I was in China! It was an incredible experience! It was unique, shocking, inspiring, educating, frustrating, it was pretty much everything you would and wouldn’t expect when being here.
For the first 4 days I decided to spend in Shanghai, thinking that it might be giving me a first plain insight into China’s culture, lifestyle and patterns of being. I couldn’t have been more disappointed…
Shanghai may also be called the “European Capital of China” for that matter. I had to look really hard to find spots and people I believed would still count for a more traditional country. But finding those between monstrous Apple stores, 85-store high shiny buildings and the ever-present Starbucks/McDonald’s/KFC wasn’t a simple task. I tried, honestly. Some spots were very interesting to explore, such as the Bund at night, overlooking the financial district or small streets where I saw the most amazing and the most disgusting dishes in my life and I cannot even start thinking about certain smells. Truly incredible! I had tofu one day (and normally I adore tofu) that had the smell of a train station’s toilet in Berlin at 2am. You’ll learn from it. Oh, one more thing that hit me while being in China (and especially Shanghai): My skin kept burning like stupid and regardless pf how often I’d wash and moisturize it, I’d always feel a thick layer of dust and dirt on it.
I believed to be lucky when I found a group of 3 Chinese, very enthusiastic in inviting me to a “traditional tea festival” experience. I was like “score, finally!”. It turned out to be a well-known (for everyone else) scam in a small room on top of a rotten-looking shopping mall, that involved tasting tea (which was amazingly tasty to be fair) and paying a buy-out of a little over 90€… well, it was an experience!
Maybe it was due to the omnipresent jet-lag I couldn’t have fought until the arrival in Beijing, but I need to stress the fact that Shanghai disappointed me more that I gained from it. When you see a huge “Calvin Klein” commercial right next to a let’s say 1000-year-old Temple, you’ll understand what I am referring to. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world, but I am convinced that the next time I’ll make my way to China, Shanghai may not have top priority.
Nonetheless, I saw a lot, ate a bit, spent “accordingly” (metro ride: 50cent; fried noodles from the street: 60cent, Tea scam: 90€), slept during the day and walked the streets at night.
I’d much rather be a smoker in the Netherlands than a non-smoker in Beijing
The best thing about Shanghai was the High-Speed train to Beijing! Going on roughly 320km/h, we easily made the 1,300 km in less than 5 hours time. And from the moment I disembarked at the train station until the moment I entered the plane back home to Europe, Beijing was one heck of an experience! Frankly, I did not see anything from the city or its sights during the first three days due to study obligations which would tie me to the 4* hotel conference room and the CUC and its canteen. Hold on, canteen? Oh yeah! I finally felt like a proper student, eating food in a uni’s canteen. And it was among the most amazing food I ever had. Steamed, boiled, fried vegetables, tofu and rice, hauntingly beautiful 🙂 These dishes cost me about 1,60€ per meal, including the cozy loud Chinese student atmosphere.
After some days of so-called working on our home projects with our Chinese buddies (who couldn’t be more helpful!) we finally found some time to explore the city. First during the night, when we ended up being in the shiny nightclub “Latte”, where male dancers dress up like women, where women walk around having over-sized teddy bears tied to their bodies, where men wash your hands in the bathroom for 2€ and where the prices exceed those of Europe. Unfortunately, cameras were forbidden. However, the weren’t forbidden in the Forbidden City, so I made it there the other day and took countless pictures. I won’t give you the history of the Forbidden City, but I myself had no idea what to expect after all. Yet, I was amazed by the buildings, but again, the heavy smog that caused some troubles breathing made things seem a bit less enjoyable. Continue reading