddha Temple. Photos aren't allowed inside, though I saw some tourists inside taking photos anyway and no one stopped them. I opted to follow the rules and show some respect, punk.

I did way more shopping in China than I would ever do in the United States (my experience was, things tend to be half as expensive in China than in the U.S., when you take conversion rates into account), and one of the main shopping venues in Shanghai (maybe the venue) is Yu-Yuan, Yuan Gardens.

I visited Yu-Yuan three times; this photo was taken when I first arrived on my first visit. I was able to buy an antique Go set here (future generations will be underwhelmed by my frugality, but hey, they can play Go with my set). In the basement of one of the buildings, I came very close to getting pickpocketed.

Hands down, my favorite place to be in Shanghai was Nanjing Road.

I like to think of it as the Las Vegas strip of Shanghai: lots of shops, lots of people (even though these photos don't show it), lots of neon signs (practice reading Chinese in the dark), no casinos though.

The golden arches make a depressing cameo in this photo, but a block away from where I took this photo, I saw a logo for TCBY. (Warning: the next sentence drips with sarcasm.) Fortunately, American corporations have made plenty of inroads into China. The most prevalent icon in Shanghai is not Mao Tse-Tung or even Ronald McDonald but rather Colonel Sanders. KFC was the first western fastfood franchise allowed entry into China, and Harlan's visage is everywhere.

Nanjing Road might be my favorite place to be, but my vote for Coolest Building in Shanghai goes to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The hypodermic-needle-shaped Tower has become (in my mind at least) the defining landmark of the Shanghai skyline. Not without controversy, of course, but remember that the Eiffel Tower was considered a blight to the Parisian skyline (maybe some think it still is). When I took these photos, there happened to be a high-school marching band. In the bottom photo, you can almost see a couple of tubas jutting up above the stairs.

But when you go to the 263-meter-high observation deck, you can see...this:

Shanghai. Page 869 of my copy of the 2002 World Almanac lists Shanghai as the 9th-most-populous city on Earth, with about 12.9 million people. Shanghai is also the most populous city on Earth which has a negative annual growth rate. That brown thing at the bottom of the above photo is the Huangpu river, which cuts through Shanghai.

The above photo also shows that clear days were a mixed blessing, since I got to see the sun and the smog. There are comparatively few cars in Shanghai (but BOY were there a lot of bikes; I kept thinking of Critical Mass), but the pollution was wretched because, I'm told, of the prevalent use of coal-burning to keep warm.

For those of you who don't like tall buildings, we present--more tall buildings. The big building on the right in the above photo is the Jin Mao Tower, the tallest building in China and the fourth-tallest building in the world.

But the site of what will be the tallest building is this:

This is the future home of the Shanghai World Financial Center, slated to be built in a two years or so and which will (briefly) be the tallest building in the world. I took this photo from a taxicab (they're all Volkswagens in Shanghai) on my way to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

This concludes my presentation. Thank you for coming along.