28 August, 2005

This is the entrance to the subway. Often this is the only sign you'll see.

Another one of those classics.

An example of the helpful subway signs that make it hard to get lost.

Let the pushing and shoving begin. Most people get on before anyone has a chance to get off.

Even on the subway there is video advertising.

Always good advice.

The Longyang station where the maglev train to the airport begins.

The maglev tracks as seen from the ground.

And here's one of the trains heading into the station.

This is a slum community that was right next to the tracks. Not sure if the barrier was built to keep the sound out (not likely since it doesn't make a whole lot of noise) or to keep the train passengers from seeing the slum.

The slum was quite intricate with all sorts of passageways, homes, and stores.

The maglev train arrives on the platform attracting all kinds of interest from tourists.

It literally hovers over the ground.

This is what the track looks like.

And this is the section where I belonged.

The train started right at the stroke of 4.

Before long it had picked up quite a bit of speed.

This was the maximum speed it attained. There was a degree of shaking at this point.

Arrival at the airport, 30 kilometers away in just over seven minutes.

At the airport, a helpful little device.

The view of part of the Shanghai skyline from People's Park.

That's the Radisson tower next to the huge Samsung sign.

And in the distance, a really big tower.

Now why can't New York have cool looking buildings like this?

As it turned out, the lake *was* bluish green. Chalk one up for accurate lake naming.

If I had framed this a little better, I could have convincingly said that it was the Haagen-Dazs tower.

I think in all my travels, this is the first time I've seen a Taco Bell outside North America. And I've never seen one with that particular name.

This is one of the more annoying things in the streets as well as inside: television monitors with blaring audio dispensing advertising to anyone in its path.

In this part of town, it's all about shopping.

The famous Number 1 Department Store.

A Shanghai crossing guard. Every major intersection has several.

I can't recall ever having seen a curved escalator before.

No cars allowed here but it's still quite difficult to make your way down the street.

A food market does insanely brisk business.

Cars are back on the street which remain as crowded as before.

The McDonald's mini-tram for those who aren't up to walking. Probably the very same people who have just eaten at McDonald's.

Looking across the river at some newer buildings.

This one doesn't look too touristy.

These boats literally fill the river.

Yet more cool buildings that make this a unique skyline.

And throughout it all, the red flag continues to fly proudly.

China Telecom maintains a presence on a parked boat.

Few realize this but Shanghai will be the host of Expo 2010. This is the countdown clock.

Yes, those are palm trees.

A less tourist infested pedestrian shopping area.

And yes, bicyclists can and do get tickets.

The original and the one that all others are named after.

Not sure what the theme of this place is but it's an interesting name.

Graphic of the day.

I have no idea what this is forbidding. But presumably it's okay for guys to do it.

28 August, 2005

Day 43. OK, I'll say it. Shanghai is insane. Totally screaming insane. This is one of those places where nobody gives a shit about anyone else and it's survival of the fittest on every level.

If there is a sound that typifies what Shanghai is, I have a pretty good idea of what it could be. The car horn. The constant neverending car horn. That's what people do here from dawn to way past dusk. They lean on their horns. I know people who think it's bad in New York City. They would go absolutely ballistic here.

And it's not just car horns. People are constantly establishing their turf in all different manners. Take the subway for instance. Whenever a train comes in, it's like they've just thrown gold into the cars. Everyone runs like their lives depended on it. And forget about that whole "let 'em off first" thing we say in the States. That theory hasn't made it over here. In Shanghai they push onto the train before anyone has a chance to even think about getting off. Which only makes it that much harder to get on and people often don't ever make it off. Insane. Utterly completely insane.

Where does this desperation come from? I wish I knew. But it's both annoying and funny at the same time. As a New Yorker, the aggression doesn't really intimidate me but then the people of Shanghai aren't intimidated either so I question the point of it all.

The subway system here is about as easy to figure out as that of Beijing. Not quite as well marked but definitely enough for any English speaker to get by. They have a different type of fare system here based on distance. So you can pay anywhere from 20 to 40 yuan depending on where you're traveling to. I'm still a bit upset that I paid 40 yuan the first time I rode when the correct fare was actually 30. Yes, we're talking about the difference between around 30 and 40 cents. It's the point of the thing.

So I wanted to see as much of this place as I could in the time that I had which was certainly enough to see something. I had heard rumors of a maglev train here and my counterfeit Let's Go book was useless as far as giving any details of this. So I researched it on the net and discovered that there was indeed a maglev train operating right here in Shanghai that went from a suburban subway station to the airport. It didn't take too long to figure out how to get to that station and once there the signs for the train were everywhere.

There were also a number of rules for riding the train. "The elders, the weak, the illed, the disabled, the pregnant and those who carry the baby shall enjoy the priority of getting on board first." "The indecent dressed, the drunk, and those who carry serious infectious diseases or mental disease are forbidden to enter the station or get on board." "Awful weather or technical reasons may disturb the normal operation." The usual.

I got a round trip ticket which cost me around $10, same as the pathetic Air Train to JFK Airport back home. A train was just gliding in as I got onto the platform and a bunch of people were taking pictures of it. This is not a normal train. It doesn't use tracks as we know them. The train actually hovers about a half inch off the ground using electromagnetic force. It's the stuff of science fiction.

It was 4 pm and the train started moving right on time. The acceleration was smooth and very fast. We started to pass cars on highways as if they were standing still. I kept looking at the speedometer that was prominently placed for all passengers to see. It climbed to 200 kilometers an hour. Then 300. Then 400. Finally it topped off at 431 kilometers an hour. That's 267 miles per hour! As opposed to Air Train's 55. And both systems were built for the same amount of money. When are we going to get our heads out of our asses and actually start investing in our infrastructure? These people have 20 cent subway rides, trains that go nearly 300 miles an hour, and constant improvements while we can't even fix our roads or build a decent train network. We do manage to start wars all around the world which I guess is the alternative use for all that money. But seriously, we had better start fixing and improving things in a big way. It's not just the Chinese who are kicking our asses in this department. All of western Europe is way ahead of us as well. And I don't even want to think of what I'm going to be seeing in Japan.

So I wandered around the airport for a little while thinking that I could actually hop on a plane and be home within a day. That seemed a bit comforting somehow. But this was no time to back out. There was still much to do and see. I headed back to the train and flew back to Longyang Station. (I do hope taking this hovering train doesn't actually qualify as "flying" or I will have broken my no flying rule for this trip.) The whole 60 kilometer expedition took under a half hour.

I crammed back into the subway and headed for Nanjing Lu, a huge pedestrian walkway that starts right by People's Park. It was filled with all sorts of huge stores, Western franchises, a McDonald's on every damn block it seemed, and hordes of people, many of them tourists. On the subject of McDonald's, here at least they seemed to be doing most of their business selling ice cream. Imagine that.

Naturally I started getting "hello!" solicitations the moment I emerged from the subway. It's really so damn annoying since you literally can't take a breath without someone else running after you. If you ever want to make a lot of money here in Shanghai, print up some t-shirts that say "I Don't Want a Fucking Watch." You'll make a fortune from Western tourists, guaranteed.

I walked all the way to the river and spent some time admiring the view. Here the "hello!" people were trying to sell cruises up and down the river. Those who weren't running after people had those super annoying megaphones bleating out whatever sales pitch they felt was right for this particular crowd. The view was nice anyway. I only wish I were deaf.

Later I discovered that my CDMA phone actually works in China! That surprised the hell out of me. Sure enough, on Verizon Wireless' website, they go into detail on this. It's insanely expensive however so I won't be using it. But I'm impressed that all four phones I'm carrying work from here. I know it won't be nearly so easy in Japan.