07 11 14

(Image: Central Zhengzhou. Reproduced kind courtesy of my travelling companion on the trip, Liam Turner]

Been trying to get to grips with Shanghai. Its big. Really, really f—-g big. It makes London look like………….well, more like Londonderry.

There’s poetry-galore to be had here. But the best I can come up with so far is: “it’s really, really f___g big”. I’m in shock-and-awe. What is it the teenagers say…….“awesome”? Don’t use that word again kids, until you come to Shanghai, because you will re-define ‘awesome’ when you do.

But ‘big’ isn’t always better. 99.9% of it appears to be a concrete jungle. And I’ve worked in Singapore, so I know what a concrete jungle looks like.

But really, I mean really, this is taking-the-piss.

My driver meets me off the plane, my name-card held aloft, but spelt wrongly. The ride from airport to hotel is mostly on elevated-highways (elevated above other elevated-highways, that is). At times it’s possible to look down on no fewer than three tiers of roads beneath us, so the cityscapes from this height are plentiful. Concrete, steel and glass giants pass-by at a dazzling rate – my driver clearly intends to be as economical with his time as he is with his words.

I sit in the back and notice for the first time how jet-black his hair is. I will very soon get used to that. We are around 60 to 70 feet off ground level, travelling past everything else on the road. Its 9pm so the roads are fairly clear.

Shanghai is vast-beyond vast. After your chauffeurs blacker-than-black hair, it’s the buildings that grab your attention. The first 40 levels of them are usually pretty humdrum, but starting at around floor forty or so, the architects have some kind of meltdown and they usually finish off the top layers with a distinctive flourish. Such a flourish is clearly their ‘signature’. Anything goes, it seems – we pass one that has a mock-up of the Acropolis on its roof.

Athens-meets Las Vegas-meets Shanghai.

I am dropped off at a pleasant looking downtown hotel opposite glitzy shops offering western brands.

One of the ironies so far is that I got driven for an hour through something like the set of ‘Bladerunner – The Directors Cut’, and when I got to my hotel room there’s a note that sez “we care about the environment so please don’t offer your towels up for laundry unless you need to”.

But another irony is that just 100 yards away from my commercial-centre-hotel window there is what looks like a very small park, with trees ‘n stuff. I’m guessing that the town planners (if there are any) must have missed that little patch, in their grand designs.

And I reckon that’s where the Tai-Chi-ers hang out, around dawn. So I’m off there, at dawn tomorrow.

Fortunately it’s November, so dawn arrives late in the day. So I might just manage it.