22.5 hours in Shanghai.
You land. It’s hot, you sweat. Your car is waiting. You sit in traffic, you call your friends and family, you kill time, you look around. You notice things: it’s taller; it’s cleaner; it’s old meets new; it’s digital; it’s everywhere. It’s alive.
Your driver gets lost. You drive up and down the same street. You notice more: it’s leafier. It’s Paris-y. It’s New York-y. It’s un-Chinese. It’s incredibly Chinese. It’s geniune. It’s flashy. It’s an urban contradiction - big and small, in plain sight and hidden away.
Meetings. 36th floor views. You look, you stare - you’ve never seen a skyline like it, dominated by the world’s biggest bottleopener. It’s impressive, it’s exactly like every other big city, but not.
Day becomes night. You have dinner. You walk through genuinely beautiful, old time village squares crammed with restaurants and diners. It’s a mash of cultures. It’s a melting pot. It’s timeless, it’s old, it’s classic…it’s only a year old. It’s artificial reality - it’s improvised heritage in place of real world charm.
You head to the Bund. You see the buildings, they compete for your attention with their range of garish tricks. The light is overpowering. You feel polluted with colour, saturated with neon. LED is the new oxygen, height across the river dominates your thoughts.
You prefer the other side. You love the Peace Hotel - you love the peace and quiet. You adore the quiet dignity, the quiet frescos, the quiet silence. You walk outside, and you remember you are in a world of people, light and noise. You had forgotten where you were, and it savagely reminds you.
You wake up. You go to work. You head back to the airport. Your time is over…for now.
You reflect: you wish you had more time. You look forward to next time. You love the place. It’s an addictive, soulless, incredible city. But it’s good to be heading home.