China has always intrigued me. Just following economic news about China is sufficient enough, but what I wanted to witness is one of the oldest cultures.
Shanghai is a grand and beautiful city. It is a planned city but also have great historical background. Although trip was hectic, I managed to visit few tourist destinations. I first visited famous tourist attraction Nanjing road. It is like New York’s fifth avenue, just little more tourist friendly. The Bund area is just like visiting Hoboken to see New York skyline. One might I also visited area called Yu Garden. A very traditional Chinese architecture with good shopping experience. Shanghai is vast and over populated. The term “concrete jungle” is definitely derived from Shanghai. Still government has managed to keep Shanghai clean and safe. It is a great tourist destination.And I heard that Beijing is even better.
The first thing I noticed in Shanghai is how life is difficult if you do not know the language. We had to get everything (addresses, notes such as “I am Vegetarian”, etc.) written from hotel staff or host. Ordering food is a big problem due to language barriers. There are always big lines at food joints. The most consumed food in the area was greasy-noodles, steamed-dumplings and some kind of sweets. Milk and milk products are very rare, probably because Milk is very costly. In general, we were warned against eating any food outside other than well-known hotels. A quality of food is highly questionable. Most people know that they are eating “mystery meat” and they do not care. We had food at restaurants in Marriott. Getting vegetarian food is not that difficult at good places.
We also heard some disturbing stories behind the rise of China. Shanghai real estate prices is highly inflated. Comparative apartment in Manhatten would cost 2.5M whereas in Shanghai it is 7M. Rents are very high. Such high prices are mainly driven by ExPats. But it may not sustain for long. Most buildings in the main business districts only half-filled. Chinese news-paper always reporting how US and Japan are trying to hack Chinese govt sites. They also report how Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail is under problems due to fraud, but our host argued that it is because they could not copy the design properly from their other high speed lines which was developed by Siemens. China finance minister is pushing reforms and states that inflation is very low. Whereas cars, houses and day-to-day things are getting really expensive. For me, most disturbing fact is the quality of goods. Everything you come across is either fake or of very lower grade quality OR you can also get international brand of high quality for about 5 times the price in US. Chinese use too much plastic in day-to-day life.
And there were also few funny experiences. Once Taxi driver could not read and he took to some shady hotel “Magnificent” instead of Marriott. — When you go out in tourists area there are lot of people selling fake watches/purses and massage. It is really annoying that they tap your shoulder when they are asking for it. In 50 meter walk all I did is say “NO” loudly. — There is one romantic-comedy playing in Chinese theaters whose English name is “Love in the Butt”. — Once we joked about getting dog’s meat for one of our lunches, but host explained that it is not possible as dog is considered as delicacy. — Chinese people always cut the line e.g. lavatory, cashier. They will get in elevator first, if you step out for somebody to get out, other people will squeeze in first before you get back in. — Chinese people traditionally order food for the table. But when sharing, they will take all the good stuff by themselves first. — They also randomly start speaking in Chinese in the business meeting and keep apologizing for it.
In the end, overall trip was an amazingly experience. I am still dazzled by the blend of oldest culture with modern planned city.