Shanghai - the first time around
26 March 2007
The train ride to Shanghai was great. Because we knew it was going to be a long haul (24 hours non stop), we decided to splurge on a "deluxe soft sleeper", which made the trip much more comfortable.
It was amazing how quickly things changed once we crossed the boarder from Hong Kong into China. One minute you're in the first world, and the next you're in the third. One minute your in the 21st century, the next your in the 12th century. The rural areas we passed through really reminded me of Vietnam, with people still using an ox to plow the fields and living in huts with no electricity. The urban areas are like nothing I have ever seen before. The 12th century China is rapidly becoming the 21st century China in the cities. The urban skylines are filled with construction cranes and are in the midst of projects the size and scope that are almost unimaginable. On one project I counted 23 sky cranes putting together skyscrapers. Human labor by the thousands doing things that are mechanized in the "1st" world. Shanghai was by far the biggest and most developed city we saw on the train ride. As an interesting aside, one of the rally participants told us that there was more concrete poured in Shanghai last year than in any other city in the World.
After departing the train and finding a hotel we went down to the Bund and Nanjing Donglu areas of Shanghai for dinner. I was blown away to see that the Nanjing Donglu area is as developed and commercialized as New York or Paris, if not more so. It is a stark contrast to see the "peasants" toiling in the fields and laboring on the railways in ancient ways, and an hour away watching yuppies shopping at Tiffanies for jewelry. We were approached by countless people desperately wanting to sell us their wares, from watches to "girly massages". The level of desperation and the fact that as soon as we refused one solicitation, another person approached us, is - to me - a sign of extreme poverty and social disorder. As much as the communists are outwardly promoting their first world "most favored nation status", the reality is that there is extreme poverty and desperation in "them thar hills".
As far as our plans go, we are clinging to the slight hope of being able to join the rally by hitching a ride with one of the participants on April 1st here in Shanghai. Our thought is to fly to Xi'an and see the archeological sights for a couple of days, leaving tomorrow. We will then contact the rally participants on the 28th, after they have crossed the boarder and have a day of driving under their belt, to arrange a meeting in Shanghai on April 1st. If all goes well, we will leave Xi'an for Shanghai. If not, then we will alter a plans and research other sight seeing possibilities. If nothing else, this trip is an exercise in flexibility and adjusting our plans on the fly.
Here are a couple of short videos
Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge
Click here to see our original plans for this trip.
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