China is with me every day. I work for a New Zealand law firm leading in the field of helping clients from China and Taiwan with cases in New Zealand. Our clients bring with them a little piece of their home, which I cherish immensely; by getting to know their family stories and business endeavours, I have the privilege of learning a bit more about their culture and customs every day.
But hearing and learning about a place, it can never be the same as experiencing a place. And how excited I was when I got offered the opportunity to travel to China for myself, to get to know the country and some of our friends and clients.
I spent eight nights in Shanghai with my husband and in this post I briefly describe some of the things that have impressed me the most on my visit.
Thanks to some excellent local guides, I was never one to starve for the most outstanding food during my stay in Shanghai. According to my husband, there is only one type of Chinese restaurant in his native Germany, a.k.a. ‘Chinese Restaurant’. You would be pressed hard to find one of those in Shanghai. Each meal was like travelling to a different province of China (with an occasional trip to Taiwan) and every dish presented its own range of flavours. With the food being so diverse, it was very surprising that I loved all of it.
I have been to some places in Asia where the local blend of architecture appeared to me as a blend of utility and chaos. Not so in Shanghai! It is a city which not only features beautiful individual buildings and sites but where large pieces of the central city feel like they have been crafted with one overarching aesthetic goal. Moreover, between the different precincts there is significant diversity which can be experienced, reaching from more Chinese traditional building in the Yùyuán Gardens to the early 1900s European architecture in the The Bund area to the futuristic skyscrapers in the Pudong district. I cannot remember being to any place more architecturally impressive than Shanghai.
China’s enormous economic rise in the past three decades has been to some degree fueled by being able to produce goods at drastically lower prices than competing production centers. Thus, we often think of China as a place where the price conscious might revel in. For Shanghai, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Buy a coffee at Starbucks? NZD $7. Eat out for lunch? NZD $20/pp. These prices make Auckland look like a budget traveller’s paradise. I maybe didn’t look in the right places before, but Shanghai has officially been the first place where I came within 10 centimetres of a NZD $20,000 hand bag.
I have been to Hong Kong and it has easily been the cleanest place I have visited thus far. So I wasn’t very surprised to find Shanghai a very clean and orderly city, maybe even more so than Hong Kong. However, with it being the most populous city on Earth, it is no unremarkable accomplishment that it is that much more clean and tidy than many other places that I visited in the western world.
When we think of big cities we often think of hustle and bustle and expect a bit less of the friendliness and politeness associated with rural and laid back places. As far as cities go, there should hardly be a place with more hustle and bustle than Shanghai. All the more surprising it is how very calm, understanding and friendly the Shanghainese are. Wherever we went, we would sometimes be received curtly but also always with understanding, friendliness and helpfulness when we would be in need of special attention (which would happen quite often when temporarily without our guides and left to our own devices).
I have always wanted to go to China, and, although I had travelled to Hong Kong before, I always used to say that I haven’t really been to China. Now I have visited Shanghai and I must say that still I feel that I haven’t really been to China. How could I say that of a country with so innumerable many cities, people and so diverse regions. Also, I feel like there is far more to see of Shanghai than I was able to see during my visit there. After all, almost as many people live there than live in Australia and New Zealand combined, and there are immeasurably many things about this city I don’t even begin to understand. Plenty of reasons to go back to China, and plenty of reasons to come back to Shanghai!
Some More Pictures of Amazing Things