No matter how many times I come to China, there is always something which stands to me as a surprise.
I’m waking up today in a new part of town in an unfamiliar hotel.
I usually stay in the Hong Chow area (spelled “Hong Qiao” here) near Gubei, which is a pretty densely urbanized area. My usual hotel (the Renaissance Shanghai Yangtze) is a 30+ story building which is next to an unbroken chain of similar buildings all the way into the core of Shanghai’s downtown.
But today I wake up in the Minhang District, a “newly urbanized” part of Shanghai. This means that up until very recently, this was the province of farms and rice paddies. But in their grand municipal plan, Shanghai has wanted this area to be more urbanized. Which means they wanted people to move in.
How do you make an area attractive to businesses and residents? One of the first steps was to locate Shanghai’s premier university into the area, Jiao Tong University. Then locate a software park in the district and encourage some of the top technology companies to locate in the area. Thus Intel and Microsoft built major campuses in the Zizhu Science Park.
These two moves are probably sufficient to attract plenty of other new companies and lots of people who want to live close to this economic engine.
So like a shopping mall, put a lot of effort into attracting the “anchor tenants” and the smaller shops will come on board.
But to make this work, you need a bunch of other infrastructure, like roads, hotels, restaurants, shops, parks and markets.
This is what finds me waking in a single bed on the top floor of the Holiday Inn Express Meilong. My 8th floor vista includes a basketball court and a few other buildings. Although as I awake at 3:30am, the view is even more limited, as there are few lights on and there is a driving rain.
The Holiday Inn Express (or “HIX” as I often call it) is not a bad place, but it’s quite a bit more basic than my usual spot in China. There are no tissues in the bathroom. but it is reasonably clean. My traveling companion and I found a Korean restaurant about a block away, and enjoyed bulgogi, barbequing raw pieces of meat at our table.
Once there is a little glimmer of light in the sky and a signal on my GPS, I charge out of the lobby in my lime green Nike running shorts, Adidas Shamrock Run shirt and new Mizuno Wave Inspire shoes.
The taxi drivers sitting outside the hotel spy me looking out at a driving downpour and begin yelling at me and pointing to their waiting cars. One of them said “No! No! No! No! No!”. But I laugh, salute them, and launch into the torrent.
It’s a soaking, torrential rain. There is a rolling boom of thunder. I try to dodge some of the worst rivers and pools of standing water, but within a minute, I am drenched. The cooked food stall guy is trying to hide under his umbrella but has no customers yet. The few people out in the rain stare at me openly, because I am a real oddity. About half way through my run, the hard rain is lessening and my speed picks up.
After four miles of flat running, I splash back into the hotel, water streaming off of my arms, legs, torso and the brim of my hat. The taxi guys salute me as squelch my way into the lobby and I salute back. Another good run in a new place.