From the 23rd floor of the Hyatt in Shanghai my wife and I look down on the Egg.
A chicken that laid such an egg would stand taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Even so, you could not make an omelet large enough from that gargantuan hen to feed the 1.4 billion people in China if everyone asked for seconds. Chinese Breakfast
Steel and aluminum skin, The Egg resembles a flying saucer atop one of the busiest intersections in the galaxy.
Under these layers of traffic, below ground level, is the largest “scramble walk” on the planet. If you don’t count Red Square.
Above. Check out the pink center in that “wheel.”
The tiny dots? Shoppers under The Egg in the Wujiaochang Sunken Plaza. (Wujiaochang means “hub of five avenues.)
Shoppers, employees and visitors scurry across the plaza, bound for one of the underground entrances to the enormous shopping centers on the five roads that lead to The Egg.
The world’s biggest egg. The world’s biggest scramble. Don’t know what kind of pun you can make out of that but it could be the biggerst pun in the world. Welcome to China.
THINK BIG; LIVE FOREVER
Prince Zheng founded the Quin dynasty and unified China in 221 B.C. At 22 he conquered the six other warring states which had torn the country apart for a millennium.
Zheng tried to figure out the secret to ensure his immortality but died in 210 BC. Despite wars and purges, his legacy for large projects lives today.
Cultural Revolutions claimed countless lives until Mao’s death in 1976.
ARTIST & EGG ARCHITECT
In the 1970s Chen Yi-fei was mastering both artistic techniques and a society that would inspire him to create The Egg.
Chen Yi-fei became a spokesman through his art for the Cultural Revolution of China but then he travelled to the United States and encountered freeways and free thinking.
On his death at 59 The New York Times wrote that Mr. Yi-fei was “one of the first artists to bridge the gap between the art of the Cultural Revolution and western contemporary art.”
When dusk falls on the 15,000, 000 residents of China’s largest city, Chen Yi-fei’s egg pulsates with vivid colors and patterns.
The Egg contributes to the reaction many experience in Shanghai: One moment it feels like you’ve been in the ancient city forever and the next instant you come across The Egg and it seems as though a brand-new civilization has materialized in the last three minutes.
Take the Hyatt we are staying at. A year ago it did not exist.
Although freshly minted it’s filled with images and memories of one of the oldest civilizations on our planet. Every table and tapestry speaks to a long-lost age of superb craftsmanship and hand-hewn perfection.
Old world luxury melds with new world technology. Digitally controlled electric black-out drapes. On a marble table that looks like it is from the Quin Dynasty are the makings for a tea ceremony as old at writing.
The rooms are EVEN better than they look. Super clean and elegantly appointed. If we wanted to live in a space 40 meters square we could not do better for elegance, functionality and design.
Kate and I plan to remodel a bedroom and bathroom. We took color photos of the Hyatt and we are going to copy the design of the room we stayed in.
Look how cleverly the bathroom and bedroom merge:
The bed and its lush linens and cottons. Superb.
By the way, if the Hyatt online room prices seem high priced, then do what we do. Try some of these sites: https://goo.gl/6UVjSt
You’ll be surprised by the deals you’ll be offered. And, you’ll end up with an oasis at the edge of the most hectic cities in the world. You’ll only be a few subway stops from mind-pounding noise and action.
Once in, if you need some help with your smart phone or IT problems, Chris is a genius:
Note. It’s difficult to use gmail and youtube in China.
World Class Spa
Everyone has heard stories about the bad water and bad air in Shanghai. But at this Hyatt it’s safe to go swimming in their huge pool. The water is not only filtered but it’s also boiled. Probably safe to drink.
There are some excellent water filtration systems in Shanghai but getting the water to the consumer is a challenge. Water often travels through ancient pipes and locals are accustomed to questionable water which is three times as chlorinated as most cities.
The Hyatt pool has no chlorine odor or taste and complies with some of the toughest standards in the world.
Kate and I don’t drink swimming pool water from any place in the world. We don’t suggest you do either. But no worries. The Hyatt supplies free clean bottled water in every room.
Air to your room is filtered and you control the temperature.
The entire property features ultra-modern fire sprinklers.
You might find it curious to check-in on the sixth floor.
This has to do with security–you’ll need a high tech key card to access any room. We never felt safer. Many of the other Hyatt hotels have discovered the advantages to a sixth-floor check-in but the one in Wujiachang seems to have it down to a science. True, they had a few growing pains the first month they opened but everything runs smoothly now.
Nor have we ever found a place with more friendly and helpful employees. Our hosts seemed to anticipate our needs before we realized that we required something. Quick example. Our non-smoking room was a bit smoky. We called the desk and five minutes later we were installed in a room with air like an Alpine village.
Hunger Strikes Anytime
You’ll want something tasty and probably ethnic to eat. The meals run from exotic to American diner mode. Our Hyatt offers the best buffet breakfast we have experienced. Some room rates come with free breakfast. The service is top rate.
The chef makes fresh yogurt every day. And his broccoli shames any other broccoli. Look what else he can make.
The chef insists on local produce. A lot of it is organic. Foodies call guys like him a locavore – meaning he buys produce in season and within 100 miles.
Nearly all the staff is fluent in English and several other languages. We liked the buffet experience because you can see what looks good and sample to your heart’s content. Consider the layout:
The pastry cook turns out croissants that melt in your mouth. He also makes houses that melt in your mouth. Here’s the gingerbread house that he and his team created in three days.
And if you think that’s tricky, the Chinese can build a 30-storey hotel in 15 days.
Think of the marketing possibilities–you could rent rooms on an empty lot and by the time the guests arrived the hotel would be built.
And here’s a lounge area of the Hyatt:
Soaring ceilings, massive and hand-crafted wooden screens.
Most Hyatts have a Regency Club–
– the ones in Shanghai set the standard for complimentary drinks and tasty Hors d’oeuvres with an Asian theme.
Here’s how you get in.
Free Maps and Directions
A few blocks from the Hyatt is a government run tourist bureau.
There you can find free maps, guide books and travel schedules.
It’s staffed by helpful experts who speak many languages including English.
Be sure to pick up this free guidebook. It’s called Travel In Yangpu and covers the northeast area of Shanghai– aout sixty square kilometers with a population of over a million.
AND THEN THERE’S SHOPPING
You’re beside one of the best luxury shopping malls in China. It opens at ten in the morning and there’s an entrance from the Hyatt on the main floor.
Welcome to paradise where a platinum credit card could be your best friend.
In addition to our Hyatt, the Hobson One Shopping Center and a connecting skyscraper (all overlooking The Egg), Mr. Zhu, an enigmatic Cantonese investment genius, also owns vast properties throughout China. He is spoken of in hushed tones by his employees.
I asked one of them if Mr. Zhu chose the location of the Hyatt because of its proximity to The Egg.
The employee, on condition of anonymity, answered Mr. Zhu chose the location because it was so close to the five intersecting roads.
Yet I suspect The Egg’S design influenced Mr. Zhu. His shopping mall features The Egg design woven into its rooftop. That shopping mall has attracted some of the richest shoppers on earth.
If you’re interested in a different shopping experience, walk a few blocks from the Hyatt and visit hundreds of small mom and pop stores. Just past The Egg. You can buy anything from soup to sound systems.
I bought a charger for my laptop. When I walked into the store I told a nice fellow what I wanted. He said the charger would cost $120 US but I could have it for $110.
“How about $10?” I asked.
We settled for $28 and I think he made a fine profit.
TIP if you want to ask a taxi driver or anyone for directions, have someone write the address in Chinese.
Here’s the place where we bought my charger. A ten-minute walk. Be prepared to bargain.
Shanghai is world famous for knock-off-brands. Here’s a link to the most popular:
One of the delights of the Far East are Shanghai Massages. Especially foot massages. The practitioners combine deceptively thin fingers that can crush ball bearings with a near psychic sense of those parts of your body that—if pressed correctly—will make waterboarding seem like hopscotch.
Since many of the masseuses speak little English, the best way to convey that you are in pain is to SCREAM.
This should get your practitioners to back off. If it doesn’t, when they manipulate your large toe so that it meets your heel, kick! Don’t worry, you won’t connect as they’re ready for anything and will deftly dodge any feeble Bruce Lee moves.
Suggestion. Have the Hyatt concierge make an appointment for you. The concierge will explain your level of tolerance to being bent and prodded.
The Hyatt recommended a fellow two blocks from the hotel and the result was magic on my feet. It’s a great way to get over jet lag. My toes never felt so alive since the time I saw a movie about dancing panda bears.
Be cautious in Shanghai or any city.
Hot chicks who accost you on the street and hook you into a massage session need to be avoided – you might end up losing your money instead of your tension. And before you can say Yin or Yang several large characters might demand much more money than you agreed to.
You are only three or four stops on the metro to the ultra, all-new city of downtown Shanghai. A dozen Las Vegases on hyper drive. On the other hand, Wujiachang is the new Shanghai. The optimum “off- season delights” in winter. Decembers are about the same temperature as California.
LAST MINUTE TRAVEL TIPS
No matter where you go in this far away city, you may have to deal with Jet Lag after a 13 hour trip from the west coast of the USA.
Everyone has their remedies for jet lag. Our theory is that you get the best sleep in 90 minute cycles.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Communicating–when Kate and I visited Shanghai 30 years ago we were assigned a guide who worked for the government.
Today things are quite different thanks to the apps that smart phones have. Anyone with a smartphone can use an app such as Google’s Translate. You speak or type in English and as if by magic the Chinese translation appears.
Say Goodbye to the Tower of Babble.
Of course you need to be careful because wifi connections have ears and that means almost anyone with simple hacking skills can track you and what you do in ways that could astonish you and endanger you.
You don’t want to joke around when you are at the airport or going through customs. When asked by a customs official your purpose in visiting China it would be folly to say “to recapture our drone.” I was going to say that for fun, Kate said no way. Kate was right.
It never hurts to learn a few Chinese expressions. Please and thank you goes a long way.
Here’s a website that will get you started and give you some choices:
By the way, 70 per cent of the people in Shanghai speak Mandarin. The others use Cantonese. The two languages are written almost the same but pronunciations are night and day.
Chinese Visa–there’s three kinds–a onetime entry, multiple entry over a year or multiple entry over ten years. The cost is $140 at any Chinese consulate. You can download the particulars here:
Or you can fly to Hong Kong and then visit Shanghai for a short time and no visa is required. Check the above website for latest updates.
Keep your passport with you – the police can stop you and you are required to have your passport with you. Without a passport it’s almost impossible for a foreigner to stay in a hotel in China.
In the past China has borrowed liberally from western innovations. If you want to read an interesting book about our interdependence with China, consider:
“China Shakes the World” by James Kynge.
World War II Babies
Kate and I are World War Two babies. During that time The United States came of age and rose to the greatest power on earth if your measure greatness by freedom, personal wealth and military power. We were ahead of China by any measure. But in the last twenty years China has caught up and may soon surpass us.
What happened? I’m not sure. An old Asian proverb says something like: “One of us can’t do everything but all of working together can.”
When Kate and I last visited Shanghai 30 years ago it was a third world country. Now it could rule the world.
We saw a two-lane highway.
Now The Egg covers super highways.
Chen Yi-fei, possibly China’s finest artist of the last century, created a domed-shaped sculpture, a metaphor of how the most populous country in the world became a super power. At night, the magic of his vision becomes visible.
Not exactly an egg. More of a 3-D image of the brain.
The Egg is illuminated by thousands of Shanghai headlights. And those headlights blinking through The Egg’s aluminum skin reminds one of neurons firing in the brain.
Ever changing connections. A kinetic metaphor that reflects the beauty of what can happen when everyone works together in a spectacular symphony.
Kate and I had to fly back to Los Angeles all too soon.
“I wish I could take our hotel room and move it into our house,” she said.
“I’ve been in touch with a couple of California contractors,” I said. “We can have our bedroom and bath in less than three months.”
“That’s too long,” she said. “In the time it takes us to repaint one room, the Chinese can build a 30-story hotel. They ought to be able to create a bedroom and a bathroom for us in about 60 seconds.”
Written by Kate Dahlberg and Jaron Summers (c) 2017
A few thoughts — Things have changed beyond belief since Kate and I last visited China about 30 years ago. To read the following right click and open in a new tab.
Perhaps one of the most telling comments to describe how things are now came from a hotel executive. He said that in the old days China needed tourists from all over the world. Now only three or four per cent of their guests are from outside of China.
The Chinese middle class is roaring like a crazed dragon. Watch up for its hot flames.
Here’s our math on making breakfast for everyone in china: