It’s big. Driving into the city from the airport (a pleasantly inexpensive $35 trip) the sheer breadth of Shanghai, outlined by bright, blinking lights, made itself known. Within the rings of fluorescence stood pockets of tall, dark apartments, squares of light silhouetting rows of clothes, airing in the windows. The roads are wide, the cars ostensibly unhindered by speed limits. It’s a suitably exhilarating introduction to the city.
It’s hot. Too hot to eat, too hot to drink, too hot to sweat. It’s a heavy, thick heat – over 50% humidity – that doesn’t let up, well into the soupy nights. Clothes are entirely unsuitable for this sort of weather, something the men remedy by pulling their tee shirts up over their stomachs. Slippery limbed, I had to return to my room today to recover my composure and stick my head in a fridge, before I bucked womanly modesty and pulled my own dress up over my stomach.
It’s busy. Of course. There are a lot of people (Shanghai has a population of around 18 million) but the city ably copes with large roads and wide footpaths. Bar the wondrous little alleys, full of indiscernible treasures, everything is on a big scale; to my mind, Shanghai seems to lack that overwhelming, jostled feeling of other, big Asian cities.
It’s cheap. Food – once you’ve spent a good half an hour staring at the more curiously packaged foods in the convenience stores – drinks and cabs make daily budgeting quite easy. I haven’t yet hit the shops, so shall keep you posted on non-necessity bargains. But from where I’m sitting, my little fridge stocked with 90c iced teas, I’m quietly pleased Shanghai won’t drain my financial reserves before I hit the, slightly less pleasantly cheap, London.
I do have to mention the unorthodox traffic conventions – ie: there are none – and press upon anyone visiting Shanghai, to not assume, just because the green man is flashing, that you can walk. Busses barrel through crossings with one, long blast of their horn (actually, that is a convention) and cars just drive at you as if you’re not there. Motorbikes, scooters, bicycles, cars and busses all share the roads, with pedestrians at the bottom of the pecking order; it’s your job to dodge them – something I’ve noticed locals are impressively skilled at. I have never before heeded ‘Look both ways’ quite so strictly.