Every now and then, we at China Travel and Intern Diaries, a series of China escapades as seen through the eyes of the newest kids in town. Ian Black gets a look at the impressive Pudong skyline close up for the first time.>>>
From the moment my plane emerged out beneath the distinctly Chinese cloud/smog combo I had found myself in, the scale of this almost unworldly large city became immediately apparent. I was greeted by a sea of skyscrapers and tower blocks extending as far as could be seen. It was at this point that the realization finally struck me, that this was real. Shanghai was no longer that really cool looking city with the distinctive skyline that I had admired in loads of movies; all of a sudden it was a living, breathing metropolis that was ever so slightly terrifying.
Five days into my trip here to Shanghai, I can confidently say that I am just as awe struck by this new world, its scale and the sheer volume of activity taking place, as I was when I initially peered out of that plane window like an overexcited child. Since that time, I have learned not to attempt to make any sense of this city and its inhabitants way of life, just to embrace it and admire it. From what I can gather so far, that is the true attraction of Shanghai. More after the jump....
A typical tourist's day out here will inevitably involve many unique experiences. Beginning our first free day with a short walk to the Metro station, my fellow interns and I, keen to explore the city, were immediately amazed. The road appeared to be more of a war-zone between car and mo-ped drivers, fighting head-to-head for any possible way of making their journey quicker. Lanes were apparently more of a guideline, not a law, and a green man at a traffic light did not mean we were home and dry. Back on the street, sellers of almost every kind of electrical device, old DVDs and inviting food were accompanied by local passers-by staring at our every move as if we were aliens fresh from Mars. A short stop at Starbucks seemed refreshingly normal until we noticed that we were just about the only people in the café not using some form of iPod, iPad or similar electrical device. Whilst I have utilized public Wi-Fi at a café numerous times at college, this was something else.
Once in the Metro, the futuristic design and overall system again seemed a far cry from anything in Europe. TV screens everywhere, neon lights and green trains provide some idea. Our tightly-packed train soon dropped us off at People's Square in downtown Shanghai. The walk out of the station felt like uncovering my eyes to a much anticipated surprise. Here impressive skyscrapers loomed all around, with enormous walls of glass constructed in all kinds of shapes and designs. For anybody who played the video game Sim City as a child, it seemed as if someone had managed to enter a cheat to be able to afford all of the largest possible buildings and placed them all in one place with no obvious pattern or plan.
We began to walk towards the Bund, housing the city's historic quarters and with views across to the famous Pudong skyline. This took about half an hour, of which most of our time was spent with our heads craned upwards admiring the buildings above. However these enormous buildings were about to get even bigger. The view once we arrived on the Bund was simply astonishing. The Oriental Pearl Tower headlined the most impressive skyline I could have possibly imagined. A sea of tourists clambering for a vantage point for a photo, frequently including us, all seemed to agree. However photos simply do not do it justice. A meal on the Bund saw us bring in the evening and with it the Shanghai night. The skyline was converted into an LED-fueled performance of dazzling lights.
Here was an example of how in just one day Shanghai had managed to both completely confuse and baffle whilst simultaneously amaze and astonish. Impossible to come to terms with, yet so easy to appreciate and admire. It is this overriding unworldliness that has made the most significant impact on my stay thus far, and I feel that this may be the main draw of the city. A "see-it-to-believe-it" ordeal. Whilst beginning my work at Ctrip may introduce somewhat of a daily routine into my time here, the endless array of sights, activities and events going on here is sure to keep surprising and thrilling for the upcoming three weeks.