From Xian to Shangai
26 Apr 2003
FROM XIAN TO SHANGHAI
We left Xian at 10.25 am local time on the 1st of April to cover the 1300km distance to Shanghai by air. We arrived Shanghai (New York of the east) through Hongqiao international airport (the older of Shanghai’s two international airports).
According to the website Shanghai-ed.com, back in the old days Shanghai was such an attractive place for sailors that ship’s captains often had difficulty putting together a crew when it came time to leave port. So they would go down to the bar district, drug likely candidates and haul them back to the ship. When the sailors awoke, they found themselves on the high seas. The phrase “to be Shanghai-ed” grew out of this practice meaning to be carried away against one’s will.
Yes, Shanghai (pop 15 to 16 million) is an attractive city. Among the must see places are the Yu gardens (constructed in 1556), the bund (beautiful riverside recreational/commercial centre), Jin Mao building and tv tower across the river opposite the bund, the Shanghai museum, the Buddhist temple, the Nanpu bridge, Nanjing commercial district and the Pudong international airport.
Shanghai is popular for manufacture of silk clothes. We visited such a silk factory. We followed the state of the art process from the isolation of silk from the cocoon of a (butterfly undergoing metamorphosis), through the production of the different silk dresses to the promotion of the clothes by parading beautiful models. We were told, for example that in order to produce a suit you will require 3 kg of cocoon spun by 1500 silk worms. We also visited another similar place for manufacture of clothes from the wool of sheep. This fur industry depends on Mongolia for raw materials as fur-producing sheep are common in this region where winter temperatures can drop to 50 degrees centigrades below zero. One needs not forget the typical Mongolian (meat dominated) dishes served us during our lunch in the restaurant of this building.
We were taken to the New Shanghai Circus for a live performance by the award winning Acrobats of China. The show was thrilling from the beginning to the end. There was a lot of near-magical balancing and acrobatic art displayed by both boys and girls. The most scary performance was that of four motorcycle riders moving at breathtaking speed and daringly crisscrossing each other’s path in the belly of a mesh-like giant ball. Riding a motorcycle on the internal wall of a globe is a feat already, but riding four bikes at such speed in such an enclosed space (without collision) seemed unthinkable. One of our female colleagues sitting next to me had to close her eyes because she hadn’t the courage to withstand the dangerous spectacle.
The authorities are doing everything possible to decongest this mega city. Many buildings here are storey buildings (more than 4500 buildings have 8 floors and above). Cremation of the dead in Shanghai is mandatory (unlike elsewhere in China). Multiple lane roads and flyovers common. In Shanghai, you must purchase a car number plate before buying a car. In order to discourage people from congesting the roads with many cars, the cost of a number plate ranges from two to three million cfa francs. Motorist are encouraged to settle minor traffic accidents amicably so as to lessen traffic jams. If the police has to intervene in such cases, the both motorists are penalised for not reaching an amicable arrangement.
Our visit to China came to an end at midnight on the 3rd of April when we boarded an Air France plane from Pudong international airport for a direct flight to Paris. After a head count in the plane, I was relieved to know that none of us had to be ‘Shanghai-ed’ out of China. With the SARS scare gathering momentum, we had to put on gauze masks over our nose/mouth throughout the more than eleven hours journey. I did not find it funny at all.
Copyright ã 2003 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]