I’ve spent the past eight hours walking around Shanghai, China in 200 degree heat and I must’ve drank 15 waters and didn’t have to pee once-that’s how hot it is here. However, the insane heat and humidity cannot take away from how cool Shanghai is. After arriving at their ultra modern and new airport the drive into town was great and once you get on foot around the Bund which is the main waterfront area-the city has so much to offer. The skyline looking across to the new Pudong area is as good or at least comparable to Hong Kong, while the rest of the city reminds me of a mix of Tokyo and the aforementioned Hong Kong. The city is fast paced like most Asian cities but it doesn’t bother you the way it would it many other Asian cities. I think the main reason is because it’s so clean and immaculately kept which is in sharp contrast to many Asian cities. However, I also have several other observations from my day in Shanghai.
Before I talk a little more about the city there are some really funny/interesting things that I noticed today. First, I have been to China before but only in the south in 1999 I took one of those group visa tours of Shenzhen and Guangzhou which I hated and was scarred for life by the site of a cat being killed and then eaten. I hate cats as pets but that doesn’t mean I want to see them get slaughtered and served to tourists. And these aren’t the cute gray fat cats that girls, and of course some guys, have in their apartments that get annoying fur all over the place and drive you nuts-these are the stray, skinny, nasty, rabid street cats that eat garbage. So basically, I stopped eating Chinese food until about two years ago although I still have flashbacks.
The semi-ironic thing for me today was that the Chinese Government announced just today that they were outlawing dog from the menu of all restaurants in Beijing for the Olympics. They did say however, that cat and bunny rabbit could still be on the menu and that people would basically have to deal with it. So Fido is off but Whiskers is on the menu–sounds delicious huh!?
Secondly, people here are insane when it comes to queueing up and entering and exiting subways. They simply do not get it. If you’ve traveled in the developing world you know that there is no concept of a line and personal space is completely not an issue because there is none. But here people are more up your ass than I have ever seen before and if you look away for one second they sneak right in front of you-those little bastards-as happened to me today while I was getting a water-a group of like 10 Chinese jumped in front of me and pushed me out of the way-I was annoyed but let it slide. But I would get my revenge on the subway later.
For normal people, when the subway arrives at a station and the people who are getting off the train get off and the people getting on wait and then enter-makes sense right-not here. I have never seen anything like it, there are no manners and it’s a gigantic free for all and really kind of funny but these little old Chinese ladies are butting and elbowing their way onto and off the train and these kids are burrowing their heads through crowds and finally I was just elbowed and pushed once too many times. I said to myself, I am much bigger than any of these people and I started fighting back knocking some Chinese around. It was actually kind of fun and they always backed off. I felt like a grade school kid trying to get a seat on the bus but it was pretty funny and shocking how impatient and disorganized they are with these types of basic things.
Changing gears for a second, I went into a DQ (Dairy Queen) which I was delighted that they have here because I have a slight obsession with ice cream and it was super hot today so I ordered my blizzard and sat down to eat it in the air conditioning. So not 30 seconds later, some random guy says excuse me and shows me a picture he just drew of me and wanted me to buy it. I was taken a little off guard and while it was pretty impressive and looked pretty good, I wasn’t buying his picture as I didn’t bring out a bag and just had no interest in carrying it or it in general. Anyway, he wouldn’t stop hounding me and I usually have a lot of patience with this type of thing but all I wanted to do was just enjoy my ice cream in the AC and be left alone. So I offered him 10 Yuan which is like $1.50 and he wanted to 30 Yuan and I never offer money like that but he did draw a nice picture. I said no just take it and leave me alone, I don’t want the picture. Then he just kept bugging me and bugging me and finally I lost patience and snapped at him and he finally left-I felt kind of bad but enough is enough-it’s not like I asked him to draw me.
Next, I swear that Yao Ming must be the most recognizable man on Earth. There are Yao posters, billboards, banners everywhere. I saw thousands, literally, of Chinese kids wearing his Rockets jersey. It got me thinking if every single person in China knows him and probably at least a third to half of the rest of the world at least would know him if they saw him even if they don’t follow sports-he may be the most recognizable person on Earth or he’s certainly in the discussion. Think about it, a quarter of the world knows him off the bat simply because he’s Chinese-not to mention the guy is 7′ 7″ and there aren’t too many Chinese that tall.
My final funny note from today is that the Hello Kitty stores in China are called the Kitty House and they have gigantic stuffed Hello Kitty dolls in the windows. I don’t know why I find that and Hello Kitty so funny but I do and they are everywhere-go figure.
As I am finally back in my room getting the black film off my body from the pollution-I had a really good time today and Shanghai has a lot to offer. The Shanghai Museum, the French Concession and just walking around are great ways to get to know the city and its history and I look forward to coming back sometime to see and learn more. Finally, I also went up to the top of the Jin Mao building which is currently the fourth highest on earth although that won’t last long. The cool thing about it was that you got a really nice panoramic view of the city and certainly it gives you a birds eye view of all the pollution looming over the city. It’s sad but hopefully one day they’ll get it right. I guess they are focusing on getting Beijing ready for the Olympics and I am looking forward to seeing that city in a few days. But for now-I am starving and going for noodles-not cat or dog or any other mystery meat…It’s off to Xian tomorrow to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.