Sunday, June 13, 2010

Entry 3: Shanghai, 2010.May 20

The next stop on our train circuit was Shanghai – the city Chinese consider to be the pinnacle of modern Chinese civilization.

Initially, we planned to first head to another country side area full of mountain vistas but the relentless cloudy and rainy weather kept us in Shanghai for more than a week. A man we met on the train, a local Shanghai-nese who now lives in Vancouver BC, escorted us to meet our friend Xin. We know Xin from Seattle where she worked as a top executive for the Microsoft division of China. She left that job for her new position as the VP of Cisco China. We stayed at Xin’s penthouse which unexpectedly included perks such as on-demand massage therapists, cooks, and anything one could imagine. (She has graced quite a few magazines and heralded as one of the top female executives in China).

With the World Expo in full swing, Xin gave us her access pass (Cisco spent $40 million for a pavilion to showcase how Cisco technology will improve quality of life). We toured as much of the Expo as two full days would allow. Easily the world’s largest Expo, the entire Seattle Center (which was constructed for the World Expo in 1966 and the largest venue I know of in America) would be swallowed up in one little obscure corner at this Expo. The best thing for me about cities/christmas is the lights and the Expo did not disappoint. The Expo pavilions with all the new LED light technology were so brilliant, even painful to look at, such shifting brightness every way. Oil was the most impressive corporate display, with a bewildering ever changing display of shifting lights shining through the building.

Most of the Expo I felt was a waste of money (a $4 billion waste) as the buildings are suppose to showcase the beauty of a country – which of course is its ethnic uniqueness and landscapes – both of which are nearly obliterated and replaced by such displays of thoughtless wealth and business. Nonetheless, as long as we “preserve,” and document these extinct cultures, peoples and natural landscapes with movies such as Planet Earth, and showcase these dying animals and cultures, in Expos, Museums and plastic imitations at Walt Disney, then we will at least have something to show future generations and never even have to leave the city.

As such, the 50 foot tall lighted coke bottle is today’s’ symbol of the Buddha “drink happiness.”

Forget crystal meth or cocaine, refined sugar, “16 sugar cubes in one coke bottle,” is easily one of the most abused of the addictive drugs on the planet - yes, “drug.” It has most definitely changed the consciousness of everyone on the planet and bottled in plastic, no less, which is a product of yes, hydro-carbon and oil. A visit to a community in Laos a few years ago, where opium was still the drug of choice (people there can not afford refined sugar), showed me kids addicted to opium are much more pleasant than kids high on sugar.

We toured other city sights in Shanghai with other local guides, but in Shanghai, the pretentious display of the wealth is the main tourist attraction - buildings so tall that there tops are lost in smog, shopping districts as wealthy as any in the USA, with starbucks at the base of the Ritz-Carlton and even a 6.5 star hotel. (My camper may not even warrant one star, but it is the Northstar.

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