Scooters are the lifeblood of Vietnam, here a passenger grips a plate-glass window while riding through downtown Saigon. What amazed me most about watching this dangerous stunt was that is was the second time that day I’d witnessed a large piece of glass being transported on a scooter.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but the most interesting journeys are comprised of meandering side trips and random tangents. I rarely travel in a straight line. My walks around Shanghai tend to be guided by the four compass points, but little else. On this particular day I decided to walk home the 8 km from my chiropractor’s office rather than take a taxi, or jump on the metro. After all, the temperature was not oppressive and the air quality was not disabling. Strike while the iron is hot. I walked from Tomorrow Square, through People’s Park and then cut up a side street in order to avoid the tourist crowds and street hustlers of East Nanjing Pedestrian Street– think Times Square, New York without the annoying costumed characters. Away from that famous part of Shanghai is where the people conduct their everyday lives, cooking, cleaning, shopping and socializing. I get the occasional stare as I am often the sole laowai to be seen wandering around the narrow streets lines with shops that sell door hinges and nuts & bolts and light bulbs and toilet plungers. It is on these streets where the security guard gets his foot massage and eats dinner, where the ayi buys her live fish and fresh vegetables for the evening meal. This is the China you miss if you stay on the main roads and travel in straight lines.
One of the things I enjoy most about Shanghai is the way they enclose many of the myriad construction sites with living walls of vegetation; these enclosures are planted with thousands of individual plants and kept alive for the duration of the project, helping to soften the impact of yet another steel and cement tower rising in this city of 24 million people. And, yes, the scooter rider is driving his vehicle on the sidewalk, a common practice in Shanghai. Pedestrians beware.