Today’s my first full day in Shanghai and so far, so good. After a fourteen hour flight, I landed here yesterday at about 4:00pm, prepared to be immediately immersed in a completely different culture and language. Turns out that things aren’t so different after all. Shanghai is just like any other huge city in the world. Sure, the language is different but most of the important signs are duplicated in English, and lots of people speak at least a bit of English as well. I hear that English language courses are mandatory starting in about third grade around here.
With all that going for me, it wasn’t too difficult to get from the airport to the hotel. First from the airport I jumped on the Transrapid MagLev train, which goes straight from the airport to the edge of the city. The train is really cool – like a monorail on steroids, it goes faster than 400km/hr. Our top speed was 430km/hr (267 mph)! After disembarking at Long Yang station I took a taxi to my hotel, the Renaissance Yangtze Shanghai.
A word about driving in Shanghai – leave it to the professionals! Seriously. Growing up in and around Boston I’ve seen my share of crazy and scary driving situations, but I’ve never seen anything like this. People weaving in and out of traffic, creating their own lanes in the middle of two other lanes, swerving into the oncoming lane while leaning heavily on the horn – it’s all here. Add into that mix people on foot, bicycles and mopeds and you’ve got yourself a situation that is both petrifying and wildly entertaining at the same time. Even when you’re just crossing the street you are taking your life into your own hands. People seem to ignore the fact that pedestrians have a “walk” sign – they’ll just swerve in front or behind you. My advice: find a large group of people and cross the street in the middle of it.
After checking in, I walked around the block and checked out the buildings and some of the city. It’s kind of weird – it seems like things in the city are either 20+ years old, or they are brand new. I’m not sure if anything happened here in the 80’s and 90’s. There are a LOT of apartment buildings, and they look like crates stacked one on top of each other, much like buildings you’d see in the projects. They are everywhere you look. Another thing that is immediately noticeable is the heavy haze and smog. It’s covering the city. If there was ever a place that needed clean air vehicles as desperately as Shanghai, I haven’t been there (and I’ve spent some time in LA). Perhaps it has something to do with the summer weather (it’s humid and in the low 80’s here at the moment), but somehow I think it’s like this all year round.
One of the main things I am looking forward to here is the food. So far (in the two meals I’ve eaten here) I haven’t ventured too much out of my comfort zone. Both meals were at the hotel restaurant and both were fairly Western with a slight Chinese twist. This morning with breakfast I did eat some Dim Sum dumplings, though. I hope to go out to eat with some of the guys here at the office and try some really authentic Chinese cuisine.
Speaking of which, here I am at the Intel office. I figure the rest of the week is going to be fairly routine. Get up, catch the bus into work, work all day, go back to the hotel, wander around until I find somewhere to eat dinner, sleep, etc. After all, working is the main reason why I am here. During the week I’m going to come up with a plan for the weekend. Some people have suggested going to see the countryside, and others have suggested checking out downtown Shanghai. I’ve got a few days to work that all out, but for now I’ve got to get down to business.
Note: I thought it would be worth mentioning that I will be adjusting the time on my posts from Shanghai to reflect the local time that I posted them.