Saturday, January 10, 2009

Top gun...

Back from Shanghai.
Crazy tower, blimp with giant TV screen, TV boat...

Gonna post some pics on facebook soon.

It is a cool city because it's so new and modern, but so old as well. Beijing is the same, but the contrast between the old and new is much more pronounced in Shanghai.
Old Town... The harmonica: The instrument of choice for the Chinese youth.

The new is much flashier and exagerated. Pudong, the new built up business district, is kind of a crazy place. It's the new, built up part of the city that is trying to compete with Hong Kong's skyline. Although interesting, there are just a few too many tacky buildings, and the flat landscape can't really compete with the big hill/small mountain that the Hong Kong skyline is built upon.

Pudong skyline from our river boat tour.

But back to Shanghai and Beijing. I guess the older places are similar. I feel like I explored Shanghai more thoroughly because I was there about twice as long. And Matt and I were much more into checking out different parts of the city than shopping.

Beijing has the old Hutongs (sp?) but we didn't really see a lot of the older, more genuine Hutongs. Many are kind of refurbished for tourists, but in Shanghai we went to Old Town and although some of that area has been converted into a tourist shopping zone, we also spent a full afternoon cruising the back alleys.
Those small back streets made me feel like I was in China and not just any major city in any country. There is so much life and energy there and it's a shame that the whole area will likely be swallowed up by towering apartment buildings.

A shame for me anyway, but I'm curious how the people who live there feel? They'd probably prefer to move into a nice, new apartment building with their own bathrooms and sink, etc. But who really knows besides them.
We also went to Xitang. Tom Cruise was there not so long ago.

The nice, touristy area of Xitang. The old guys cell phone is better than mine...

It's a small canal town outside of Shanghai that has turned into a tourist destination. An old Japanese man I met at the bus station put it best. "It's basically a kilometer of souveneir shops." He was kind of right. Way too many shops selling the same junk, but once you get off the beaten path, it's worth the trip.

The town is well maintained because of the number of tourists that pass through, but outside of the main area of the canal town is the real canal town. Much more rundown and much less vibrant. We also left the canal town and went throught the regular town adjacent to the canal town. Again, this felt like real China.

"Real China"

I'm not even sure what I mean by saying "real China" but it's just the feeling I had. Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong are not representative of the average Chinese lifestyle. Outside of the three richest, most powerful cities people have a different standard of living and it was interesting to see that.

It's not total poverty or anything resembling that. It's just more rugged and tough than the major cities. Even Beijing is much tougher than Shanghai and Hong Kong.

But Xitang keeps it the reallest. Site of a Tom Cruise running scene in Mission Impossible:III, this place gets big props from me.

And walking the same streets as Tom Cruise was definitely the highlight of the trip.

If not the highlight of my life...