A Travellerspoint blog

China

Shenanigans in Shanghai

5-8 August 2019

Iberian? Because we’re spending most of our time this trip in Portugal and Spain, which together constitute the Iberian peninsula. But we don’t get there until 24 August, so much to see and do and experience before then!

For the first time, we stopped over north-bound in Shanghai. A 12 hour leg from Auckland, but 20 hours from door (Tui Tce) to door (Shanghai hotel).
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Quite an experience! At 27m people, the largest city not only in China but in the world! To a westerner, quite conflicting. At one level, obvious prosperity and a vibrant, lively city with everything you’d expect in the west. Seemingly a very young demographic, at least visible to us; highly contemporary dress; all the rat-race brands; a thriving café and restaurant scene; the same happy kids and doting parents and grandparents. A lovely, gracious people.

Visits to the Lego and M&M stores stand out in the memory; entranced, captivated kids, and laughter all over the store.
And technologically on trend. Only western visitors were shackled by cash and credit cards. Everyone else uses QR technology to instantly pay on their phones. And of course everyone, everywhere, glued to them. The occasional unintentionally hilarous sign.

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Huge efforts too on the environment; they have the zillions of wee motor-scooters comon to most Asian cities but every single one is electric! It costs around $90,000 (one-off) to register a petrol/diesel car but zip/nada to register an electric. And the air quality was just fine 
But, given that you were constantly aware of Big Brother lurking in the background; cameras everywhere with face recognition technology identifying and rewarding or sanctioning good and bad behaviour, the feeling wasn’t so much 1984 as ‘The Matrix’  And dealing with Big Brother was something else. Passports required and copied, not only at the hotel but simply to convert a few NZD into RMB; and the paperwork! Fingerprinting at the immigration desk. (Incidentally, I solved the mystery - for me - about the name of Chinese currency. The currency itself is ‘Renminbi’ (RMB – the people’s money) but you spend ‘Yuan’. Think ‘sterling’ and ‘pounds’.

After a quiet first day (Mon 5 August) , we were escorted by the wonderful Fei Fei for the day on Tuesday 6. Phil wasn’t feeling the best with an intermittent headache (heat? Jetlag?) but managed to mostly make it through.

First a visit to the top of the world’s formerly first and now second-highest building (Shanghai Tower? – still tallest if you don’t count the cheating spires and spikes on some). The photos make the pace of change evident; those low-level areas used to be more common but most are scheduled for demolition. If you live in one, you get one or more of the brand new apartments following completion. The Government/Party decides how many and/and how big, based on your circumstances. Note the low-lying barges used to trade rice, cement etc up and down the rivers. (Two rivers converge at Shanghai; the Yangtze and the Huangpu). The spectacular city-scape on one bank has developed only in the last 30 years after the Chinese economy was opened up. Fascinating contrast with the ‘English-period’ architecture; The English and French both had ‘concessions’; areas of the city they controlled for 100 years through 1940.

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Then a visit to the Yu Gardens - including a stop for some Chinese paracetamol - lovely Chinese lunch, and ‘the Bund’; a large promenade along the river that seemed to be quite a mecca for the huge numbers of locals and visitors; most of the latter Chinese.

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On our free day on Wednesday we decided to have an adventure. A key attraction, the ZhujiajiaoWater Village was accessible by the Subway/Metro, so we braved it. Aced it! Lovely place. A couple of temples, an ancient Post Office (China has had postal services for millennia!), lovely riverside cafes, dumplings, tree-lined walks. The photos tell the story.

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Now – on to Dublin for a week’s catch-up with family and friends.

Posted by philandmc 05:12 Archived in China Comments (2)

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