Wednesday, 12 September 2012

China tour with Akademiska Kapellet, part 5

At long last, the travel blog continues! Soon regular (or at least as regular as they get with me) updates will commence again.

From Hangzhou we hurried on to Shanghai, a couple of hours by bus away. Or at least that was the distance between our hotel in Hangzhou and our hotel in Shanghai. Sometimes it was difficult to tell where one city ended and the other one began. 

Seriously. Shanghai. One of the world's largest cities. By some standards the largest, but apparently there are many ways to measure the size of a city. Apparently in top ten no matter how you look at it, though. Unbelievably, overwhelmingly big. Two and a half times the population of Sweden, crammed into one city. And I used to think Stockholm was a big and scary place. At one million people and no skyscrapers at all. Did I mention I grew up in the country? Every house with more than two storeys is a high-rise building to me. (Yes, I live in a high-rise apartment building. Three stories high. Yikes, I know.) In Shanghai 24-storey apartment buildings were commonplace. In a way that muffled the feeling of the city being really big somewhat, since you could seldom see more than one block away. Couldn't see the city for all the houses, so to speak.

Anyway. When we had settled in at the hotel I ran off to have a foot-massage before lunch. So nice. If I could afford it, I would have massage every day here at home. After lunch and walking and subway and walking again we went out to have dinner on a fancy restaurant. There all vegetarians got seated at a separate table, and all kinds of dishes were brought in for us to share on a rotating slab. Tofu, beans, seitan, noodles, mushrooms and vegetables; all in abundance. Hooray, finally proper vegan food! Surprisingly non-spicy though, I had expected the food in China to have at least a tang of ginger or something. My expectations were probably just built on prejudices out of nowhere, though, and since China is quite a big place it probably varies from place to place.

After dinner we went out to explore a bit of the city a bit further. Supposedly the French quarters, but I'm still not sure whether that was actually the place we ended up in. Anyway, it was a beautiful little quarter, where I and three friends found a tea-house where we spent a delightful evening in conversation and drinking tea. Before we went back to the hotel I made the perhaps strangest impulse buying of my life: a china tea set with a pot and six small cups. There were dragons on it! They practically called out and begged me to take them home with me. I even managed to take it home on the plane, bulky though it was. Luckily I didn't bring much hand luggage on the way there, so I had a bit of space to spare.

The thursday was spent on more sightseeing (mostly the subways; gosh darn it the city is big!), including buildings from the world exhibition two years ago. We also got to go up into one of the very tallest skyscrapers in Shanghai (apparently called the Jin Mao Tower, but I didn't know that at the time). 88 floors and about 400 meters high, and still not the tallest building in the neighbourhood anymore. Crazy. And right next to it another skyscraper, which is going to be the tallest one in the world when it's finished, was under construction. We got to hang out in the skybar. It was right before sunset, so we got to see the city turn into Shanghai By Night. An interesting sight indeed. It hardly occurred to me to sit down and drink and talk, I just walked around and around and looked at the view. Despite being so high up, you still weren't able to get an overview of the entire city. I have no idea how large portion of it was visible from up there, but it just seemed to go on and on until it vanished into the mist at the horizon. I could feel the house swaying beneath me. Quite disconcerting, but I guess it would have been more reason for worry if the building didn't yield at all to the wind.

That evening I walked around and pondered all the impressions of this big, big city. As we walked along the river and looked at the famous skyline I saw the lights flashing and glowing everywhere, and all I could think of was light pollution; the arch-enemy of astronomy today. I also thought about all those posh skyscrapers and wondered how long they will stand. How long are they intended to stand? Will they last for a hundred years? Five hundred? A thousand? (Assuming humanity is still around by then.) Until the governments in question run out of money to maintain them (even after putting them prior to feeding the hungry in the state budget)? How long until such a building collapses by itself? I don't know. I also don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know, how the leaders of a country can justify building such luxurious buildings when there are so many poor people living in the country. Not that we ever got to see them. I guess the government is not too keen on giving western tourists the "wrong" impression. There were probably all kinds of regulations and restrictions and supervisions behind the management of this tour that I was largely unaware of. Is it morally justified to visit a dictatorship of a country in this manner? I don't know, but I think I'll keep telling myself that it could be, for an educative purpose. Also to make friends with Chinese people.

The evening ended on a thoughtful note for me. I felt sick of shopping and hurrying around sightseeing, so I and a friend agreed to go and find a Buddhist temple the following morning, in pursuit of inner peace or outer dragons. I also managed to produce the most horrendously bad pun of the day (quite the achievement among the people present!), but I'll spare you it, for now.

Whew, I think this travel-blog has dragged out long enough by now. Next time I'll wrap it up, I promise!


1 comment:

  1. Underbart att få ta del av dina intryck! En sådan resa lämnar många spår och tankar och reflektioner. Det är enligt mig en av de häftigaste grejerna med att resa:-)! Känner igen mig själv i ditt behov av att gå undan för dig själv, och bara ta in alla intryck. Det är mäktigt!