Butterflyblue

木曜日, 8月 19, 2004

Shanghai


Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower
Originally uploaded by moglet.


    Fresh from the ancient slums of Xi'an, I was dazzled by the modernity of Shanghai. Unlike Beijing, the subway system has automated ticket machines, and unlike Xi'an, the streets are swept clean every day. Shanghai is amazing. With more than 3,100 high-rise buildings and the highest living standard in mainland China, it has an international, stylish urban feeling that attracted me more than any other city in China.
    Yet there was a dark side to all that perfection. Cops were everywhere. They policed the streets prosecuting unlicensed street vendors. We saw an angry merchant with an overturned melon cart; it seemed that the cops knocked it over because he didn't have a license. On the Bund, the waterfront street where foreign tourists like to stroll for a view of the Oriental Pearl Hotel and old colonial buildings, selling tourist junk is absolutely prohibited, as I found out when I bought some dancing mice from a man and his daughter, who ran away and hid as soon as the transaction was done. I was delighted with my illegal mice. On the dark streets, they look just like living things, with red sequins for eyes and lively mouselike movement when you pull the string. Later we saw a cop striding purposefully along holding a bag full of the confiscated toys. Street peddlars aggressively selling everything from frozen bottled water to terracotta warriors are virtually inescapable wherever you go in China, but here, unnervingly, they run away when they see the cops coming.
    Perhaps because of the number of Japanese tourists in Shanghai, or because tourists and students are allowed to go to Japan from Shanghai, some Shanghai residents can speak Japanese. I met a couple of them during my stay. One was a young Chinese man who had studied in Japan for 12 years, who worked at a Japanese restaurant near our hotel. The other was an older, bald fat man who mixed Japanese and Chinese when he talked to me over stir-fried vegetables at a grimy restaurant one night. I had put my plate aside, unable to finish the spicy tofu and vegetable dish they'd given me, and he began unceremoniously using my half-full plate as an ashtray. He urged me to come back to Shanghai for Chinese New Year, telling me that China was changing and soon I wouldn't be able to see the old ways any more.
    Walking back to my hotel late at night after this meal, I stopped at a fruit stand and bought the best mango I've ever tasted. That night, because I wasn't doing anything touristy but was just acting like an ordinary person, is one of my favorite memories of Shanghai.
    International tourism is changing the world, in ways we do not desire or predict. I understand now why people don't want to be tourists.
    I stayed 3 days in Shanghai. It's an expensive city, and my money didn't go as far there as I'd hoped. I started to hate the street my hotel was on. Though I loved it on the first day, as time went on I started to recognize it for nothing more than a giant mall. Mel and I saw the Shanghai Acrobats and visited the Yuyuan Gardens and the Jade Buddha Temple, which were cool, and I caught a bad cold on the third day. Three days is far too short to see all of Shanghai. I promised myself I'd go there again someday and took the train south to Guilin.