Shanghai – City of Lights, City of Haze

Although I could spend pages talking about the jade factory, the rickshaw tour and the train ride, I (for the sake of continuity and real time) will skip ahead and talk a bit about my first day in Shanghai.  My roommates for the train were Julian, Tom Davis and John Clare, who entertained us with music in the morning to overpower what we designated as the, “Kenny G of China.”

We disembarked and walked immediately into open air from the railroad station, which was sans front door.  My very first thought was of a similarity to New York.  Shanghai has an extremely different feel than Beijing.  Beijing is in the style of Old China; traditional, as traditional as the Great Wall itself.  Shanghai, however, is Big City (a proper noun, in capitals), down to the 88 floor Jin Mao tower.  I instantly liked Shanghai; an impression which continues to strengthen.  The Expo, which was advertised slightly in Beijing and before, dominates everything in Shanghai.  The raised highways have large banners with its slogan (Better City, Better Life) and its blue mascot, Hai Bao.  Statues of Hai Bao have been erected, giant stuffed Hai Baos greet those who enter certain hotels, and skilled gardeners have even created enormous topiaries of Hai Bao.  Many storefronts are exclusively Expo and billboards, small signs, and Hai Bao stickers are everywhere.

The Expo is tomorrow (or today and/or yesterday, depending on the time of your reading) and more information will come.  On another note, while Beijing has few large buildings, there are very few buildings here less than four stories.  The skyline continues forever and high rises rule the skies.  These are covered in lights; at night, the city shines – some lights even change colors.  The streets are lined with trees that are full of lights, as well.  It is no wonder that I have dubbed Shanghai, “the City of Lights of the East.”

Another trademark feature of Shanghai is the haze which permeates the air.  The miles on the outskirts of the city are covered in factories (about half the things we use are made in this neighborhood) and the population is 18 million (though it is a smaller city, the population is higher than Beijing’s 17 million), which leads to an increase in vehicles and pollution.  The haze causes only a small portion of the skyline to be visible at a time (today it was even so thick as to be visible ground level), like they are perpetually in the clouds.

According to Mr. Peters, when he visited Shanghai in 1988, the city was much smaller and the sky shone bright blue, but now (and he’s visited 3 times in the last 4 years) it has always has the haze (similar to Industrial Age America). This, instead of dampening and darkening the city, increases the feel and mood.  My New York impression was furthered by the several large Central Park-like greens randomly in the city.  We haven’t visited any, but the views I have gotten from the bus on the raised highway show large expanses of trees and grass, with walking or biking paths.  China’s cosmopolitan feel is even more powerful here – just in the hotel, I have met an Egyptian, an Arab, and a group of some South Americans.  Tomorrow, I’ll continue the Shanghai speech, including the shopping district Nanking Road, the Jin Mao Tower and the acrobatic show, as well as today’s trips to the French section, the Yu Gardens and surrounding alleys and the Bund.  So, once again, I say to you: ciao…for now.

~Michael Vybiral

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2 Responses to “Shanghai – City of Lights, City of Haze”

  1. Aunt Gail & Uncle Bert Says:

    Michael, first of all we are so happy that you are having such a wonderful time in China. Reading all your writings, we both feel as though we are there with you. You have such a way with words…very descriptive. Miss you but at the same time want you to take advantage of every minute while there!

    Wishing you a great time and can’t wait to read your next writing!!!!!

    Love You!!

  2. Marian wagner Says:

    Hey Michael, I’m SO enjoying your writing! So glad to think if Oliver might be having such a great time as you are. Very glad for you wonderful musicians so young and so full of vibrance and enthusiasm.
    Thank you very very much for taking the time to share your impressions.
    Your ability to write is phenomenal. Don’t take this gift lightly, but I get the feeling you’re not taking it lightly. You’re honoring it. Thank you!

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