Out there somewhere is a city that can compare to Shanghai, but I have never experienced it.  I’ve been to Paris, Rome, New York, Chicago, L.A., and let’s not forget Columbia, MO – while I enjoyed and appreciated each for what they had to offer, Shanghai just seems to have upped their game one notch more.  Most of it is due to the newness of major portions of the city.  Note in the gallery below the picture of Pudong in 1993 – when the Pearl of the Orient was just being built.  That was it.  Of the currently famous skyline of Shanghai, 21 years ago none of it existed.  That’s given them a leg up on infrastructure decisions and other things that needed doing – there really wasn’t much there before they had to contend with.

Daily is the struggle of the commute, however.  I’ve gone from a total of an hour on the worst days to about three on the best.  I’ll leave my apartment around 7, take the #9 train from Jiashan Road to Xujiahui and walk a couple of blocks from there to a shuttle that Microsoft provides for employees.  An average day has me arriving at the office at about 8:45.  We call it the “magic shuttle” because there’s some sort of hypnotic power it possesses that puts everyone to sleep.

There’s no point in trying to get work done on the bus, the traffic is bad enough and the driving erratic enough that you’ll get dizzy staring down at your screen.  But during this commute that takes me from more-or-less the center of Shanghai out to the industrial park where the Microsoft offices are, the view is littered with 15+ story buildings the entire ride.  Start in downtown Chicago and after about 10-15 minutes those sized buildings are pretty much only in the rear-view.  Even on a recent one hour bullet train ride to Hangzhou (will share that one soon), you could still always see multiple buildings of that size.  Mind-boggling the scale of people here.  And Shanghai has the subway, bus, and taxi services in place that always keeps things moving.  I really haven’t found anywhere in the city I wanted to go to yet that I wasn’t able to get within +/- 4 blocks by taking the subway.  That also helps this Chinese illiterate because I don’t have to explain to anyone where I want to go.  I always keep a printout of the address of my apartment (written in Chinese) with me so I can show it to a taxi driver.

Vertical distance was the theme when I went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.  You can also get a sense of the scale of this city by looking at one of those pictures.  The city just doesn’t seem to end (although the air quality puts a severe damper on visibility).  The building itself looks like a bottle opener and they even sell replicas of the building that are real bottle openers in the gift shop.  I didn’t buy one because I thought it was a bit expensive, but I haven’t seen any replicas that the street vendors have to sell.  I’m sure I’ll head back up there for a night viewing and might change my mind on that purchase.  Anyway, when it was completed, it was the world’s second tallest building – they thought about putting a tower on top so they could claim the tallest but decided not to.  The square in the middle is designed to reduce the pressure wind puts on the building.  It was originally going to be a circle – the traditional Chinese symbol for sky – but too many locals complained that it would look too much like the rising sun symbol claimed by the Japanese, so they went with the square.  My favorite discovery was a result of having a couple of beers at the top, which is what I called the ‘lou with a view.  I was tempted to see what was in the ladies’ room, but decided it best not to….

A great night out is shown in some of the other pictures below.  We went to a place called Haidilao, which is kind of a variation on fondue.  Instead of skewers and a pot of oil, this was a segmented boiling broth that raw ingredients were put into for cooking then you would fish them out.  There were multiple flavors of broth you could get, but we settled for one “normal” and one “spicy”.  I stuck mostly with the spicy side.  And nothin’ says lovin’ like some dude dancing with a string of dough that ends up as noodles in your dinner.  It was actually kind of cool to watch him do that, though.  We had one other ‘dancer’ that kept dropping his noodle and I volunteered the next table over for that deposit into the soup.

So, enough for the moment.  I know I still have more to catch up on and I try to get these out as quickly as I can, but finding time when I’m lucid enough to collect pictures and wrap them into a narrative seems to evade me…