It's been four years since my last jaunt to the Orient. And that was after visiting the continent three times in a 16-month period. So, yes, this was a fun revisit. We hit Beijing and Shanghai, spending more time in the highly-styley Shanghai corridor. Major changes have occurred since I was last there - the Olympics came and went, leaving behind some impressive architecture and, it seemed, a more-relaxed approach to Westerners. Also, the financial crisis took its toll, although both cities seemed as bustling and busy as ever.
But the rampant construction that cluttered the streets of both cities with cranes, cement trucks and bamboo scaffolding seems to have dissipated. There's a new big tower in Shanghai - the World Financial Center, with a Park Hyatt hotel occupying the 79th-93rd floors of its 101 stories. And the "new" section of Shanghai - Pudong - is now a sprawling space-age urban landscape with shiny skyscrapers and Boca Raton-style gated communities containing McMansions. Some random thoughts and observations:
- Spitting (and exuberant loogie hocking) is still a big thing here, so don't be surprised if you get a little phlegm on your shoes.
- Apparently they make soup dumplings as big as tennis balls and stick straws in them, coconut-style.
- Pollution is still bad but seems to have gotten slightly more manageable. Either that, or we caught some uncharacteristically sunny autumn days.
- The Great Cyberwall of China is still in effect. Last time I was there I was unable to use blogger or access my blog. Same again this time, and also no access to Twitter of Facebook in Beijing. In Shanghai, things were better, with access to all of those sites, although when I mentioned this to a hotel exec she said that was because I was logging on via the hotel's Internet connection. Apparently, household Internet users in China don't have access.
- Bookmarked for next time: Dinner at 100 Century Avenue,
the 91st-floor restaurant at the top of the WFC at the Park Hyatt. Place was jazzy, fun and reminded me of the Setai.
- Best fashion discovery: cool Chinese sneaker brand Feiyue (apparently coveted by French hipsters). For $17 you get these sensational high-tops. Found at tiny sneaker store located at 130 Nanchang Lu (at Sinan Rd).
Labels: China, travel