Overdue Shanghai Post

It’s been 5 days since I left Shanghai, so I suppose I should write a little about it. I didn’t get out too much while I was there, since I ended up working on this site much of the time. I kinda expected that would be the case anyway so it wasn’t a big deal. Plus it was just too hot during the day to do anything other than sit in the air conditioned area of the hostel. I did get out for short periods each day though. And I also went out quite a bit at night, even though it was still ridiculously hot and humid.

I was shocked by all the crazy high rise buildings that are fighting for attention. It’s like Los Vegas on steroids. The whole skyline is filled with buildings that have their entire outsides covered with LEDs – whole skyscrapers that run animations on the outside, buildings that change colors, super bright house sized LED screens dot the horizon. Then there are the river cruise boats that are covered in multi-colored flashing LEDs – they look like massive art cars from the playa of Burning Man. The money that goes into electricity and construction must be staggering.

To contrast all the money and modern architecture are all the tiny side streets that run through the city at crazy angles. It was so easy to get turned around in the city when I was in some long winding side street with no view of the buildings to orient myself. These side streets are filled with small convenience stores, fruit stands, noodle shops, “slop houses” – little fried food stands, dumpling stands, fried bread & pastry stands, and all sorts of shops selling all sorts of cheap crap – clothing, tools, house wares, you name it – all crap….

The streets are total chaos. Stop signs don’t exist, street lights seem to be only suggestions, and cross walks are a joke. The rule seems to be “The one who gets there first wins” along with “Survival of the fittest”, and luckily “Under no circumstances hit anything”. In order to cross a street on foot it’s just like a game of Frogger – nobody will stop for you, you just have to run in front of moving vehicles when you can. They’ll swerve to get around you, but they’ll not hit you. The tiny side streets are packed with Mini trucks, Mini vans, cars, taxis, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians – all moving on both sides of the streets and weaving in and out of each other. For some reason, I feel safer as a pedestrian here than I did in San Francisco, even though it’s much crazier.