Shanghai Night

The rain began as we loaded up on a half dozen huge buses (all sporting the name "King Long") for the nearly two hour trip from Lake Malaren to downtown Shanghai. Shanghai is bisected by the HuangPu river into PuDong and PuXi (West of River and East of River) On one side of the river is the Bund, the colonial buildings preserved by the Chinese as a remembrance of their lost liberty during the colonial period of the 19th and early 20th centuries. On the other side is the incredibly growing city, with the television tower ablaze in lights, but dwarfed by the construction of what will be the world's tallest building in 2008 when it is completed. The river is full of traffic, including wooden barges with no lights that follow each other nose to tail, at 10 or 12 knots. Traffic on the river is so congested any self-respecting US Coast Guard chief would have apoplexy, but it seems to work. We ate at an excellent Japanese (!!) restaurant and then walked down to the ferry dock to get the tour boat. All the boats on the river, except the barges, are festooned with neon. Some even have huge video display screens that are larger than the Mitsubishi DiamondVision screens in football stadiums and baseball parks. We did a turn up the river, and then down, and landed on the Bund side, re-boarded our buses, and fell asleep on the ride home. Shanghai is full of contrasts, like any city in the developing world. Walk down the wrong alley, and you find very poor people, even street vendors trying to sell fake Rolexes and fake Mont Blanc pens, or grilling corn or hot dogs on a charcoal brazier. Yet just feet away are parked a BMW, Lexus, and a fancy Volvo...and down the street is a condo development that must have rents that cost more than the street vendors make in a year. At the Lake Malaren Resort, there are literally hundreds of brand new condos and townhomes empty while just before you get to the front gate is a rickety two story apartment with boarded over windows where the field workers appear to live. There is great growth in China, and great wealth, and great poverty still. One can only hope that the economic growth will equalize these enormous disparities. My next door neighbor's parents live somewhere in the Shanghai area, and they have, he reports, electricity about an hour a day, no refrigerator, and dirt floors in their home. He lives in an upscale development in Aurora, Illinois, and works for United Airlines, and sends lots of money home.