The Led Zeppelin of Cities

When my plane flew through a roof of clouds into Shanghai, I did not quite know what to expect. Every city has its own atmosphere, created by its people and the economy of the country. Shanghai is the economic centre in what is almost the biggest economy of the world, but I had no clue how this would be felt in the city.

Through sight and sound, I have been exploring Shanghai for five days already now. The city is a composition of a loud 24/7 song of motor engines, horns and construction site noises, interspersed with random cracks of firework or extremely loud boat horns that scare my guts out. Visually, Shanghai is an architectural marvel with buildings that are the modern response to the architecture of the Greeks, of ancient Rome, and of the Renaissance, albeit covered in a layer of smog. While London is a strong and vibrant city, its power is contained within neatly divided metro zones and areas that stay the way they are. But Shanghai feels like a grumbling beast of raw power that growls and snarls in trying to take over the world. It is the Led Zeppelin of Cities.

Proof of this is its skyline, which has changed dramatically over the course of ten years. The Shanghai Tower, for example, is 623 metres high and now the second-tallest building in the world, yet did not even exist in 2008. Of course, with around 24 million inhabitants, Shanghai certainly has enough manpower for the incredible dynamism that it displays. Everyone has a job here, even for the most irrelevant things, which might be a remnant of Chinese communism. There are Chinese people guiding traffic where there are traffic lights (although admittedly hardly respected), others that are cleaning one part of a street over and over again, and others standing on the corner of a street to give directions, even though they never speak English and cannot give help to those that might need it (i.e. me).

Because not finding your way is certainly a thing here. Shanghai is a massive city, which I found to be another major difference with London. Walking three metro stops should not take more than fifteen minutes in central London, yet could take about an hour in Shanghai. Taking the metro for one stop is truly worth your time here. Or you could take a taxi, another really efficient way of transport, especially at night when the metro no longer drives. It is very cheap, hardly ever more than £3, and convenient, even though explaining where you want to go is often a five-minute conversation with the taxi driver.

Thus far my first taste of the city. I have deliberately not included any pictures, as I am making a video that will capture the idea of Shanghai much better than pictures can. Be sure to keep an eye for it here or on any other social media I will post it on.

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