Scraping both the sky and the bottom of the barrel

As promised, here are the rest of the highlights of my recent Shanghai trip. For lack of a better plan, I’m going with straight chronological order, which puts this one first:
That’s looking from a pedestrian bridge near my hotel towards the Huangpu River. The building in the distance with the “keyhole” near the top is the Shanghai World Financial Center, which when complete will be 101 stories tall. There’s an interesting story about its design, which you can read about if you’re interested.

After taking that picture, I turned 90 degrees for a view of the bridge where I stood.
Unfortunately, this captures the essence of Shanghai (and, to be fair, every other city). You’ve got the aging infrastructure with the peeling paint on the elevated expressway. You’ve got the prosperous young people with their shopping bags and new clothes. And there is the one who does not benefit from the prosperity.

Speaking of prosperity...
I know I’ve posted pictures of this area before. It’s the Nanjing Lu retail area, and a perfect illustration of ren shan ren hai (see previous entry for explanation). This was a little after noon on Sunday.

After I tired of the crowd (and the constant harassment from guys trying to sell me watches and bags) I picked a random side street and went to see what I could see.
I ended up in the Hardware Zone. There were at least four blocks worth of stores like this, every single one of them selling some kind of hardware, from pipes, lumber, paint, and flooring to electrical items, tools, bathroom fixtures and appliances. If you figure about a dozen shops per block times two sides to each block times at least six streets, you end up with a ridiculous number of retailers. Once again, I am amazed that so many businesses can sell the same thing in such close proximity to each other and stay in the black. Especially when you consider that there are also big multi-department stores (along the lines of major American hardware chains). I think it has something to do with the way commerce works here. A building contractor will buy supplies from someone he has a connection with – a relative, a school friend, or the like – and negotiate a price rather than just go to a big impersonal box of a store.

Most deliveries are done by motor scooter. I saw a man zipping down the street on a scooter with a length of plastic pipe about 12 feet long over his shoulder.

Just beyond that I came to Suzhou Creek where a steel bridge crosses it. Like many places in China, this stream has been known by many names. When Shanghai first came into being it was called Songjiang, but it was renamed Wusong in the Thirteenth Century, and (if I understand right) it’s still called that further upstream. It’s just another example of how inconsistent the naming of places is here.
Not many tourists would come here, so I assume the merchants are selling to locals.

After that, I got on the Metro to check out the part of town where the Björk concert would be. I got off at the Zhongshan Park station, which was in the middle of a booming area. There was a fancy multistory shopping center pretty much like all the rest of the fancy multistory shopping centers I’ve seen in China.
I walked in the direction of the International Gymnastics Center, and saw police cars stacked in a parking area underneath the elevated Metro tracks.
This is a massive vacant lot surrounded by massive apartment complexes on two sides, a smaller, older neighborhood on one, and the train tracks on the other.
In my post about the concert I mentioned that there is a Baby Mall underneath the venue. This is one of the shops in there. I didn’t know that Beatles, Inc. had a line of children’s items.

I saw another scooter scene that was pretty amazing. It was too dark to get a picture, but this is what I saw:

A man and a woman came out of the store with four shopping carts filled up with two-liter jugs of cooking oil. The woman waited while the man went over to the parking area. He returned on a beat-up old scooter, and they proceeded to load the jugs onto the scooter. I counted a total of 44 jugs. Apparently this was unusual enough that a small crowd gathered around them to see how they were going to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. They stacked seven or eight of the bottles on the platform where you normally put your feet, then took out some long straps and threaded them through the jugs’ handles. Figure 18 jugs each on two lines. With considerable effort, the man slung the jugs over the seat of the scooter. Of course this rendered the machine unrideable, so they pushed it away. I guess you use the tools you have available.

If you want to be chronological, go back and read my concert post now, then read about Nanshi and Yuyuan, and you’ve covered this little trip.

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