|Image from chinayourway.org|
It’s been a big day.
Twenty-eight hours after embarking on our journey I finally slipped the card into the hotel room door here. The final two frustrating hours had been spent sitting or wandering in gut-cramping weariness, while the hotel staff tried to belatedly figure out how to accommodate us. No point in being prepared, I supposed.
En-route to the hotel, on the very fast magnetic train and rather slower subsequent coach, our guide explained to us that prior to 1992 there had been no bridges over the river in Shanghai. Only ferries, she said.
That seemed extraordinary to me. Now there are multiple bridges (did she say eight?), some quite magnificent, and many tunnels. Shanghai has grown explosively.
Everybody knows that.
As I surveyed the Shang-high-rise condominiums from the bus window, jaded after long travel, I sensed drabness and rapid decay. Utilitarian block-work apartments buildings seem to crack and rust early in this city of smog.
We’d been told by the guide, however, that the city is spectacular at night. And this evening, as we walked out to find some food, Shanghai did present a prettier visage. At night neon and liquid crystal displays abound, and the city shines. The roads seem like boulevards and people are out on foot for recreation – shopping, dining, playing soccer.
The sole Chinese speaking adult amongst us helped some of us to order meals in small restaurants where English was neither spoken nor understood. Many of the kids fended for themselves: few words, and many gestures. “What is this I’m eating? Do you think it’s eel?”
They seem determined to try new things. To be adventurous. To have fun.
I wondered, as I walked home, if Shanghai may really be – like London or New-York – one of the great cities.