Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I went to Shanghai a couple of weeks ago. It was my first time to Shanghai and I loved it.
China has two daughters: Beijing is the older daughter, Shanghai is the younger one. Beijing is The Capital, it has to keep the tradition, look presentable, maintain the glory of the country, etc etc. It represents China in the eyes of the world. It has the Olympics in 2008.
Shanghai doesn’t have all this fame; it is jealous, wants to be different. Shanghai is business. All you see in the city are shops and shopping centres. Quite impressive. Shanghai counts days left before the World expo 2010. Shanghai plans to become China’s biggest city by 2020.
People in Shanghai can speak Mandarin, which is convenient, but they are much more “tourist-oriented” than Beijing. There are thousands of foreigners in Shanghai, they don’t speak Chinese and come only to visit or for business. In our first day, we were shocked by Shanghai people’s “feeling for business” which sometimes goes too far. They would sell you anything for a highest price. For lunch, we went into a small low quality Chinese restaurant. In Chinese, I ordered two bowls of fried noodles, which turned out to be not big nor very good. It was just OK. When I asked for the bill, a different girl came to me and said “60 yuan”. She was looking straight at me, and lying without blinking. I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say. “60 kuai fro two bowls of noodles???” I didn’t want to make her “lose face” by saying that she was simply lying. So the only thing I could think of was ask her to bring the menu with the prices and show me the price. She turned around and started to laugh. She walked away, joined the other girl and they started to laugh and point at us. This was clearly humiliating, it would never happen in Beijing! The first waiter then came to us with the bill. “Excuse me, the girl made a mistake, it’s 30 yuan”. It was still too much, but he already made an invoice and I was so shocked and humiliated by the attitude of those people that I didn’t argue any more. We should have just walked away without paying. It was clearly seen that we were tourists since Muskie’s Fodor’s guide was on the table, but I spoke to them in Chinese, what made them think me were idiots?! This incident, along with street vendors always trying to sell Muskie “watch-jacket-…”, were quite annoying…
During the following three days, we saw a lot of Shanghai’s places of interest:
- Yu Garden, which impressed me with its Dragon walls
- The Bund, of coarse, and the legendary Peace Hotel, which according to what Muskie told me, is one of the world’s most famous hotels
- The City temple and the Jade Buddha temple
- Shanghai Museum, which turned out to be one of the best museums I’ve ever been to, and Shanghai Urban Museum
We’ve also been to “China best Irish pub”, O’Malley’s, very nice place, I highly recommend it.
I’m sure there are more places to see, but we didn’t have enough time to do all that, so we basically just chose the “must-dos”.
And the most impressive experience in Shanghai was definitely the evening in the “world highest bar”, Cloud Nine, situated on the eighty-something floor of Hyatt Hotel, next to the Pearl Tower. The skyscraper itself is designed to represent “a union of East and West”: it is pagoda like, very elegant. The view from the top is amazing… The Pearl tower is close, colourful, the bridgeless river – like a giant dark snake crossing the city peacefully and separating the history from the future. The bar serves only best alcohol, at reasonable prices, but if you are not staying in Hyatt hotel, you must order for more than 120 yuan (12€).
All in all, I loved Shanghai, it is a beautiful place. It has nothing to do with “real China” though; don’t go there if you want to experience China. But after a year and a half in Beijing, I wouldn’t mind come to Shanghai for work.