Posts Tagged ‘Shanghai Expo

13
Aug
10

Stating the obvious: it’s hot.

This was taken a few weeks ago, on what was then the hottest day of the year. But by now, everyone would have been used to 38-40 degrees Celsius (100 – 105 degrees Farenheit) weather in Shanghai.

Yes, it’s an oven outside and it’s going to stay that way for a few more weeks. Walking along the streets, you can see the heat eminating from the asphalt, creating sporadic mirages. The sun sears your skin, and each gulp of hot and humid air is worse than the next.

Yet the cruel weather does little to deter tourists headed for the Expo. They come in droves, jostling in lines and panting by the many mobile water coolers on the Expo grounds. Lethargic individuals sprawl on the grass, pavements and benches. Others fan themselves furiously, only to break out in more sweat from the futile activity.

This is the main “Sun Valley”of the Expo Axis, a 1km long elevated pedestrian walk that connects 6 “Sun Valley” horn-like structures. Located next to the China Pavillion, it is lit up with a moving LED video and stands in front of a reflecting pool. Brilliantly thought through in terms of design for night time, it is one of the most widely photographed piece of architecture at the Expo.

Given the heat, the shallow reflecting pool is also a great way to cool off, and families would throng and splash their way through the area. I saw a child lie down on her back in the shallow water, staring into the sky with a most contented look on her face. For a moment, I was most tempted to follow.

Instead, I reached for a cold beer. That will serve as a respite, for now.

July 2010

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01
May
10

And the Shanghai Expo begins..

I caught the ceremonial launch of the World Expo in Shanghai on television like any good Shanghai resident, away from the maddening crowds. It showed spectacular views of the Shanghai skyline, especially an aerial sweep of the Lujiazui financial district, which sits on the edge of Pudong, like a futuristic island only opened to special individuals.

That was when it hit me: Hate or or love it, Shanghai had an incredible urban landscape.

Yet when the fireworks were primed to go off, we dashed toward the river front where teaming masses had been milling around for over an hour.

And when the sky lit up with bursts of golden and red clouds of light, everyone ooohed and aahed. Someone remarked that it was not as heart-stopping as the Beijing Olympics ceremony, but what they hey, kids were screaming in joy and adults were staring in awe. I stood in a sea of outstretched arms, filming the entire display with camera phones. We all shared a moment along a part of the river less frequented by tourists and wished every night was this special.

April 2010

30
Apr
10

Shanghai Cops: They’re watching you

Yes, they’re everywhere.

Shanghai’s finest, its hierarchy of police men and women, district security guards (协管) and traffic cops are out in full force. In fact, there are so many of them, you’d think they’ve shipped them in from other cities and provinces.

If you are in the financial district in Lujiazui (陆家嘴) in Pudong, you’d notice that police are lined up along all the roads in this area. (By the way, this place shuts down after 5pm today, don’t even think about coming over here.)

The professional police force are mostly younger men and smart looking in their navy suits, helmuts and riding boots. They cruise around on nice shiny motobikes or BMW 5 Series, recently introduced for the Expo.

The district security guards (协管) tend to be older men who also wear navy suits and white helmuts, but ride around on a dinky e-bikes. (That’s a pair of them above, whom I like to call Starsky and Hutch).

Traffic police are attired in mud brown suits paired with reflector vests. The force is made up of mostly older men and women in their late 40s or early 50s, who carry ubiquitous jars of tea and when congregating at breaks, look like a gathering of jolly aunts and uncles.

Shanghai’s finest are dedicated to making the city safe and will be watching your every move. So why not stop them and say hello?

Thank them for their fine work while they frisk you and ask you for your passport.

Give them a hat tip as they hustle you across the busy streets.

And heck, why not give them a hug to see if they’ll bundle you in the back of the police van parked round the corner.

So … welcome, welcome! Are you all ready for the Expo?

20
Apr
10

“Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”

Wandering along the graffiti street on Moganshan Lu, I counted 4 wedding shoots, 3 model shoots, 2 motor bikers (preening and then roaring down the street) and 1 street artist.

His name is Tommy, an American responsible for a few masterpieces along the Moganshan Wall. I caught him just as he was finishing this giant blue … creature, fine-tuning shades and strokes, vibrancy and clarity.

The paint had barely dried when a pair of teenage girls wandered over to pose by it, flashing the ever ubiquitous V-sign next to pouting glossy lips.

Standing with his gear: a paint mask, step ladder, a wheelie bag filled with incriminating cans of sprays and a variety of nozzles, Tommy looked quite pleased with his deed for the day.

“We don’t do this to be famous,” he said at some point. 

It reminded me of what Banksy once said, “Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint.”

When he left, I stood at the same spot, capturing the flow of traffic past the wall. Some stared, most were oblivious. They’re too used to the color on that street. But isn’t that the beauty of it all.

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody draw(s) whatever they liked. Where every street was awash(ed) with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet. “ –  Banksy (Wall and Piece)

April 2010

18
Apr
10

The taxi rest stop

You could say that it’s one of the most colorful public toilets in Shanghai. That is if you can spot it amidst a long trail of graffiti winding along the curve of the road.

Located along Moganshan Lu (莫干山) by Shanghai’s art district, there is always a car or two pulled over on the side.  A man will emerge in mid-zip before climbing into his car.

It’s a popular spot for taxi drivers, even if the toilet shed may seem obscure to the careless passerby.

That afternoon, I found one of Shanghai’s latest fleet of Expo taxis, the Volkswagen Touran, parked by curb. Mr Xu was naturally puzzled to find me waiting for him when he emerged. Mid-zip, of course.

Tuns out, he has been driving this taxi for a few weeks and was proud of his new vehicle. “They pick drivers with the least complaints and the longest driving record,” he boasted.

On my first ride in the Touran, I learned that business was indeed much better than when he was driving his old Volkswagen Santana.

“Initially, nobody flagged me down. They didn’t realize I was actually a taxi!” he said, “But customers feel more secure in this car, and now everyone wants to ride in it!”

As I alighted to a cheery farewell and reminder to check all my belongings, I thought to myself that if the city had more new taxis, it would lift the spirits and inevitably improve the overall service of Shanghai’s taxi drivers.

Just then another taxi honked deafeningly as it swerved past me on a pedestrian crossing.

Maybe not.

16
Apr
10

Portraits of Strangers #1

In thy face I see the map of honor, truth, and loyalty.
      – William Shakespeare, King Henry VI

There’s no art
  To find the mind’s construction in the face.
      – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
         (Duncan, King of Scotland)

Taken in Lujiazui Financial District, Pudong, Shanghai

April 2010

22
Mar
10

The world as their playground

Well detailed here, the area surrounding Shangchuan Huiguan (商船会馆) in Old Town, also known as Merchant Shipping Hall, has been completely flattened and the radius of demolition continues expanding in full force. Built in 1715, it was a place for business traders to congregate for wheeling and dealing or to rest for the night before hopping back on their boats moored off by the port along the Huangpu River (黄浦江). While the structure itself is authorized for preservation, everything else has fallen to the wrecking ball. At least 5 streets now no longer exist, their road signs standing in irony.

In this vast track of land, unnatural in Shanghai’s dense urban jungle, there was much activity. In addition to construction workers shoveling rubble, speeding bulldozers, and a web of scavengers, children from surrounding neighborhoods were peppered across the landscape.

There is so much to play with – puddles of water with rocks of all sizes, endless discoveries of discarded knick knacks and miles of dust to build sand castles. The children were oblivious to the sea of roaring engines and whipped up dust storms, only mindful of the playground beyond their doorstep.

March 2010

Continue reading ‘The world as their playground’




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