How do I Explain China?

Shanghai
View of Shanghai from across the Bund.

There is a strong tendency for people to compare. One of the methods we use to comprehend and understand something is to compare and contrast it to things that we already know. And when your point of comparison is fairly recent in your mind, there is a tendency to ruminate in it. This is perhaps a very dangerous comparison, but I found myself comparing China to Japan. A lot of the compliments I had about Japan in my previous post, really came to surface in China. When I mentioned that people took the initiative to talk with you and simply acknowledge you in Japan, I mentioned it after experiencing consistent staring with no follow-up in China. If I were to be honest, at some points I found myself missing Japan as if it were my bedroom back in Maryland. When I left, I wondered if I would I have felt this strongly had I went to China first and then Japan. I knew China was going to be different, and I was even warned. But experiencing it is much different from hearing about it.

Chinese New Year Means Ghost Towns?

Looking for food on Fuzhou rd.

Something that got repeated a lot before our arrival in China was that the city would be relatively empty because people were going home for the New Years. When I got off the ship and found myself in the middle of Shanghai, I believed the rumors were true. The city was in fact empty. What was supposed to be the most populated country in the world, for about two hours, looked like the least populated place in the world. I think it was around 1 p.m. when everybody started to appear, and since that time, the number of people would increase to outrageous numbers throughout my six-day stay.

Shanghai

I spent my first two days in Shanghai before departing on what would be a quite hectic trip to Nanjing and Suzhou. The first place we visited upon arriving in Shanghai was the Financial center which is supposed to be the tallest building there. We were told that you could go all the way to the top and look over all of Shanghai. What they didn’t tell us was that experience costed $30. The group of four that I was travelling with divided in half. The two of us didn’t mind spending the money, and myself and a fellow friend refused to. So. while they waited in line to get to the

Travel Buddies!

top of the building, we explored the financial center thoroughly. I bought myself some comfy sock which I wear everywhere now, and we ate and talked while waiting. By the time they returned, all the people who seemed to be missing in Shanghai began to appear.

 

In order to get to the financial center, we crossed the river on a ferry that cost 2 yuan. There was hardly anybody on this ferry and it was quite an ordinary ride. While waiting for the guys to return, I discovered that everything of interest was back on the other side of the river. We decided to hop back on the ferry and cross back over to the side

where the famous part of the bund is also located. We arrived at the ferry gate, and the scenery was much different

Almond Cake
Cake I had while waiting for our two friends to return from the top of the financial center.

from our ride over. Hundreds of people were trying to board this ferry. If you’re not first in China, you’re last. As soon as the gates opened this mass of people started running, it didn’t matter if they were the first person or the last, they ran.

As we walked through the bund to our next location I watched as a man threw himself to the door of a bus as it was approaching. Pressed up against the door, several people ran up behind him and claimed their spot leaving no space between the person in front of them and themselves. This should have been a sign of what I was going to experience in the following days, but of course these situations never mean much to you until you’re in it. So. let me blunt, there’s no such thing as lines in China. The lady behind this man left no space between them because it was an opportunity for someone to cut. If you know me personally, I’m not that big on being touched, especially by strangers, and I have a large sense of personal space. Throughout my time in China, I battled with not only people constantly cutting wherever there was space, but people who would literally just press themselves against me. As I waited in line for the Tron in Shanghai Disney, I felt like the woman behind me was a part of me.

Chinese New Year

It is here that I have to apologize because my picture quality is going change. Previously I had been using both my

spicy noodle
First meal I would enjoy before getting my camera stolen.

phone and my Nikon to take pictures, but my Nikon was stolen on my first day in China. This thievery turned in to quite an ordeal as the staff of the place where it was stolen even took the time to go through the CCTV footage. I watched as they narrowed it down to two suspects and asked if I wanted to file a police report, I said no, and kept going on my merry way. Fortunately, I always dump my photos beforehand so I didn’t lose any pictures from Japan and Hawaii. I only lost photos from my first day in China. Have no worries, the Samsung Galaxy s7 edge has a pretty good quality camera. Just hope I don’t lose it too.

The first place I experienced the strength of the Chinese population was in Yuyuan gardens. The place had been decorated for the Chinese New Year and the streets were lined with various shops selling all kinds of artifacts. There was so much going on I honestly felt so overwhelmed. Because of the density of the crowd it was impossible to just stop moving in the middle of Yuyuan gardens, there was just a non-stop flow of people going in one direction. Every two seconds I looked around to make sure that everyone who I came with was still there.

Yuyuan Gardens
Bustling Yuyuan Gardens

One of the dominant reasons given for why we might have experienced China in the way that we did was because it was Chinese New Year. The Chinese people who we encountered were most likely tourists too, coming from the non-major cities of China. What we were basically told is that if  we had come before or after the holiday,  our experience would probably be different. So, that’s what I’ve been telling myself, perhaps if I came to China another time, I would leave with a better taste in my mouth. Honestly though, I’m not sure if I’m fully convinced. It feels as if something I tell people when they ask how China was so I won’t sound too critical, and at the same time make myself feel better. There’s a good chance that this reason could be true, but I really am not in a rush to confirm.

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