Hey folks... I'm back home, but still not done documenting my trip. I'm a little behind, so bear with me - I'll try to get a couple more posts up today.
Some general thoughts....
Shanghai is a crazy city. The air is horrible (and this is coming from someone who lives in the city with the second-worst air in the whole US). Smoking is still very popular (and Chinese cigarettes are pretty strong), and you can smoke basically anywhere. The whole time we were there, we were coughing all the time.
The traffic is insane (and this is coming from someone who lives in LA). Bikes, pedestrians, motorcycles, motorized bikes, and cars drive around with blatant disregard for things like "lanes", "stop lights", "ambulance sirens", etc.
The food everywhere is fantastic (and cheap), and the produce was generally of very high quality. Restaurants don't seem as "clean" (i.e., there isn't such an obsession with cleanliness or compliance with the (non-existant) health codes as there is here), and even the nicer places are generally not "nice" by Western standards. The hole in the wall places are a lot more hole in the wall than the holiest in the wall places in the US. A lot of places specialize in one or two things, and they do those things very well. The breakfast place we went to almost every morning in Shanghai turns into a noodle place in the afternoon. Total cost for two bowls of dofu hua or do jiang, along with a creuller (you tiao) and maybe a fried rice block: about 5 RMB, less than 1 USD. MSG doesn't have the same stigma it does here, and is ubiquitous (perhaps part of the reason the food is so tasty) - even at home, people cook with MSG a lot, often chicken flavored MSG.
People, especially Louise's family, were incredibly hospitable during the whole trip. Shanghai is reputed to be the most friendly / inviting city to foreigners, and without having much basis for comparison, I don't find that hard to believe.
People are very loud here.
Anyway, I don't point these things out as negatives -- I'm just trying to describe the experience. Shanghai is a crazy city in much the same way New York is. Despite some of the "negatives", I think it's a fantastic city, and could imagine myself living there someday.