We have made it to Shanghai
We arrived to Pu Dong Intl Airport early Tuesday morning. The long flight had taken us through Frankfurt and then overnight across Russia before veering south over Beijing on our way to Shanghai. We rushed through customs, got all our luggage (score!), and quickly met up with our three non-English speaking driver's who would take us first to our hotel in Anting, and then wherever we wanted to go for the rest of the day.
I arranged to have the team dropped off in Wai Tan, the Bund area.
The sites and smells of the city are over-powering, radically different from the European places we visit. The first week of May is a huge holiday time in China, and the streets are full of people - many not even from Shanghai but visiting from outlying towns and villages.
There's a marked difference to the reality of Chinese life that always shocks me a little when I'm here. In a way, there are so many beautiful things to see, and although there are advertisements everywhere for commercial goods (celphones, iPods, cameras, and jewelry), the average person has no hope of ever buying anything. At times I feel this country has advanced too quickly into the 21st century, and the people are not ready. More thoughts on the Chinese situation later.
At this point of the afternoon, I simply wanted to keep it together with some of my group, which was nearly impossible. Within the first few minutes of being dropped off, the entire team was separated. This was actually good, because trying to walk in a large group, always stopping for one person to lok at something, is horrible. Better to stay small and tight. Thank goodness we were very specific on meeting back at the drop-off point later that night - because we had 8 hours to ramble around and trying to explain to a taxi where our hotel was would have been impossible.
You know it's a tourist area when they're pumping McDonalds and Pepsi everywhere. I ate a ton of good asian food this first day (local treats from street vendors, too), but it wasn't until a late night snack (on the run!) that I finally got sick. Do NOT eat the burger with spicy thousand island dressing and cucumbers. Actually, it's been a couple days, and I'm still not feeling well - there's significant pain in my lower back that has me wondering if I'm passing another Kidney Stone. Anyway, that should be the last of the junk food I eat for a long time, and the unfortunate thing was that we simply had run out of time to get anywhere else because the pick-up came too fast. The food adventures will continue, hahaha, and they should be fantastic.
My primary goal for day one in Shanghai was to get away from all the people and get off the beaten path. Success. A few of us navigated through alleyways and small streets, seeing up close how some of the people lived and survived in this city. We made it through mazes and steep stairways, and as always, I was impressed by the openess of the people. Sure, they were going to try and charge us triple for whatever it was they were selling, but the average person was pretty cool. Babies and young children would stare, and some started to cry if we stared back.
It's just after 6AM now, and this is the second day in a row I've been up at five, courtesy of the the police station downstairs which has some yelling and training going on at that time. And it's already light, too. I should point out that the sky is constantly grey and it's very strange. It gives a whitewashed effect to everything. Combine that with the ever present concrete dust and dirt from a city that is constantly building and growing, and that only adds to the overall strangeness. Thursday means we're working on the bikes, and it's about time to go racing. I'll probably see you guys next week - lots to do in the meantime.