I flew in to Shanghai too late at night to fly out immediately. So I treated myself to a room overlooking the runway. There is nothing special and local about most airports, and Hongqiao airport looked like it could have been anywhere in the world. At night even a fairly empty airport looks wonderful. I showered and sat nursing a beer at the window, looking at the last few flights landing. One took off, very much to my surprise. Blinking red lights moved slowly across the tarmac. Blue and yellow lights showed these beached behemoths their way. The bellows of landing crafts were muted by the double glazing. I let the TV play its welcome tune on a loop until I went to sleep.
When I woke in the morning the airport was busy, but the sunlight had robbed it of its magic. It was just a vast expanse of dull gray concrete now. The screaming of jets taking off was just a background hubbub. I was in a hurry, and didn’t pay it much attention. I would have to ease myself into a flying tube too soon.
On my last day in China I flew in to Shanghai early in the morning. Twelve hours in Shanghai is a nice way to say goodbye to Zhong Guo. The air grew murky as the plane began its descent. On the short flight from Wuhan to Shanghai I chose to keep my camera with me in a window seat. I was not disappointed, although the flight path came from the west to land in Hongqiao, at the western end of the city. We flew over miles of residential blocks: suburban houses, sports complexes and high-rise apartment blocks (below). Finally, just before landing I had a fabulous view of a Blade Runner version of Shanghai: all morning smog and looming buildings (above).
On the ground the air seemed as clear as it ever gets in a big city. There was a lovely cool breeze as I drove in to Pudong. The sun was bright. It was a lovely Saturday: just right for a lunch in the French Concession with friends. Shanghai is a lovely city, with an open heart. I landed in Shanghai for the first time six months ago, knowing nothing. It took me and The Family a day to fall in love with the city.
If you are wondering what the blog title is about, it is the name of a famous song by Zhou Xian (who could justifiably be called the Geeta Dutt of China). The title means “An evening in Shanghai”.