Travelling is the part I don’t like about travelling. I mean the packing and all the last minute running around and then finally the transit, especially if it is a long flight. To finally make that eye contact with our tour guide was such a great relief.
It had been a tumultuous couple of months personally and professionally for both hubby and me. We were both looking forward for this holiday and at the end we thought it wasn’t really going to happen with all the uproar in Hong Kong. It felt almost surreal to be on a foreign land and to think that, I had finally dragged my workaholic husband to switch off and relax for a fortnight.
Mmm… that belief lasted all of 24 hrs before I realised that “switch off and relax” was not part of the deal. Another topic for another day.
Shanghai was our first stop in China. We met with our National Tour Guide Sophie and local tour guide Grace and the others of our tour group. The first day was meant to be a day to take it easy until dinner time. We met with Alan and Rosemary, Veronica and Robyn and after that most of the other names were a bit of a blur. As days went by and the tour progressed we all got to know, not just the names but their quirks as well. So for the next fourteen odd days twenty one individuals from different parts of the world and from different walks of life, toured together with laughter, banter and mate ship.
Sophie our National tour guide was a pocket rocket, she was super efficient and worked tirelessly day and night for us to have the best time. She was also impressed with my vocabulary of Mandarin words and phrases that I had picked up watching Chinese dramas on Netflix. My regular vegetable purchases are from a Chinese/Vietnamese owned Market type shop. I had made friends with one of the ladies there and I did practice my Chinese with her prior to my visit to China.
In my days of sailing with my husband, I used to read up about the country we are about to embark and learn at least a few phrases from their native tongue. It makes a world of difference with the locals. They appreciate our efforts, even when we make mistakes, they still love the fact that you had taken the time to learn about them. In contrast, I feel that in English speaking countries, the foreigner is looked down upon for not pronouncing right or not getting it right. Knowing this fact, it still didn’t stop me from taking photos of all the faux pas of where direct translation had gone wrong.
I have a habit taking detours while writing. I just realised other than a photo of Shanghai nothing else has been written about Shanghai so far.
If you require details of age, size, historical dates, population etc I suggest that you use “Google”, since all of us outside of China have access to Google. Yes, that is another fun fact about China, no Google or Facebook access. They have their own social media and google type search engine. But No Google.
We stayed 3 jam packed days in Shanghai. This is – Shanghai through my eyes.
Day one – we arrived at the hotel around lunch time. After settling into our room and a good yarn with Sophie where I sprung her with surprise when I bid her goodbye at the lift with “Zai Jian”. She ended up following us to our room to finish the conversation and also to check if the room was good etc.
We then ventured out on our own to get some lunch. We managed to order some dumplings by pointing to the pictures on the wall. Then we saw the adjoining table eating something like wonton soup. So we ordered that too. It came with a lot side dishes, we had no idea what to do with them. So we copied our neighbors. It was delicious. Just simple honest food. Payment was by the vendor showing the numbers on the calculator. The entire menu which is all of six items were on the wall with a barcode next to it. We observed that most paid with their phone using this barcode. Yes, they still practice Tai Chi but have embraced technology as well.
Day 2 – started with a long lecture/speech by Sophie and Grace of all the do’s and don’ts, and including some of the local cultures and customs.
So Grace explained that most Chinese used scotting toilets, hard beds and hard pillows before the introduction of tourism. Some of the old folk still used a piece of hard wood or brick as their pillow. They preferred hard beds as they feel that it is better for their back. The jury is out on that for me as I prefer softer beds, on the contrary my husband prefers hard beds and blames the soft mattress for his bad back. (obviously the pot belly is not to be blamed for the bad back). So most public toilets used to be scotting toilets but now due to tourism they would have at least a few western toilets in most places. Grace went on to tell us how in the villages the toilets were usually outside, one or two toilets to be shared among a few houses, some may not even have a door. So it was a common practice for them to sing while in the toilet as a sign to say “I am here”. Hence it also got dubbed as the “Happy house”. This became our phrase too.
Shanghai is dubbed as the Paris of the East. I have not been to Paris, but somehow I don’t think this is it. However, it is a beautiful city where the old colonial Architecture and the modern sea of concrete apartments adorn the streets side by side.
As the first city to land on in China, we were amazed at the speed of development that has occurred in a very short span of time. And still going on. The local joke is Shanghai’s famous bird is the “Crane”
Yes their air quality is bad. China can see evidence of pollution and the need for change. It may have been and might still be one of the great polluters, but they are working very hard to rectify this.
Time for some sleep now. The rest about Shanghai tomorrow or when ever time permits next time. I guess I am back at work now.