Huangpu construction site, Shanghai, China. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Seeing what amounts to the fetus stage of a Shanghai skyscraper from 30 stories high opens up a very different viewpoint from when you see them on the ground. That's assuming that you can see the construction sites from the street at all: the Chinese have adopted the Japanese aesthetic of hiding any kind of construction project behind as many vanity walls as they can muster.
Houses in Jin Jia Fang, Old Town, Shanghai, China. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. This is a shot of several of the larger nong homes I saw in Shanghai. Each one couldn't have been more than three or three and a half meters across.
Old woman walking slowly, Jin Jia Fang, Old Town, Shanghai. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. As with any city worth its salt, Shanghai is more than just great food, the Bund and the face of New China. I was utterly entranced by the old neighborhoods, the nong. (In Beijing, they're called hutong.) Life is lived here on the streets, with people milling about and interacting that we have lost in our modern world. They were either oblivious or unconcerned or too powerless to do anything about the changing world around them, which served only to enhance the charm of it all. Of course, having a private toilet has charm, too, and therein lies crux of the problem.
Making xialongbao at Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, Shanghai, China. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Xialongbao are the famous only-made-in-Shanghai dumplings filled with boiling soup, and Nanxiang is the most famous place in Shanghai to get them; it took nearly an hour to get through the line and buy our box of 16. Big windows look into the kitchen, where this harried man is part of a team of half-dozen people that takes cut squares of dough, fills them with meat and liquid and then pinches them shut, ready for steaming. During my wait in line, there was a never-ending of parade of parents helping their young children peer through the glass to watch raw ingredients become tasty dumplings, much the way I used to watch pizzas go from flying circles of dough to the oak-burning brick oven to ready to eat.
Bicyclist and a construction zone wall, Shanghai, China. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. China is changing so fast and the changes are so drastic that returning now to places I visited only six months ago I imagine would be like seeing them for the first time. What a weird and intense time to live or visit there.
Waiting for customers, Yunnan Lu, Shanghai, China. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. To celebrate Thanksgiving, here's one of my favorite foodie shots from China - a country that sometimes seems to exist solely to challenge your palate. The restaurants on Shanghai's Yunnan Lu, a truncated alley more than a bona fide street, are known for their seafood, and for displaying the day's edibles on the sidewalk. Although I'd been in China for a month by the time I made it to Shanghai, and I'd tried many different kinds of plant and beast prepared in as many ways, I never expected to see the chef standing on the food.
Huangpu skyscrapers, Shanghai. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Shanghai was surprisingly more like Tokyo than any other place I've been. In some ways, like fashion and edginess, Shanghai was a bit NQR: Not Quite Right. In others, like architecture, Shanghai was the city that Tokyo dreams of becoming, or perhaps the modern version of what Tokyo was in the 1970s. The buildings were new, but the city's transformation is not yet complete. A few old neighborhoods remain, where tight alleys and life lived in the streets is rapidly being demolished for 30-story boxes, bright and clean and soulless. Of course, if a soul is dependent on running water and private toilets, then the 30-story box could be heaven.