August 26th, 2011
China is warmer than a polar bear in the Sahara. It is a hot, sweaty, humid, sticky, amazing place. I mean, it’s hotter than me without any clothes on. Throughout my trip I was sweating just about as much as a hooker in Church. It’s that hot. I’m home in Korea now and I have to say, compared to the heat of China, Korea is like an icebox in an igloo. Well I guess I’m exagerrating a bit –> Nothing is hotter than me with no clothes on.
I find myself in an interesting predicament. I only got one blog entry off during my entire visit to China. The rest of the trip I was way to busy seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, taking in the cities and admiring myself in the mirror. So I have a couple of choices. I COULD write a novel of a blog entry right here, right now, which would sum up the rest of the trip. The problem with that approach is it covers 3 and a half cities, and I’m not going to delude myself that my writing is entertaining enough to hold your attention for a blog of that length. On the other hand, I COULD write the blog in a series of entries – one for each city – as I originally planned. The problem with that plan is I would bombard those of you who subscribe to my blog with e-mail notifications, which is just plain annoying.
So what to do?
Here’s my decision (and, just so you know, although your eyes just jumped from the last paragraph to this one, the space in between actually represents a good five minutes of me sitting back in my chair, sipping coffee and contemplating your future): I’m going to pester you with e-mail notifications AND make you read long winded posts. Aren’t I awesome? I’m going to write one post today (this one) and one post tomorrow and each post will encompass two cities in China. Actually, since I’ve already blathered on for 20 of my minutes and 2 or 3 of yours I’ll wrap this post up with a description of Shanghai and save Guilin and Hong Kong for tomorrow.
Shanghai. What a marvelous place. How can I describe Shanghai to you? Think about old Superman comics. You know the gleaming, clean, brilliant buildings and skyline of the ‘ultra-modern’ Metropolis you can see in the background? Imagine that city come to life. Actually that description doesn’t do Shanghai justice, as the artists of the Superman comics are too busy drawing capes, muscles and crotch bulges to spend enough time on the architecture of the city in the background. I know Shanghai isn’t the only city with cool skylines and buildings, but what makes Shanghai special (to a guy who hasn’t seen much of the world yet, bear in mind) is that the cool buildings aren’t just dotted throughout the plain old blocky skyscrapers like Toronto, Seoul, Montreal or many other cities – rather, almost every building has at least one or two interesting or thought-provoking qualities, and most have many more. I know that as a 23 year old man I should reject anything ‘thought-provoking’ out of hand, but Shanghai has such an air about it I just can’t help myself. My thoughts are provoked.
I secretly believe that somewhere, deep beneath the streets of Shanghai there is a large, dark and damp room, dimly lit by hundreds of single bulbs hanging from the low ceiling. Beneath those lights are thousands of architects, half starved, chained in endless rows to drawing boards 24 hours a day designing the city above. It’s that cool.
Anyway you can see for yourself when I upload the pictures and video I took this evening. Not only did Shanghai look amazing, but the city and it’s inhabitants were amazing too. In fact, after being in Beijing for three days, Shanghai was like a breath of fresh air. Granted, we were staying in a touristy area of a fairly touristy city (our hostel was called ‘Blue Mountain Hostel’ and it was located just off Nanjing rd W, one of the bigest shopping attractions in the city), but it seemed to me like the people were friendlier (or maybe just more used to seeing westerners) and the city had a much more western quality to it, which may explain why I felt less alien and more accepted there. After Beijing it was a pleasure to walk down into the subway without getting hit in the face with a big wiff of human excrement. I guess I left this out of the last post, but in Beijing it was fairly common to see people – especially kids – relieving themselves in the streets and subways. In three days in the city we saw this twice, once a little boy started going right near the train platform (his mother hastily pick him up and held him over a garbage bin) and once a little girl just stopped, lifted her skirt and went on the ground right near the subway entrance. I understand that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this act, its just a cultural difference. I have a pretty open mind when it comes to accepting (even embracing) cultural differences, but thats one that I’m just not quite ready to embrace (or even come within 5 feet of).
Ahhh, where was I? Right – Shanghai doesn’t smell like piss. Well let me tell you a bit about the sights we saw during the visit. One of the coolest things we saw was the City Financial Center (Shanghai is one of the biggest ports in the world, and roughly 1/3 of all goods imported into China come through the city. China is a big place, so thats a shit ton of goods, and alot more money). Right on the waterfront near the financial center is the Oriental Pearl television broadcast tower, which is the 3rd largest broadcast tower in the world (next to Russia and *Props* Canada). It has a unique shape that I’m not going to try and describe in words – just watch the video. Suffice it to say it is so big and sees so many tourists and employees that it uses a two story elevator that can hold fifty people. We also saw the tallest building in China (forget what its called, damn brain) and even rode up to the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower for an unbelievable view of the city.
One of the neatest aspects of the city is the amount of colonial style, western buildings. Sometimes you can walk down a street and swear you are in Montreal or Quebec, with their old colonial style architecture – except right next to these buildings are supermassive, ultra modern skyscrapers. We went to one such building, which has been converted into the Shanghai Art Museum. Don’t worry, we weren’t there for the art, but rather the swanky rooftop bar and restaurant which, in my oppinion, should be standard issue for all art museums. The views from all these towers and restaurants was spectacular and you will find video of them galore.
We also visited the ‘Jade Buddha Temple’. This was an impressive buddhist temple in Shanghai. The temple was a major tourist spot, and it had large braziers where people could light incense, impressive worhip rooms with massive pillars supporting high ceiliings and decorated with large statues. The temple gets its name from the huge buddha statue carved entirely from Jade, a semi-precious stone found in some parts of China. The trip to the Jade Temple was soured slightly by the beggars waiting outside the exit, some of them holding stick thin, lifeless looking children in their arms. My cynical alter-ego (or maybe the cynical one is my regular personality and the non-cynical one is the alternate, I’m not sure…) wants me to believe its just a scam cooked up between father and son to score some easy money from rich tourists – afterall the men holding the children looked well fed and fit, which doesn’t seem likely if their child was starving – but who can say?
The last attraction in Shangai I will talk about was a river cruise. By the way, if anyone reading this is contemplating a trip to Shanghai, I recommend taking a one or two day pass for the ‘Big Bus Tours’. It’s a double decker bus that circulates Shanghai, with recorded commentary and stops at major attractions. The ticket is hop on hop off at your leisure, which allows you to quickly travel between interesting sites, as long as you don’t mind restricting yourself to the canned tourist ‘musts’ of the city for a day or two. Included with the Big Bus ticket was tickets for a river cruise. The city of Shanghai is divided East and West by a large river called ‘The Bund’. Boats of all shapes and sizes ply the river night and day, and walking along the boardwalks offer some awesome shopping and even better views of the city skyline. We took one of these boats, a 3 or 4 decked mini-cruise ship for a 1 hour tour of the Bund. It offered great views of the city at night, as well as beer – one of the most important things to be found in boats aside from lifeboats, which the Titanic taught us all too well.
In summation, Shanghai was bitching. You should go there and see for yourself, if you ever get the opportunity. As amazing as Shanghai was, however, it was nothing compared to what awaited us in Guilin. Stay tuned for that update tomorrow.
Right then, I guess thats about all there is to say about that. Hope you enjoyed the entry, hope it wasn’t too boring, and hope you don’t mind getting a second e-mail notification tomorrow when I write up the Guilin and Hong Kong legs of the trip.
That’s all for now.