Posted by: Brian | May 20, 2009

Shanghai Trip Redux

After nine days away from Kunming, I’m still trying to recover from my trip. There was so much we did, so much covered… I’m struggling to eve think of things to discuss, as odd as that may sound. Here are some of the highlights from Shanghai (more on Hangzhou and my train ride back later).

Shanghai Museum: My friend Wei and I spent a solid five or six hours in there. They’ve got an absolutely incredible collection of Chinese culture and history, including exhibits on bronze sculptures of each major dynastic period (as well as earlier, preceding times), the development of pottery and porcelain, calligraphy, a display of coinage used along the Silk Road, and a display of antique furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties. My personal favorite was the exhibit on bronze sculptures, which had everything from massive buddhas to ancient axe heads.

Nightlife: We spend several nights out dancing with some of Wei’s friends from Australia. Overall, it was rather generic and forgettable, though I found the number of awkward white males to be disproportionately high, even for Shanghai. It was both amusing and a little sad.

Eating: On the whole, the food in Shanghai was much, much more palatable than what I get in Kunming, and also much, much more expensive. More so than in Yunnan Province, the east coast of China is known for its dumplings. I got to experience one variety called xiaolongbao, which is steamed and filled with meat and broth. It takes a bit of skill to eat those things without making a mess – they have a tendency to leak, pop, splash, drip, and generally get the broth everywhere except your mouth. I regret not having taken pictures of the ordeal. Other than that, we ate a lot of standard Chinese food, some street vendor cuisine (meat skewers and fried rice), and, in a moment of weakness, a sandwich from Subway.

Unfortunately, much of our time was spent doing boring things like shopping for clothes and just hanging out with other students. As a result, we missed several of the areas that are generally thought of as must-see, including the Bund, a historic French quarter, and Pudong, the super-modern, super-highrise area that contains some of Shanghai’s most distinct examples of architecture.

On a closing note, I’d like to mention that the people in Shanghai are on the whole are more fluent in English, wealthier, better dressed, better looking, and in much more of a hurry than their counterparts in Kunming. Despite all of that (or perhaps because of it), I sincerely doubt I would ever want to live there. The pace was exhausting, even for just one week. I much prefer the slow, relaxed way of life that is more common in Kunming, and I’m happy to be back!

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