Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shanghai Takes the High Road

In 1981 I saw Shanghai for the first time. The colonial buildings on the Bund were among the few highrises in town, all of ten stories high.

Nanjing Road was already a busy shopping street but it looked worlds apart from the glittering facades of today's glass towers and luxury brands. The pavements were made of packed dirt, and street vendors were peddling their wares outside their tiny little shops. Barbers gave their customers a haircut on the pavement.

The streets were filled with millions of bicycles, all of them black. Only a few score cars were to be seen, and there were only four types: the Shanghai Sedan, the Beijing Jeep, the Dong Feng Truck, and the Jin Bei Van. And thousands of ancient buses, of course.

Things have changed since, and the cityscape is now dominated by 30 to 90-story glass towers and elevated highways.

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