Saturday, January 9

Shanghai Nights

The night before the New Year I moved between distinct polar opposites, from the limestone towers of Yangshuo to the concrete towers of Shanghai. In a daze, one could actually confuse the two landscapes- where wandering rivers meandered through endless karst mountains, now narrow channels of pavement flow between massive buildings that stretch for miles in every direction.

Shanghai is one of the largest cities on Earth, and is the epicenter of China's powerhouse economy. It is nothing short of a mega-city, that has seen staggering levels of consistent growth since 1991 when the city was granted the ability to economic reform post communist takeover. It's growth is epitomized in the emergence of Pudong, which, in the early 90's was literally a swamp and farmland- is now one of the worlds most powerful financial centers on the planet and is littered with dozens of skyscrapers including the worlds third largest building and the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.

While it does rival the economic thrust and growth of Hong Kong, Shanghai differs greatly in feeling. Shanghai may exhibit the same excessive wealth and opulence as Hong Kong, but it also has the grit and rawness of a large scale Asian city. This of course includes the traffic, pollution, trash, filth, noise, interesting smells and hustle- but it also includes an element of Chinese culture that I found seemingly absent in Hong Kong- something that I experienced on my first trip to this mega-city three years ago, and something that was intriguing enough to bring me back.

In addition to the richness of culture to experience in Shanghai, it is also host to perhaps the best, most accessible night life of anywhere I've ever been (all of my well-traveled friends who have visited or live in Shanghai have agreed). With my best friend living in Shanghai and New Years Eve on the close horizon I could not resist a trip.

While these photos may not do justice to the weekend, they do give an impression for how we tenaciously tore up Shanghai.. lets just say the legendary nightlife has proved itself once again...

Aside from a couple wicked nights out, celebrating the coming new year and the amazing year passed, I did get a chance to climb at one of China's largest indoor climbing facilities (finally! some climbing related content... geeeezzz....). Inside of the mighty Shanghai Stadium, this urban-gym features interesting, albeit not very well designed bouldering walls with age old grips caked in chalk- not actually all that bad of a thing when you're out to get over-gripped and pumped. However, I could sense the local struggle to stay motivated. There is also a huge (20m?) route wall, which unfortunately is mostly top-rope and overhangs only a few feet. But, the tireless quest of the urban climber is mostly just to grip plastic and forget about the busy city- and again I admire their ability to make use of what they've got.

Now I'm back in Northern Thailand, working with CMRCA to develop some training programs and route setting standards for the Thai climbing community, along with hosting a slide-show and attempting to flush the remaining toxins in my body from a week in Shanghai. It feels great to be back.

And speaking of coming back, I'll be on my way back to the good old coloRADo here shortly- I've changed my tickets and will be flying home to attend the Outdoor Retailer Show and cheer on my girlfriend Paige Claassen as she DESTROYS SCS Nationals! shortly after I'll be Boulder bound, and motivated on the coming spring climbing season.

Hope you're all enjoying an awesome 2010.. it's gonna be a good one, I can feel it!