Beijing & Shanghai
17.01.2011 - 23.01.2011 -13 °C
So I finally got around to writing this on the flight to Xi'an from Shanghai, an unintended but essential flight as every other imaginable mode of transport has been booked out until the conclusion of the Spring Festival on Chinese New Year. The fact that a lot of things seem to be shorting out and I never got to see the two thirds of the safety video that explains how to use my life vest is making me slightly concerned for my safety. If this eventually makes it online, you'll know we ended up making it okay..
Our experience with China so far has been a hugely interesting and varied one. After disappointingly having to cancel our trip north of Beijing to Haerbin to see the white Siberian Tigers and see the world reknowned ice sculpture festival - and miss out on the mind numbing average temperature of -35 degrees Xi'an will making up the third leg of the trip so far.
Beijing was the first city we visited after flying in via Singapore and I have to say that it was a very gentle introduction to China. These days, likely because of the Olympics, Beijing is a largely western city - and with the number of Chinese; rather like a much larger version of Brisbane (excluding the fact that they have great public transport.) There's rules about everything in Beijing, which the Chinese people adhere to and the city itself is incredibly clean. Essentially, despite being one of China's biggest tourist destinations - it's not really like Asia at all. On our second day there, we jumped on the metro to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and for reasons I have yet to understand, I was extremely disappointed by Tiananmen Square. It was essentially a large concreted space with people in it - a square. I don't know what I was expecting, but that clearly wasn't it.
One thing I did learn that day is how anally retentive China seems to be about security. Cameras cover every inch of the major cities and you have to pass through several security checkpoints with X-rays of everything you carry just to buy a ticket to ride the metro system. Not something I've experienced anywhere else in the world and certainly didn't expect in China. They also not only have private security at every major attraction, but also police and something they call the PBS or Public Security Bureau. Big brother is certainly watching...
Despite this, we had a great time in Beijing, one of the highlights being our trip to the Great Wall. After being constantly assured that we must take a tour to the wall because public transport was "much difficult! Definitely you get lost!" we decided to brave it and make our way there independently. The result was a very interesting trip which resulted in us paying about half the cost of a tour and involved a rusty and swaying chairlift far too high off the ground and a toboggan ride back down the mountain. A far colder but less life threatening option than taking the chairlift again.
Shanghai was far less eventful but certainly a lot more like what I expected from China. It was dirty, noisy and pushy. Shanghai was originally built as the industrial ass end of China and to some extent that's what it still is. It's mismatched - the Radisson Plaza and the Marriott tower above streets filled with men and dancing monkeys and there's Porsches parked amongst the bicycles overladen with assorted stuff. It was extremely odd but thoroughly enjoyable. Disappointingly it was far too foggy to see any spectacular city vistas but there are some good photos nonetheless.
There's another update coming soon now that we've managed to find a hostel with good internet. Which is great because there's no heating. Can't have everything I suppose. I also plan on adding some photos to complement this post so watch out for those which should also be up shortly.
Missing everyone lots.