Impressions of Shanghai

Some early impressions of Shanghai:

  • It’s enormous–overwhelmingly so.  It’s the size of five Manhattans, with more than 19 million people.
  • Everywhere you look there are skyscrapers as far as the eye can see.  It gives new meaning to the “concrete jungle.”
  • In the 1980s there were three buildings over 40 stories tall.  Today there are more than 4,000.
  • And they’re still building!  We noticed that when they build residential towers they don’t just build one, they build five or ten at a time.

A partial view from the 100th floor observatory at the Shanghai World Financial Center. Imagine this view extending in every direction and that will give you a sense of scale.


A view from another angle; you can see more of the smog

  • Our tour guide said the omnipresent haze was a mixture of fog from the ocean and smog.  It reminds me of Los Angelinos calling their smog “the marine layer.” Ha ha! I’m not convinced fog has much to do with it.
  • We’ve seen far more mopeds and bikes here in Shanghai than in Singapore. People load up their bikes with side cars or trailers and it’s amazing how much they can carry on those things.
  • They have elevated freeways here with flower boxes along the edges.  They also have great digital signs that use a combination of green, yellow and red to show drivers what they can expect in terms of traffic.
  • Speaking of driving, it’s insane.  Yesterday we were on a three-lane road with two-way traffic.  Use of the middle lane was completely random–sometimes our bus would occupy it, sometimes the oncoming traffic would.  The lane markings were purely decorative.  Drivers swerved in and out of lanes, played chicken with oncoming cars, etc.  Our guide said Shanghai drivers need, “Good horn, good brakes, and good luck.”
  • It’s an ambitious city and an economic powerhouse.  The growth in the last 20 years is phenomenal but it’s different from Singapore.  Singapore was all about the master plan.  Everything they’ve accomplished has been conceptualized, strategized and executed with intent and purpose.  In Shanghai it somehow feels more organic.  It’s just this explosion of growth and it sort of feels like the city is just holding on for dear life while it all unfolds around them.

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