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30.10.08

Amazing China

Since my last post, miraculously, the Internet is working without a hitch! We left Hong Kong, on a two-hour train ride to mainland China and the city of Guanzhou, to attend the Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in the world. It was started in 1957, although the region itself has been trading with foreigners for more than 2,000 years. The modern version is held in the most amazing exhibition complex I've been to. It's brand new and massive, probably several square miles of impressive contemporary buildings; a dozen or so Javits Centers could fit within this space.

Forty to fifty thousand exhibitors will show their goods here this month, so complex that the fair has been divided into 3 individual fairs. One week of electronics and hardware (guy show) is followed by ceramics, home goods, and row upon row of tchotchkes, ending the last week with fashion and anything apparel-related. Thousands of exhibition staff, 60s-style hospitality girls - with sashes - smiling - everywhere, very tight security, passports, badges, scanners. Add hundreds of thousands of fair attendees from all around the world, seeking business with China - that's a taste of the Canton Fair.

The following day, my fellow travelers and I were driven by van to the Shengzhen airport for a flight to Shanghai. The highway was comparable to driving on Interstate 95 from Baltimore to NYC, only with open trucks jammed with pigs, chickens, ducks, and one gruesome sight, a truck jammed full of oxen on its way to market. All along the route, building projects were sprouting up everywhere, big projects -- nothing happening in China is small. There is factory upon factory making everything imaginable that the world wants and mile upon mile of very tall apartment buildings. Not boring minimalist worker housing -- these are contemporary designs attempting every architectural configuration possible with brick and mortar, some good ideas, some not so. This country of 1 billion people is a laboratory for everything necessary to evolve at light speed into a new world, whatever it takes - just do it.


My first trip to Shanghai, once the Paris of the East, and I barely get 24 hours? Well, we only slept for a few hours and managed to see and taste quite a bit. It's a very impressive city, and yes, everything is big and splashy. Shanghai is a cultural hub for music, arts, and theater, so far a favorite of the trip. I could live there and look forward to returning for a longer stay.

More details and a photo journal of my adventure at my Flickr site. I'm now in Beijing and will soon post more.

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