Broadband Forum met in Shanghai. I flew a day early to have a little time to be a tourist. People say it’s a great city (as well as a large city: close to twenty million people here).

Friday, 16 September 2011, departed SFO 

Saturday, 17 September, arrived Shanghai

Another long flight. Talkative fellow sitting next to me, nice enough, but of course an empty seat would have been even better company. No jetstream; we flew a quite southerly great circle, and even though we were a few minutes late in departing San Francisco, we were a few minutes early arriving in Shanghai. I had checked out the Rough Guide to Shanghai from the library before I left, and read most of it on the plane.

It was just after 5 PM when we landed. Not much delay in passport and customs, and there are signs in English that point me to the maglev train. Found an ATM and got a thousand yuan, around $140. The rough guide says cash is king.

The rough guide also says the maglev goes 400+ km/hr and the outside world is a blur. There are speedometers in each car, which in this case topped out at 301 (flickering to 300). Outside the window, it was clear that we were moving right along, but it was hardly a blur. Seven minutes (they say) from Pudong airport to Longyang road station. Shall I also learn to ride the subway this evening?

Well, no. It’s getting dark, and I’m tired. Took a taxi. Glad I had printed out the little guidemap published by Hilton, because the driver spoke no English. I had read that counterfeiting was a problem, and the driver did indeed check over the bills I handed him. He refused a 5 note, and I subsequently figured out that it was really a 0.5 yuan note (that’s 5 jiao), rather than 5 yuan. Live and learn.

Muggy and humid, but I at least walked around the block after having checked in, just to loosen up stiff legs. Back into the hotel, where I ate at the Italian restaurant. I will be more adventurous later this week; tonight I just want food and sleep. The roast pig (not pork) was fine, and they had Erdinger Dunkles.

Sunday, 18 September

Today I get to be a tourist. Breakfast in the hotel, then out to wander. Got a tourist throw-away map from the concierge, and stowed the rough guide, along with my rain shell, in my little backpack. A cool breezy day, very pleasant and much less muggy than last night.

The rough guide says Shanghai water is not really for drinking. Hilton has bottled water in the room for 88 yuan per; I bet I can get it a lot cheaper in a convenience store (I was right: Y10.50 for a bottle that was just slightly smaller than the hotel’s offering). But in fairness, the Hilton also had small bottles, complimentary.

It turns out that I can see a slice of the Jing’An temple out my window, which means my room faces north, more or less. That’s okay. Wandered off in that general direction, but I will skip the temple itself for today. It is close enough that I can visit it over a lunch hour later, if I decide to. The rough guide wasn’t excessively impressed by it anyway.

I’m heading in the general direction of the Bund. This appears to be an Indian-British word that means riverfront mud flats or something similar, so I suppose I should pronounce it the English way, rather than the German pronunciation that I have been mentally assigning it. The Bund is the one standard tourist attraction, and I suppose I have to do it, just to say I’ve done it. We’ll see whether it’s worth the trip.

Of course, the Bund is about two hours’ walk, past all kinds of other interesting things. People’s park (Renmin square) is along the way, where we start by seeing caged birds, brought here to enjoy the outdoors, of course while remaining within their cages.

We see tai-xi exercises.

We see views of the architectural competition that rages in all the cities of the world; some designs compete more effectively than others.

From People’s square, we get into some of the real city, where real people live (ie not tourists). Crowded, busy streets, people walking in the street because the sidewalk is occupied by just about anything you could imagine, anything other than people, that is.

Lots of two-wheelers, mostly electric and silent. A reciprocating engine motorcycle is unusual enough to attract notice.

I peer over the shoulder of a hawker selling pet insects. He has four large crickets, and a couple dozen smaller insects, complete with magnifying glass so the customer can inspect a prize specimen. When he sees me taking pictures, he tells me I just have to have one of the large crickets. Well, maybe not.

Not much further along, I watched a crew installing telecoms cable. Couldn’t tell whether it was optical or not. The guy walking along the messenger wire had to deal with laundry on a pole, as well as the details of securing the new cable.

The Bund is the old waterfront, which of course is no longer a mud flat. A dredge was busy scooping mud from the mouth of Suzhou creek, which enters the river at the north end of the Bund.

I walk south along the old core of Shanghai business, looking across to Pudong, which has more skyscrapers than New York city. One of the locals pointed across the river and commented that this is China’s New York. He’s absolutely right. Like the skyscraper canyons of any city, of course, it’s best admired from a distance; no reason to go there.

After 9 by now; quite a few people out. Wandered down the shore taking pictures, enjoying the day, the sights, the people. Saw a guy doing running handsprings, but got only a blur in the photo.

From the south end of the Bund, I turned back inland, into the original old city, now ringed by a pair of roads that once marked the line of the city walls. Narrow and busy streets. You realize that mankind is characterized by Things, Stuff, Clutter. No neat and tidy sterility here!

Ready for a park again, and one came to hand. A pleasant bamboo forest, with curved and woven bamboo fences. A canal.

And a self-important grump with a whistle, making sure no one trod on the grass. I thought it was appropriate to photograph him in line with the state flags.

The rough guide described one of the popular scams around here: someone makes friends with you, perhaps to practice their English. They suggest you go somewhere for tea, somewhere of their choice, of course, and the bill turns out to be astronomical. So when a young woman asked me to take her picture (her camera), I was perfectly happy to do so, and when she wanted to talk, that’s fine, I was happy to chat with her. But I broke away while she was still making conversation. You never know, of course, but it smelled a little funny.

Some architecture competes better than others…

I have been through several of the main areas now; there’s also supposed to be some kind of artists’ district at the north end of the area, just south of the creek. So I wended my way thither.

The artists’ area does get to be a long way, and it wasn’t that easy to find. Thinking about giving up on it when, lo and behold, there it was. They are demolishing its neighboring neighborhood, but this particular spot, a cluster of old warehouses or factories, is probably vital enough to survive. There was a security guard at the gate, keeping out the riff and the raff. He let me go in.

Walked around, didn’t buy very much. Didn’t buy anything, to be precise.

It was not really out of my way to go past Changshou park on the way back toward my hotel, and I’m glad I did. A really nice collection of statuary. And a warden harvesting fruit from a gingko (I saw someone this morning collecting fallen fruit, smelly and soft, presumably because it’s so disgusting that he couldn’t resist selling it as a patent medicine).

Why don’t our gas stations cheer us up?

An umbrella fountain. Nice. There was also a melted clock along the way back to the hotel.

Into the hotel lounge, where I rather expected to see someone I knew, but I didn’t. So I had to drink my Erdinger Weissbier alone, while I reviewed the 279 photos I took today. Tough life.

There’s an Indian restaurant across the street from the hotel. Chicken madras, and I’m spoiled again.


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