When we first visited China last year, we expected to hate Shanghai and love Beijing. We were oh so very wrong.
Beijing seemed to encompass everything we find difficult and overwhelming about travel in China – the enormous tour groups competing for the tinniest, noisiest speakers, the constant haggling, the pollution and the interminable, unbearable queues. The architecture, history and cultural significance are all amazing – but it would take considerable persuasion for me to return.
Shanghai, on the other hand. I could move there. If only to have Yang’s dumplings within easy reach. This city is a sprawling metropolis and a collection of little village streets, a constant contrast of a futuristic skyline and washing flapping from ancient houses. Little alleyways leading away from giant billboards, with only a noodle shop and a guy selling baby turtles out of a bucket. You can always spot the rural Chinese workers visiting the big city for the first time – always looking up, wowed by lights and skyscrapers. The foreigners are too busy trying not to be run over.
It was hot and humid for our stay, so we made the most of the cool breeze at night. We somehow always ended up on East Nanjing Road, the Times Square of Shanghai. If you’re a people watcher, this is bliss.