A City Of Contrasts

Shanghai is a city of contrasts: it’s a place where the nouveau riche flaunt their wealth in a smart neighborhood just a few blocks away from the derelict ungentrified streets of Old Xintiandi. It is a place where capitalism coexists with communism. Mao is still a much-revered figure, ironically so, considering that he was the man responsible for repressing the very lifeline of Shanghai’s economic prosperity at the height of his Cultural Revolution; the city’s entrepreneurial character. From the scammers who roam the bustling Nanjing Road to the business executives working in one of Pudong’s gleaming skyscrapers, Shanghainese really know how to make money. Ethnically the city is nowhere near homogenous. Its cosmopolitan vibes are felt through the diverse selection of food on offer in the city. The noticeably sizable Shanghai Muslim community, just like the Chinese Eurasians of the city, appears to be very well-integrated, if not assimilated, into the mainstream Chinese society.

This is a massive city; there are as many people living in Shanghai as there are in the whole of Australia. It is so crowded that it puts Seoul to shame, the roads are a total chaos, and Westerners used to waking up to clear, blue sky may find Shanghai air a little too heavy to their lungs. Shanghai is definitely not for everyone. The city gets pretty overwhelming at times, but the people are surprisingly friendly and the food good, so I still regard Shanghai pretty highly in my book. Living there I’m not keen of, but going there for a visit is very much worth it.

Explore the city beyond the skyscrapers and the Jetson-esque highways and overpasses that are the omnipresent feature of the new China, and enjoy getting lost in the maze of the older parts of Shanghai, where things are still very much alike what you expect to see in China; rundown but very charming hardware shops, art deco buildings clearly past their prime, and seedy cafes where people, especially the elderly, gather for a round of Chinese chess. That’s where the charm of the city really lies.

The shots were taken using my modest-yet-reliable digicam:

Faithfully restored old shophouses
Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai WFC
The ungentrified part of Xintiandi

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