Thursday, December 3, 2009

CHINA: Wandering the Streets of Shanghai


Wandering the streets of Shanghai was our introduction to China and, my, what an introduction it was. What stood out the most was how quickly Shanghai was progressing. The city kept growing vertically with buildings soaring to kiss the sky. The public transport system was efficient, on-time and well-placed -- one can reach almost any part of the city by just the subway system. The people, I reckon, found coping with the rapid development a bit challenging. I remember seeing this woman in her 40s hitting the subway turnstile with her umbrella because it wouldn't let her pass. She didn't know that she had to use her subway ticket on the machine! The Chinese in China are totally different from the Chinese here in Manila or in any part of Asia for that matter. They cut in line, shove you off your place, and spit on the marble floor (even inside the subway)! And, boy, do they love to make that throaty gurgling sound before spitting, like cocking a shotgun before firing a full load, or what? The longer and the louder, the better. Most of the Chinese we met were grouchy and unfriendly but I guess it's because of their poor English skills or because they're so used to foreigners already.

Don't even think about it!

The Chinese were suspicious of foreigners especially over internet access. Internet cafes would ask for our passports whenever we wanted to go online. An Ecuadorian friend of ours sent an email to her family in Spanish. In the letter, she ranted about how much she disliked China because of the mean people and the strict authoritarian rules. Her family didn't receive the email at all and my friend's email was blocked from access until she left China. I have heard rumors that their government censors email exchanges by hiring people who can understand different languages to report malicious emails. With all this hoopla about Google succumbing to China's demands regarding censorship, I wouldn't be surprised if this were true.

I was floored! It even used the same font!
Made in China? 

They sell soya bean milk and pancakes! 
It's based in Singapore.

The sellers in Shanghai are one of the most hardcore salesmen I've seen in all my life, seriously. We went inside a bazaar and, upon seeing that we were tourists, an army of Chinese shopkeepers rushed to us. They carried a menu of their products -- counterfeit Gucci shoes, LV bags and dubious Rolex watches -- and pulled each of us by the arm towards their shop. Little did they know that we were poorer than rats! One time, our Mexican friend named Pollo (/Po-yo/) disappeared in the thick crowd. We had a train to catch so we desperately looked for him by shouting, "Pollo! Pollo! Where are you Pollo?" The shopkeepers heard us and immediately answered in broken English with a thick Chinese accent, "Pollo? Pollo? You want Pollo? I have Pollo in shop! Please come, no need buy Pollo! Just look my Pollo!"

Sample products from the bazaars

That's Pollo in the white jacket

When bargaining, some people follow this rule of thumb: Always bargain 50% off the initial offer then try to meet half-way or 75% of the original price. Jose from Ecuador, however, decided to deviate. He wanted to buy a pair of gloves and the first price offered was 100 yuan (about 14.50 USD). He refused and said, "Give it to me for two yuan (0.30 USD)!" After 20 minutes of bargaining and joking around with the young shopkeeper, what do you know, Jose got the pair for three yuan (0.45 USD). The shopkeeper was even happy about it. I guess it's no holds barred when it comes to bargaining, especially in China!

East Nanjing Road
No. 1 commercial street in China

Bye ship-themed hostel!

Off to Beijing!


  1. Got this message on Destination Asia's Facebook Page:

    From Flo Co: Great blog! Just a tip. For fake/generic stuff in SH rule of thumb rice ceiling is 25/30% of initial quoted price. ;) But when they have the major sales come July, the original stuff is really cheap. Almost the same price as in HK.

    Hahaha. The mainlanders staying in Shanghai are "unique." They're more intense as the other northerners or southerners re generally more civil.

    Aside from those, SH is still a great city to visit. I'd recommend you visit it for the 2010 shanghai expo. I think it's going to be similar to the 1960's world expo in the US OR wait a couple more years when they build Shanghai Disneyland.

    :) If you're going, feel free to ask about SH. As i'd been to most of the places there sans the ones on the extreme outskirts of the city.