As the sunset we left Pudong and drove back over the river to catch our evening river boat cruise. This lasted about an hour as we sailed up and back down the river this time admiring the city skyline and light show from the water. I have never seen anything like it. I ❤️ Shanghai, as the lights on the side of one of the big tall buildings kept telling us. It is a vibrant, young, modern, clean and friendly place and a great city to end our trip.
So what of China overall then? I think you will have noticed that I struggled a bit to start with. I think it was the jet lag and perhaps also the slightly cold weather in Beijing but also just the sheer volume of people everywhere, which takes some getting used to.
Once I relaxed a bit then so did the Chinese people we met and once again, like India, I found the people to be friendly but perhaps a little more shy. The other thing we have noticed is what a calm people the Chinese are. Despite their numbers, we never once saw anything verging on aggressiveness or road rage, for example. It was very clear that family is the cornerstone of Chinese society and they were especially lovely with children.
One thing I did find very different here in China compared to India, was the apparent lack of spirituality here. Yes, there is Buddhism and lots of history but I get the feeling that the young population pay more regard to science, business and facts, rather than religion etc. That was certainly the view of more than one of our guides.
The other thing I think you’ll have noticed is how little I knew about China before we arrived. My Mindmap of China was pretty non-existent and whilst I knew about the pace of development, until you see it in city after city I don’t think it hits home. I read an interesting quote about this urbanisation in The Guardian
“Whilst most people in China were farmers 30 years ago, 50% of people lived in cities by 2011 and by 2030 it’s estimated one billion people, or 70% of the population, will be urbanites.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised that at times it seemed a bit busy!
It has certainly been an amazing adventure and I’ve really enjoyed all the different experiences we’ve had a long the way. I don’t think China is for everyone but who knows what the future holds. Shanghai gave us a flavour of what China could become and once they develop the biggest Universal Studios in Beijing and a new Walt Disney World in Shanghai, maybe it will replace Florida as the destination of choice.
As I’ve said previously, others had told me that a visit to Shanghai was a visit to the future or perhaps more specifically, that Shanghai IS the future of China.
This it turns out is all SO true and it manifests all around but particularly in Pudong, on the opposite side of the river to The Bund. Here the city skyline is stunningly beautiful with the most amazing, shining tower blocks I think I have ever seen. Thirty years ago none of this existed..it was all just fields (according to Annie so it must be true..?).
On our last day in Shanghai our trip took us over here to look at the fabulous office blocks close up. It seems an odd thing to spend the day doing on your holiday. I mean, you wouldn’t visit Croydon to look at the office blocks would you- but this is different and some of the designs definitely compete with London’s best buildings in the beauty stakes. In fact, the whole thing seems to be some sort of competition for architects as they race to build the tallest buildings in the world.
Jane and I opted to go up one of these to admire the views. It is a building with the nickname ‘The Bottle Opener’ because that’s exactly what it looks like and it’s actually the Shanghai World Financial Centre. At 473 metres tall, it is the tallest building in China and the third tallest in the world. It has the highest viewing deck in the world currently and was completed in 2009. It has a tidy 100 floors and we zoomed up there in a lift (not glass thank goodness) in seconds. On the 97th floor we walked across the SkyWalk which has glass floor panels you walk across and through which you can see to the ground below. This was exciting to do although I found myself moving nervously and holding onto window frames when admiring the view!! From up here you could also see another building still under construction. This is the Shanghai Tower and at 632 metres will become the 2nd tallest building in the world. You can also see the really spangly jewel that is the Oriental Pearl TV tower.
Joyce and Enid decided not to bother with this trip up the tower but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was a lovely sunny day with clear blue skies and we could see for absolutely miles. Looking down on the river and the other tiny little tower blocks was incredible.
After returning to Earth, we wandered around the tall, glass buildings open mouthed and crick necked from looking upwards. It was an incredibly colourful area with smart hotels and landscaped flower beds. The town planners here are doing a great job and you have to keep pinching yourself as a reminder that you are in China and that this is a Communist country.
So, of course all this marks Shanghai out as a city of the future but what other signs were there of this? Well, I was on the look out wasn’t I and in fact became a bit of a bore as I saw something and shouted out excitedly ‘You see, there, that’s the future!’ at whatever it was that I had noticed.
Here are a few things that’ll be coming to a city near you soon:
1) Pedestrian crossings where the traffic lights talk to you politely and tell you when to cross and wait. They also employ someone to guard pedestrian crossings and to blow a whistle at you if you start to cross too late as there is a countdown mechanism telling you how long you have left. People who do this job take it very seriously. A similar job is the person on The Bund walkway who blows his whistle at anyone getting too smoochy…. that did feel more like what I’d expect in a Communist country!
2) Electric scooters that are so quiet you are constantly at risk of being knocked down by them. Mainly because at night the riders ride them without lights (and noise) so as to preserve the battery power. Oh and also traffic lights don’t seem to apply to scooters or bikes so they come at you from all angles.
3) Supermarket doors that play a jolly little song when you enter the supermarket because they are so pleased to see you. It plays over and over again each time someone enters and you start to feel like you are in some sort of sci-fi film or going slightly barmy.
4) Taxi drivers that are protected from their passengers by some sort of wrap around plastic shield. Think Robocop and you’ve got it.
5) Cops on scooters (2 on one bike) with silly little helmets that make them look like Diddymen. Or even better cops on segways…now that is cool!
6) A new range of cute toys that look like a cross between a hedgehog and a baby and are crazily expensive. You watch this’ll be the next big thing in Xmas 2015!
However, my two particular favourite ‘future sightings’ need a bit more explanation. Firstly one day we were having a quick coffee break in a Pacific Coast coffee bar on the Huaihai Street, when in walked a young man with his girlfriend to order a cappuccino. Nothing too unusual there….but this guy was wearing his pyjamas and slippers and I do mean literally his pyjamas not clothes that looked like pyjamas. Where had he come from- presumably one of the apartments nearby but really….is this the future? Luckily, Joyce was clever enough to take a sly photo so you can see this for yourself below.
The second incident actually occurred on our first night in Shanghai. We were a little over-whelmed after our journey arriving in this busy city and just needed to find somewhere familiar to eat. We walked the short distance to the ‘number one shopping street in Shanghai’ otherwise known as the Nanjing Road. We went into a Chinese restaurant in desperation to find that they seemed to serve only things dredged up out of the river (it was after all called The Yangstse) such as bullfrogs, sea cucumbers and other such dirty dishes. The chairs were also very grubby so we walked straight back out again. Next stop, with much relief, was Pizza Hut. It was very busy mainly with Chinese diners. The meal was great and just what we wanted. However, the ‘ future incident’ occurred as a table of young Chinese students got up to leave. I noticed that one of the girls was holding a small plastic box in her fingers and it seemed to have something moving in it. I couldn’t resist asking what it was and she showed me. The little blue box contained two tiny mice. Clearly then this is the new fashion- taking your mice out for a walk. Forget your Chihuahua in a handbag girls, what you need is mice in a box. That is the future!