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City of Smog, Rubble, and Dirt

March 20th, 2009

One thing that strikes you immediately in China is the pollution and the sense of constant construction and destruction. The smog hits you hardest–you can’t see farther than a few miles through this soup. I don’t see how people stand it, frankly; I for one would not want to live in this. One might not think this, but Tokyo, by contrast, has clean and clear air. If you see this kind of haze in Tokyo, it is due to the weather more than anything else; many days you can see more than 50 miles in the distance, and even on bad days you can see across town. It never gets as bad as what passes for normal in Shanghai.



You can see the effects on the ground–the dust from the smog accumulates, as you can see from the grime that is more visible closer to walls as in this photo from a Shanghai sidewalk far from any other source of dirt:


But dirt there is, as well as crumbling concrete. I remember a similar thing in Spain, where you would see shells of buildings still standing behind cracked and crumbling concrete walls.


Even where construction is building new things, there is mess and disarray. This is the center-divider of the street below our hotel window, where dirt and wood for construction is laid seemingly anywhere.


It’s as if the whole city is crumbling and falling apart sometimes. We’re staying at a 4-star hotel, and yet there is broken plaster fallen from the ceiling of our balcony, just sitting there. Considerable chunks of broken plaster was even left in a corner of our room.


And the smell can be pretty strong, too–much of this hotel has a caustic, chemical odor, in varying levels. I almost don’t notice the cigarette smell on the street sometimes, as it is almost welcome compared to other smells that are found here.

Not that the city does not have its charms. But its faults are pretty darned significant.

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  1. Troy
    March 20th, 2009 at 16:20 | #1

    > If you see this kind of haze in Tokyo, it is due to the weather more than anything else

    or the bad stuff being blown in from China!


    When I was living in Tokyo I kinda noticed the gritty air in springtime but didn’t know the Japanese had a word for it . . . 黄砂

  2. Paul
    March 20th, 2009 at 17:41 | #2

    Ginger went to Beijing last summer, about a month or two prior to the Olympics. She stayed in a brand-new Marriott Courtyard hotel. (The international Courtyards tend to be a notch nicer than the ones in the US.)

    When she got back, she remarked that they must have been hurrying to finish it prior to the Olympics, because the trim work was done poorly, the carpets were uneven, some walls were a bit bowed, etc.

    I had to break it to her- nope, honey, that’s just how they very frequently do things in China. :(

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