Heavy expectations...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, May 7, 2006

How good is sleeping? Sleeping is the new eating. And everyone knows that eating is the new pink and pink is the new black. The magical qualities of sleeping are best demonstrated when tested by a 30 hour trani journey. Me? Completely undprepared. Unprepared in the food department. Unprepared in the drink department. Completely unprepared for the barrage of Chinese pop music through the speakers from 7am until 11pm. Unfortunately, in my lack of preparatino, I did not provide my mp3 player with the necessary stamina to drown out the Chinese pop for all of these 16 hours. My sanity may never return. And so, in my time of need, sleeping comes to the fore. How much of the 30 hour train journey I slept i do not know, but i had little enough human interaction with the people in my sleeping cabin (3 english speaking students - one from australia) for them not to realise that i spoke english. It's amazing what people say when they don't think you understand...

So, opulent shanghai - the place where dreams are made, where pockets grow deep, where skyscrapers meet the clouds, where China presents its most modern face to the world. My first reaction to Shanghai is one of surprise. The famous Nanjing Road is a desert as I arrive at 7am in the morning. I ask someone in the street whether this is Shanghai , just to confirm that I haven't been catapulted out of a dream back to a Perth morning. The walk to find my hostel reminds me of Europe. For a while, the narrow roads and colonial architecture have me fooled, until the familiar smell of noodles, dumplings and wok fried stuff wafts across the street. That - now that you won't find in Paris...

I stroll to the Bund. The colourful Pudong is nowhere to be seen, hiding behind the thick fog, like a shy child behind its mother, despite its extravagance. I return later but Pudong remains withdrawn. But I return yet again, on an evening of perfect clarity, and see the TV Tower standing between building before I even expect it. Pudong and the Bund. Separate worlds separated by only metres. The contrasts of modern China encapsulated is a single, evocative place. Banks live in the colonial buildings now. Who knows what lives in the skyscrapers. But the sight is spectacular on this perfect night, bright red, green, blue, yellow all streaming from the north - the Bund side lit in a classical way. See the photos. Brilliant...

The next day, under the moon cloud, I head out to the Shanghai Museum. A girl from my dorm offers to be guide. I'm hesitant - she speaks about as much english as I do chinese - but I accept out of courtesy. Average tour, although the museum is impressive. It's an enormous collection of bronzes, porcelain, jade, as well as a particularly large number of beautiful, long Chinese paintaings and calligraphy. However, the highlight of the museum ends up being the special exhibition Cezanne - Pollock: the art of drawing, which has come from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sadly, in my mind at least, the most memorable part is this western exhibition. I put this down to the fact that I am a bit 'east asia museumed out' following Xian, Beijing and Korea. I'm calling it now - all bronze buddhas look the same...

Do you know when you go shopping and you convince yourself you need something, but when it comes down to buying you realise you don't really need it at all? Well, I do at least. I went to the Xiangyang markets with teh fullest intention to buy new jeans, and maybe new sneakers. But having undertaken the bargaining ritual to the fullest extent in relation to a pair of Diesel jeans, I realised that I didn't realy want them or need them. No deal. Walk away. The price keeps getting lower. Lower than I would have paid for originally. No deal. This market was dirt cheap though. Knock offs of everything - sneakers, clothes, sports gear, watches, jewellery etc. It's a shopping paradise. It's a pity that, in the end, I wasn't in the market for anything. But last night Iw as thinking that I need some new sneakers and maybe a pair of jeans. Maybe I should go back...

After having watched them snatch the cruellest and most unjust win ever again Beijing 2 months ago, I ventured out to a random Shanghai stadium to watch Shanghai United play Shenzhen. My track record of getting to footbal games on time on this trip has been poor. In Beijing, burdened by 2 english kids, I went to teh wrong stadium - missed kickoff and the only home goal. In Seoul, for 2 consecutive weeks, we missed kick-off - in the first instance due to an incredible sleeping marathon (how good is sleeping? sleeping is the new eating), the second due to an overwhleming need for a fried chicken hangover cure. This time I would make no such mistake. Me? First person in the crowd, and while I sit behind the goal waiting for kickoff, I am entertained by an erratic goalkeeping warmup, the lack of crowd, and REM, Eric Clapton and Alanis Morrisette over the loudspeakers (Leyla - bum bum bum - got me on my knees leyla). The game? A 0-0 thriller, the third consecutive such game i have seen, in front of no more than 1000 people (not bad for a city of 20 million).

Do you know what I'm getting really sick of in China? I'm getting really sick of this constant female adoration. It's like I'm David Beckham, only better. More like James Spader. You would underestimate how difficult it is to take all of these girls coming up to and telling you how handsome you are and all, especially given my generally modest nature. Well, it's not that they are coming up to me and telling me that I'm handsome so much - but lots of girls just wave and smile at me, and giggle with their friends. Ok, well, maybe that's not completely true - but there have been girls that have looked at me on occasion. Ok - well, what really happened was that a girl once served me at a shop and smiled at me. Ok - she didn't smile, but her manner was really nice and friendly when she gave me my change. Well, actually, she short-hanged me. Ok, it wasn't even a she - it was a he. And he wasn't even in a shop. Ok - it was actually a cat. But a couple of times cats have come up to me and been raelly nice and affectionate. well, when I say affection, once a cat acme up to me and meowed. Well, it didn't really meow, but rather acknolwedged me as it brushed past. Ok ok - it compeltely ignored me, but it was a really cute cat. Alright, you got me, it was actually a mouse. Yeah, once a saw a mouse. It was a cool mouse and in the flesh. Ok - alright - it was actually on TV. Happy?

In an effort to cut down expenduture, I've decided that breakfast will now onsist of instant noodles, unless i feel like something else of course. The savings will be spent on a Vienetta on a stick. That's right - a vienetta on a stick. You know Vienetta? That long icecream roll that mum would never let you buy? Yep - on a stick. Fucking genius. I have no idea why we don't have vienetta on a stick in Austraila - it's a outrage. But it's haven and is certainly fighting for a place on my Top 5 things ever. Microwave popcorn is in danger of losing its place. It had better lift it's game.

So, to the Top 5. Seeing that Shanghai is most notable for being the forthcoming modern power of China, I thought it appropriate to present the Top 5 signs that Shanghai is more modern than the rest of China. Note that I have been in Shanghai only a couple of days.

5. Smartcard hostel keys - a mere swipe is all that is required.
4. The subway system actually has electronic tickets and gates (as opposed to Beijing, which has a dude tearing tickets)
3. Every ATM I've come across takes Mastercard, Visa and Cirrus - that just doesn't happen in China.
2. The Maglev - the magnetic train - the world's first and only. Apparently goes 450km/h. Merely for show...
1. The enormous big screen that is seemingly across 30 floors of a building in Pudong. Big. Silly Big.

More to come from Shanghai...
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