I have slept in hotel rooms decorated with Venetian views, English landscapes, Roman ruins, Balinese rice paddies and Arizona skies. I had never slept, until last week, in a hotel room where the decorators had chosen to take their (loosely Warholian) inspiration from tin cans. Here are a blown-up syruped fruit label in the living room of our suite, and a pattern with fried fish and beans above the bed.
When we returned to our room in the afternoon of Dec. 31st, we found a tongue-in-cheek surprise from the management: on the immaculately made-up bed were two aspirins and two pairs of cheap sunglasses, a men’s RayBan Aviator-type and a huge women’s white-framed 1970’s-looking model. We had no choice but to wear them when we went downstairs for breakfast on Jan. 1st. Overall, we loved the hotel (although I am sure this was in part because we chose a spacious corner suite) and felt quite at home there – the intended effect, as Jia, we are told, is a Mandarin word meaning “home”. Here is their site.
Shanghai was a discovery. As Norman Foster reportedly said, the process of urbanization that took 200 years in Western Europe is taking about 20 years in China. Futurologists have argued for some years that contemporary Chinese development is one of the most impactful trends in our lifetimes (see, for example, Peter Schwartz’s Inevitable Surprises). There is a palpable sense of things happening.
Notwithstanding the Chinese middle class fascination for Western brands, I tried to shop for cool local stuff and was able to take home some Shanghai finds. It’s way too cold now, but this summer I will be wearing a few nifty designs by SQY-T:
Finally, there’s stuff that’s not cool about China. You do hear about censorship, but you do not realize its full extent until it hits you in the face, to the extent that you wonder whether your browser is truly having a technical problem. From the hotel’s WiFi connection I could check the weather, set up an order of groceries for my return home, catch up on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and so on; but I got a server timeout if I wanted to access either of my blogs – I have to think, because both have posts tagged with alarming labels such as “politics” and “politica” respectively. Readers, if you are better versed than I am in Chinese Internet policy, please enlighten me. Subjectively, it was a fairly spooky experience. And, as much as I loved Shanghai, I was reminded of a few freedoms we have over here, and we should never give up.