the BIG city
11.04.2007 - 11.08.2007 68 °F
There’s almost no way to describe to someone how large Shanghai is and how it appears to be even larger than it is. Parker is a complete big city and tall building freak and I have often told him this every time I’ve returned from Shanghai. It is overwhelming. He has asks “Is it bigger than New York City?” I say, “Yes, much bigger”. He says “Emporus (the web site for everything that is tall buildings) says that New York is bigger”. Well, I’ll never have that conversation again. We stayed in the Hyatt, which is in the Jin Mao Tower, the 4th tallest building in the world. Parker looked out of the Window and just shook his head, gawking and said, “This is the most giant city I have ever seen” The view from our room on the 71st floor stretched across Shanghai and the bund, and as far as you can see it was skyscrapers. There were four reasons we came to Shanghai. First, was to Experience the size and pace of the city which I personally believe is unmatched in the world (even NYC). Second, was to experience the SMP skateboard park without injury which is the largest skateboard park in the world. The third reason was to visit Friedbert and Eleanore Wall, good friends who had been living in Shanghai for the past two and a half years.
Shanghai’s gigantic main attraction, day or night, was right outside our hotel windows, so it seemed like staying at the hotel was a fine thing to do. Even with that, we ventured out every day and night to get a real sense of the city. The boys’ entire goal was to skate SMP, and even Dad wanted to give it a shot. We all went the first day including Carol just to take it in. It was scary and huge – and deserted. We rolled into the park at about 10:30am and it was empty. There were no skaters. Zero. The biggest park in the world was empty. And it was free. The Park had drop in bowls that were 18 feet tall, vertical everywhere and over vertical pipes in many places. The kids were in heaven and they would be here three days in a row – of course with some studying and eating thrown-in in the mornings and evenings. Dad skated two of the three days, but bailed on the third to spend time with friends and nurse his aching bones from the first two days. Rune Glifburg, a very famous award winning professional skater from Denmark showed up at the park the third day and the kids got his autograph and enjoyed watching him shred, and just talking and hanging out with him. The emptiness of the park was one of those odd ironies we kept running into in China. There is a real sense in almost every city of “if you build it they will come……someday”. In some cities, it’s clearly a long way off and in others, it’s already here.
The third day in Shanghai, Carol and I met Friedbert and Eleanore at our hotel while the kids left for the skatepark with an interpreter for some adult supervision and emergency insurance. Carol and I went to the Yuyuan Garden featuring a collection of 800 year old buildings and courtyards, surrounded by af colorful and very active market with shops, peddlers and guhzillions of tourists. It was fun for me having never been in a touristy part of the city before and it was abuzz with activity. The strangest thing happened in the Yuyuan Garden before lunch though…. I noticed a guy that looked exactly like Brad Silverberg, an old friend of mine from Microsoft. I looked at him and thought “Geeze that guy looks like Brad Silverberg!” He turned and looked at me as well, in a sideways glance kind of way, and after he took his reciprocal double-take, a broad grin crossed his face, I’m sure mirroring my look of “what the f#%… ?” We were mutually flabbergasted and laughing ironically by the time we reached each other. I see Brad rarely in the states and I run into him in a courtyard in Shanghai was south of bizzare. I bet this happens again on the trip, but I’d wager it won’t be Brad next time . We parted ways quickly to keep up with our respective groups, but had time to snap a photo. It was a great way to reemphasize our lesson to the kids about how large and small the world is simultaneously. It’s a giant and diverse place, but you’re still quite likely just a degree or two away from someone you know, probably within feet of you, regardless of where you are standing. This albeit, was an extreme case. We went to an excellent dumpling place in the Yuyuan garden for lunch that had a 100 yard lineup of local folks, just for the takeout window. That’s no exaggeration. I could tell if it was the dumplings that wer e so awesome or perhaps it was the message on the window that read “Dumpling stuffed with the ovary and digestive glands of a crad”. Yes, I am totally serious, and no I have no idea what it meant, nor if we actually ate one.
After lunch, Carol, Friedbert, Eleanore and I visited the Shanghai planning museum which has a full layout of the city of Shanghai and the next 5 years’ development footprint. It is said that locals come to this museum to see if their neighborhood will still be standing in 5 years. It won’t be.
The next morning we awoke to take the Maglev train to the Pudong Airport. The Maglev stands for Magnetic Levitation and the train never touches the track. Magnets support and propel the train. We watched a Discovery Channel short on it the night before and it said that Maglevs can accelerate fast enough to kill you. Well, it didn’t do that obviously, but it did reach 430km per hour and travel the 30km to the airport in under 8 minutes. Even with that speed, this train isn’t as fast as this city.