Shanghai and Small Mercies

17 May, '11

The Bund, Shanghai

Just arrived in Shanghai this afternoon and checked in to a lovely hotel on the The Bund and overlooking the Huangpu river. You see the view from my room above. Quite nice.

First impressions of Shanghai is nothing short of “wow” mixed in with “oh shit!” and an occasional “daaaaamn!”. Let me explain:

From the air, the city looks very modern as evidenced by the factories, parcels of land, channels, and other man made structures. Tidy, clean, modern and spiffy. This is further strengthened when you land in their airport – which must be one of the quietest in the world, and certainly one of the best organised. We were off the airplane, through a very orderly immigration line and onward to collect the bags without a hitch whatsoever. I was worried that my luggage will be lost as my connection in Doha was a mere 40 minutes, but Qatar Airways came through again, and the flight was quite pleasant. Bags of space, but the food, unfortunately, was terrible. Can’t complain too much though, I’ve had a solid 7 – 8 hours of sleep!

Back to China. I’m here as part of a delegation from the EO Bahrain chapter for a Global Leadership Conference. I’ve arrived a day early but fortunately an EO colleague and friend, Faisal Alireza, was on the plane with me. He had the foresight to book a car to take him to the hotel and offered me a ride, which was very kind, but my much anticipated MagLev experience will have to wait for a few days. Off we went in a latest model Merc limo, which was the cause of the “oh shit!” experience.

The roads from the airport are modern, wide, well routed with nary a bloody roundabout or traffic light in sight. You would think that one would generally put the foot down and compete with the 8-minute-431kph-ride of the MagLev to town. But, human nature comes between that ideal and reality. The driver was amicable enough, but boy he must’ve been completely understanding of Schumi “nudging” Villeneuve in that Australian F1 race to get his racing line! And he’s not alone! Drivers here across the board – yes, I’m generalising – are bonking mad! Their over-riding mantra seems to be I’m in a hurry and to hell with everyone else. They’re driving ultra-expensive cars haphazardly and if they don’t see gaps to squeeze their cars into, go ahead and create the blasted things! They do signal though, and as everyone knows, if one does signal, then one DOES have the right of way! Does that remind you of Bahrain? Of course it does, but to be completely fair, I suggest that we’re a few notches better than the drivers here. Drivers in Shanghai take a gap as a challenge: if you don’t take it then you’re a pussy.

We arrived at the hotel. Absolute luxury that would put the Ritz in Bahrain and other luxury hotels in the Gulf to shame. Half the staff seem to be waiting outside to welcome guests – with smiles! – unbelievable! Get into the lobby to be once again received with smiles and clear professionalism. The check-in process took under five minutes and up to the room I went to be greeted with the view you see above. Not bad.

I was looking forward to check in with the office, pay attention to the email, and the usual haunts before I hit the shower, so out comes the laptop and connected to the wireless Internet without a hitch. The price per day is reasonable enough and the happy thing about it is that it is FAST! Unfortunately, I discovered soon enough that that speed is a trade-off. My usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube amongst probably other social media networks is blocked! Damn and double damn.

Might as well get the chisel and tablet out for the duration then, speed or no speed… the Internet here is severely crippled. Thank “godness” that we haven’t reached that stage back home yet.

Small mercies I guess…

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Comments (21)

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  1. Happi says:

    The real question is why on earth you should have to pay for the internet – you don’t pay extra for hot water, TV, lights?

  2. Emile Almahdi says:

    It’s a great place, that’s one of my upcoming destinations. You’ve got to check out the Great Wall of China. Enjoy my friend.

  3. Robok says:

    I envy you, being able to get out of Bahrain and actually clear your mind off things, wish my family would do the same 🙁

    • mahmood says:

      True to an extent. However, my family, friends and countrymen are still home and just glancing at the papers this morning make me fear for our country’s future. The sooner we have the dialogue, the better it would be. I don’t think we can stand any more animosity and killings.

  4. ajax says:

    there is a reason why they call it “the great firewall of china”


    joking aside

    acually if our current MPs got greater power/infulence

    expect FB/YT/even live/MSN to be banned!!!
    cuz defy thier narrow view renamber :/

  5. anonny says:

    Envious envious envious.

    Enjoy Shanghai. Sounds amazing. I don’t even know what to ask you about it.

  6. Da Rebel says:

    Interesting point. I still pay my electricity, water and phone bills which covers water (water bill), hot water (elect) TV and lights (elect). Whereas I believe that we should have cheaper access to faster internet, I’m certain that we will have to pay for the privilege of getting access.
    While there is a case for saying that water should be free, electricity has to be generated and someone is going to ask for a pound of flesh to distribute it. Mind you, I believe that electricity in Bahrain is heavily subsidised, so I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss . . .


    • ajax says:

      and even then people complain:

      electricity and water should be free!!

      • ajax says:

        and many refuse to pay dispute the fact they have plenty of cash

        حرام يانس!!!

    • Steve the American says:

      Actually, water has to be gathered and distributed. That costs money. Whenever you demand something for free, you’re enslaving somebody else to provide it.

  7. Steve the American says:

    Interesting stuff, Mahmood. Hope you have time to write more.

  8. Dan says:

    Inasmuch as you are a cosmopolitan businessman, you can experience firsthand the various diverse parts of the prison planet that we live on.

    In Bahrain there are midnight arrests under cover of dark for no reason…and tanks in the street.

    In China there is heavy internet censoring; not to mention organ harvesting.(I would like to see the Terra Cotta warriors.)

    Here in the United States, you could expect your penis and testicles to be squeezed at the airport as well as a finger run up your anus.

    Exactly WHAT is this conference all about? The link info is rather vague.

  9. Anonny says:

    My penis and testicles to be squeezed at the airport? And I don’t have to upgrade to business class?

  10. Dan says:

    1st: Hi, “Steve the CIA Webot.”

    2nd: Do you think they are only changing this baby’s diaper and that they don’t do this to adults?

    Look here:

    Need I say more? Come to Amerika and experience this for yourself.

  11. billT says:

    Dan you sure you don’t work for the CIA as a straight man. Now I’m getting worried maybe I work for the CIA. Steve you work for the CIA? Who knows we might have the same agenda. LOL

    • Steve the American says:

      I’d love to work for the CIA if they’d hire me. However, they’re not all that desirable an employer here in Washington. For one, they’re clear the heck out in Langley, far from the subway, so you have to drive in rush hour traffic in some of the worst traffic in the metro Washington area. My calculations are that it costs you $5000/year more to drive to work than to take the subway. The second objection is that you can’t easily leave the CIA campus for lunch at neaby restaurants. The third objection is that working at any place with a high security clearance is a big pain in the ass. You have to be excruciatingly careful about where you put your work papers and close up your computer every time you run to the printer.

      Who needs it? It’s far more congenial to work downtown where you can walk outside and breathe fresh air at lunch.

  12. Dan says:

    ‘Looks all the world to me like you, Steve, are nothing less than WebBot 2.0, version 1.0 being overwhelmingly active in Oracle chatrroms.(

    Besides anyone who lives in the District of Semiramis…uh…I mean the District of Criminals…is suspect prima facie anyway.

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