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Monday, April 24, 2006

An American in Shanghai 

Tuesday, April 25, 2006. 10:54am

I ventured out to Renmin Square yesterday, and had such a great afternoon.

The huge model of Shanghai circa 2020

My first stop was to the Urban Planning Center - a museum of sorts which showcases Shanghai's architectural development - past, present and future - through the largest models and dioramas I've ever seen. Dick had told me about this after his last trip out here, and I really wanted to check it out for myself. I figured it would be a good choice to do on my first day here - what better way to get a feel for the lay-of-the-land than here. Shanghai is gearing up to host the 2010 World Expo, and most of their developmental goals are centered around that.

The lovely park in Renmin Square

I spent the entire afternoon in Renmin Square, which is also known as "People's Square". There's a gorgeous walled garden area that I strolled through that was so quiet and peaceful compared to the rest of the hustly-bustly city. I also walked around and admired the architecture of the Shanghai Museum, City Hall, The Shanghai Grand Theater (where The Lion King is currently playing) Shanghai Art Museum, Park Hotel and Tomorrow Square. Actually, I took the elevator up to the 84th floor (the reception floor for the Marriott) to admire the view. It was only then that I fully realized just how serious the smog conditions are here.

I've been toting around my Time Out: Shanghai guidebook, doing my best to blend in, and not look like a bumbling American. As most of you know, I don't speak a lick of Chinese, and I'm reminded of that every minute that I'm here. The guidebook has been very helpful so far, and I've learned a lot about the history of this city, as well as the individual neighborhoods.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower all lit up

Last night, we went out to dinner with Dick's colleagues. We are traveling with two other from CA, and had dinner with 3 guys who recently transferred from Dick's team out in CA to live out here. We had an amazing dinner at a restaurant on the Pudong Side of the River overlooking The Bund. Everything is so gorgeous when it's lit up at night. What struck me most about dinner was the presentation of each dish, as well as how much chili and chili oil they used in each. Unfortunately, I have a very low tolerance for spicy foods, so I wasn't able to try as many dishes as I would have liked.

The carrot bird

Shanghai is such an interesting city, and I imagine, very different from other cities in China. Everything is so very new and modern, and so much seems to be "westernized". Every once in a while I'm reminded that we're in a Communist Country. It's subtle, but noticeable. For example, I noticed yesterday that I wasn't able to access some of my friend's blogs yesterday (because I'm still trying to keep up with all of you). When we were out to dinner last night, one of the guys who lived here had mentioned that site on blogspot.com were all blocked. A-ha! I'm able to read anyone's blog posting who have their own domain name, but I can't read those which are hosted on blogspot (Christopher, Philip, Kimi, etc.,) Apparently, the Chinese Government doesn't want me reading your blogs!

Another thing that struck me was how inexpensive things are here compared to at home. Yesterday, I took a taxi out to Renmin Square (about 25 minutes away) went to a musuem, had a snack, and took a cab home. I only spent about $16 USD all day. Back in SF, that would have been the cost of a cab ride from my house to Union Square.

Fido Dido Lives!

Today I'm planning to go back to Renmin Square to visit the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Art Museum.

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