What I found interesting is that there seem to exist two parallel worlds in Shanghai. One that is very westernized, with high rises, big streets, shiny new shopping malls full of Western brand names, and another, in the narrow back streets, which seems more rustic and authentic. Even though no one can claim that as a city, Shanghai is beautiful, it is still a very interesting place to visit for the foreigner. For culture, there’s the excellent Shanghai Museum, for an almost Disney Land-like experience of “old Shanghai”, there are the “classical” shopping streets around the Yu Garden, which is another cultural highlight. And shopping opportunities are endless. Who can resist the colorful Chinese silks or a sweet water pearl? (Hint: not me. If my butt size was closer to Chinese standard, I’d be the owner of a stunning Qipao dress now.) Not to speak of Chinese tea… What I liked especially about Shanghai were the people. They’re really great at selling you stuff, but not in an unpleasant way. They are lively and imaginative, and all the young people speak English. It was actually much much easier to communicate in English in Shanghai than in Tokyo.
There are clearly a lot of environmental issues in and around Shanghai. Drinking water is tainted with heavy metals and every time I ate crabs or fish, I internally winced. But Shanghai is clearly a place with a fast-paced development and its people seem up to the challenge. It will be interesting to see what the future brings.