|Shanghai - the Good, Bad and Strange
Jarrod and I stayed up talking and drinking tea with Tracy and Linus until almost 2am, therefore we zonked
out on the flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai. It wasn’t until we boarded the Maglev train to get from the airport to
the city that we really woke up. Maglev is an abbreviation for Magnetic Levitation. You would wake up too if you
suddenly found yourself on a train traveling 430 km an hour. That is about 215 miles per hour, by the way.
Needless to say, we arrived quickly.
Speaking of 215 miles per hour, the past, present, and future seem to crash together at 215 miles an hour in
Shanghai. The Bund, which is a section of town alongside the Huang Pu River, is the center of activity in Shanghai.
The Puxi side epitomizes the old colonial Shanghai of yesterday when it was commonly described as “the Paris of
the East”. Large marble columns grace the front of the stately buildings. Traveling across the Huang Pu River, which
you can do by bridge, boat or strangely enough a bizarre tunnel where you ride in an enclosed car with a
psychedelic light and laser show going on around you, you are suddenly transported to the futuristic Pudong side.
Here the river is lined with ultramodern towers and skyscrapers. Close your eyes and imagine where George Jetson
lives. You pretty much have Shanghai’s skyline on the Pudong side. It is definitely the most unique skyline we have
To continue describing Shanghai’s multifaceted personality, I started thinking about all of the things we saw
that made us laugh, gasp, or say “Ewww!”. Conveniently enough, they seem to fall into one of three categories:
good things, bad things, or strange things. Below you will find a list describing some of these sightings. Just guess
which list is going to be longer.
•50 minute foot refloxology massages for $4. After six months
of walking, hiking, and lugging around a backpack this was a
heavenly experience. Jarrod and I indulged in a foot massage
both days we were in Shanghai, and we are hoping $4 foot
massages are a trend across China.
•Xiaolongbao dumplings, Shanghai’s favorite dumpling. We
have no idea what is in them, but we vouch that they are good.
We stood in a line about 65 people long for a taste of these
dumplings from Nanziang Steamed Bun Restaurant, a town
favorite. Apparently these dumplings are imitated all across the
world, but the real thing only exists in Shanghai. Who knew?!?!
Next time you go to your favorite Chinese food restaurant look to
see if Xiaolongbao dumplings are on the menu and let us know.
•Eating dinner for $3 and not getting sick afterwards. The good
thing here is not getting sick afterwards. Our dinner consisted of
noodles with peanut sauce, two orders of dumplings, fried rice
with pork and one very large beer. The restaurant was not much
on atmosphere but you can’t beat that price.
•Making a cold stare turn into a smiling hello. Someone once
told us that the Chinese are curious people. If that translates to
they like to stare, then yes, I agree—they are a curious people.
Shanghai is a fairly international city and we were by no means
the only Westerners around, but boy did we get stared at
profusely. Usually it was the adults that found us interesting.
When we found someone giving us a cold stare we usually
responded by smiling and saying “Ni Hao” which is hello in
Mandarin. Nine times out of ten this turned their glare into a huge
smile and sent them into a fit of giggles.
|One of our fondest memories of Shanghai, the
50-minute reflexology foot massages for only $4
•Pollution. I’ve heard about the pollution in China’s major cities, but experiencing it firsthand is another story. After
only a few hours of walking around town our eyes were burning, our throat was scratchy and we were covered in a
layer of slime from the noxious exhaust fumes billowing out of every car, truck and bus. Add to that the fact that
the locals seem to treat the city as their own personal trash can and you can imagine the pollution problem that
exists. It is horrendous. Funny thing, our friend Helen from Hong Kong gave us some ginseng tea before we flew to
Shanghai. She told us that it would help alleviate the dry and scratchy throat we would likely get in mainland China.
We had no idea how useful this tea would be.
•Scary Traffic. Really, really scary traffic. In fact, I think Shanghai should just eliminate all of their traffic lights in
the Nanjing area. They would save a ton on electricity and maintenance and from what we saw, no one pays one
bit of attention to them anyway. It is a true free for all at the intersections.
•Seeing Starbucks, KFC and Dairy Queen in Shanghai’s Old Town. Do these chains have to be everywhere? I’m
all for capitalism but seeing the ubiquitous green and white Starbucks cups in the middle of a traditional Chinese
village really spoiled the atmosphere.
•The spitting, hacking, pushing, and cutting in line. Again, we had been warned about the different set of rules in
China, but receiving an elbow to the ribs from a 4 ft. tall Chinese grandma for the first time still leaves you
speechless. The worst of all these Western faux pas’ is the hacking and spitting. It doesn’t matter where you are,
someone will send a big phlegm wad sailing across the room to the floor, inside or outside.
•Being approached by a Chinese pimp en route to our hostel. Jarrod and I were stopped at a stoplight with all of
our luggage (trying to figure out if the illuminated green man really meant walk, or if he was just mocking the fact
that we were even paying attention to what color he was) when a Chinese guy came up to Jarrod and showed him
his cell phone. At first Jarrod thought he was trying to sell him the phone. He then realized the guy was scrolling
through pictures of women in lingerie on his phone, asking Jarrod if he would like one of them.
•Having 5 Chinese couples try the “teahouse scam” on us in 2 days. The teahouse scam is well-known in China’s
major cities. Well, it is well-known if you spend a lot of time on the internet researching tourist activities in
Shanghai and Beijing, which is how we happened to come across it before arriving in Shanghai. Basically a Chinese
person strikes up a conversation with you, usually under the pretense that he or she would like to practice their
English. After “bonding” with you for ten minutes or so, they will mention they are on their way to a very traditional
teahouse and invite you to partake in an authentic tea ceremony with them. At the end of the ceremony you are
presented with an outrageous bill and you come to find out that your new “friend” is in cohoots with the teahouse.
|Watch out for this couple, and dozens more just like them lurking on
the streets of Shanghai! They will try to sucker you into the teahouse
•Subway Signs. We have got to start keeping a pen
and paper on us at all times! Each time we boarded
Shanghai’s metro we found a funny sign inside the
subway cars. Usually you can figure out what the
intended meaning was, but the use of English is
hilarious. These are the only two that we can
remember for sure:
-“When you are stolen call the police •Toddlers and babies wearing crotchless pants.
immediately”. We assume this translates to “If
you have something stolen, call the police
-“Treat others with wisdom and courage when
you see the pickpockets”. We are not sure
what this one should translate to. Maybe
“Please report any pickpocket attempts”?
Warning-this could also fall into the category of “Bad
Things”, but Jarrod and I were so astounded to see
this that we had to classify it as strange. Basically,
many kids younger than three years old are dressed
in pants that do not have a crotch. This way, when
they feel the urge to go to the bathroom they can just squat down wherever they are and go. And I do mean
anywhere. We saw a toddler taking a poo on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant where we had just eaten dinner
and another kid peeing in the middle of Nanjing Rd., the busiest pedestrianized shopping street in Shanghai. I
guess this practice saves a lot of money by eliminating diapers and decreasing the amount of laundry, but is sure
makes walking Shanghai’s streets dangerous.
•Illegal Hawkers along the Bund. Apparently it is illegal to sell souvenirs and other trinkets in this part of
Shanghai. However, that does not stop hundreds of locals from doing so. We had fun watching the cover-up take
place when the police would stroll by. The hawkers would grab their goods and dart off to safety, only to return 45
seconds later. We are guessing the police get a good laugh at this as well and aren’t really too concerned with the
hawkers being there.
•Men pulling up their shirts. I’ll be the first to admit it was hot when we visited Shanghai. But it was still funny to
see adult men walking down the road or through a store with their shirt pulled up to their armpits with their belly
hanging out. We even saw one guy eating at a nice restaurant with his shirt pulled up. Every once in awhile he
would use the bottom hem of his shirt to wipe his face.
So there you have it—the good, bad and strange sights of Shanghai. All of this in only two days. Imagine what we
might have seen if we stayed a week!