Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ye Shanghai

It came as quite a surprise to realize, during our efforts to procure a travel visa, that the last time we actually were in China had been almost a decade ago. Has it actually been that long?

However it did take a while before deciding on where to go next with our shortlist of requirements; wanted someplace not too far and easily navigable enough, somewhere not too cold nor too hot... etc. Since we had such fond memories of our last trip to Suzhou and Shanghai way, way back, a return was definitely in the cards to see how much had changed. After his long ago assignment there, Charming Calvin still had some small misgivings about whether the brash mainland Chinese had actually learned to cultivate some manners.

Me, I figured I could be quite as horribly rag-mannered as the rest of them. Perhaps the last time I might have been astonished by their unapologetic brusqueness but this time, I was a little more prepared. You shove me, this time I'll just shove you back, maybe with some peppery insults to boot. Not exactly the ringing endorsement our mild-mannered fellow needed which earned a censorious side eye from him.

Though much has certainly changed in the ever-growing metropolis of Shanghai from the awe-inspiring futuristic skyline to the way digital technology has taken over almost every aspect of their lives with newfangled apps for everything, that blundering brashness of the people with the severe lack of personal boundaries still remains. After an hour or two of being carelessly bumped around in teeming crowds ( Shanghai seriously gives a whole new meaning to crowds ) from the metro stations to the malls, it becomes almost a habit to do pretty much the same with little or no apology.

Perhaps it's with age and maturity that I look at it but I find their behaviour almost... charming though the more fastidious Calvin had far less complimentary words for it. While they do still speak in louder, harsher tones than we are used to, I did find them all extremely helpful. Just think of that grumpy old uncle in the neighbourhood with a heart of gold.

And I suspect most of the proud Shanghainese - no doubt gossiping in their singsong dialect - would vehemently insist that the rougher rabble in their midst were actually newly arrived country cousins.

Everything bright, brash and blinding in the city of Shanghai. 

Probably those were the unfortunate ones cramming together with us as we were all herded in boisterous groups down the main shopping thoroughfare Nanjing Road to the Bund. Only a handful could be clearly seen to be non local; the majority of the rambunctious horde seemed purely to be their very own Chinese countrymen coming to see the future of their prideful nation. After all, where else to get a better juxtaposition of the new and the old in the city with the more venerable grand old colonial ladies on one side of the Bund and the flashier, neon-coloured skyscrapers on the Pudong side; divided only by the Huangpu River.

And that's only if you can get above the mass of flashing camera bulbs as they all snap pictures simultaneously en masse.

Comes as no surprise that it's the Chinese who coined the phrase 人山人海! 

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