Q to S (continuing with the alphabet challenge)

Q is for Qin Jade Pavilion

Q is one of those awkward letters isn’t it? Even in the alphabet game it always catches you out. So we were feeling a bit stuck when suddenly, in amongst the souvenir stores and the Subway sandwich shop (yes, there is a Subway…) at the Terracotta Warriors, Anna spotted Qin Jade Pavilion. A faux oldy-worldy looking street presumably designed to lure in eager tourists to buy more tat.

Now I’m not going to say finding Q was the highlight of our day (see my previous post about the Warriers) but it came pretty close.

Finally ticking off Q.

R is for Renmin Avenue

We stumbled across Renmin Avenue on yet another of our “adventures” (read “lost”) in Shanghai. To be fair, the people were absolutely lovely and there were many occasions when they would stop to help us as we stood looking at various maps completely confused or tried to ask for directions with zero Mandarin. We had business men trying to locate our position on their smart phones on the way to the office; staff at hotels where we weren’t even staying Googling the place we were trying to get to and one lovely old man who chased after us in the pouring rain because he’d accidentally sent us the wrong way. Who said the Chinese aren’t helpful?

Another day, another chance to get lost.

S is for Shanghai

Shanghai is crazy. There are no two ways about it. With its tall, shiny buildings, bright lights and flashy shopping centres, the city personifies “new China”. Everywhere you look screams money. Gucci, Prada and Rolex dominate the high street; expensive cars transport their owners to the flashiest skyscraper hotels and in the bars the wealthy scrabble for the minimum spend tables. It’s a world away from the poorer towns and cities of China and it doesn’t take long to be sucked in by the city. Every traveller you meet loves Shanghai.

Bright lights,
yummy food,
and even Marks and Spencer (although the weather cannot be guaranteed!)

The first thing you notice when you arrive is how big everything is (and not just because I’m small). You seem to spend most of your time craning your neck to catch a glimpse of the office blocks and hotels which tower over the city’s inhabitants who are racing around making money in their shadows.

It’s a city of aspirations and while I do love it, it also sums up the worrying trend so many young Chinese people have talked to me about. The constant need to make money; the importance of marrying well (if you’re a girl) and the parents who are being left behind as their children are sucked into the world of wealth and status. Being the best is important in Shanghai, so everything is billed as the biggest or the tallest. We visited one of the skyscrapers and took the lift to the 87th floor to check out the view. (Worried about the dress code for such a fancy place we bought new dresses first and immediately changed into them – any excuse – although our backpacks didn’t quite do them justice.) The lift up actually made us lose our stomachs and made our ears pop and then, of course, after all that it was too cloudy to actually see anything!

It might be the tallest but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the views.

But my favourite thing about this city is that even when something is rubbish they’re brilliant at selling it. Take the Shanghai Tunnel for example. It sells itself as one of the city’s ‘must do’ attractions and even my guidebook highlighted it as a ‘quirky’ thing to do in the city. So the girls were disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to go on it before they left. I promised them I’d try it out to let them know what all of the fuss was about and afterwards I was very glad that I was the only one who shelled out a fiver on it.

Here’s how it was described: “While riding in unmanned trailed cars made from France, visitors are presented a high tech showing consisting sound, light, cartoons and videos, as if going through the earth and enjoying an amazing experience.”

Maybe slightly exaggerating about the quality of the attraction.

And here’s my version of it: “While riding in uncomfortable silence with a bemused Chinese family, visitors are presented with a weird show consisting of the the odd flashing light, some frankly bizarre pop up puppets and a creepy voice saying words like “meteor showers”, “heaven and hell” and “salty blue water” with absolutely no context whatsoever. Leave feeling utterly confused.”

Just another thing to add to the list of inexplicable experiences in China.

Everyone hearts Shanghai.