I am writing this on my fourth day in Shanghai, and for the most part, my impressions are still the same. By now, I have discovered the wonderful shopping area of Nanjing street. Okay, so…I don't shop. I know, I know. But I think shopping overseas is cumbersome and I hate to try to repack my suitcase as it is. Fortunately, I no longer have the desire to take home T-Shirts with the name of every country and city in the world that I've been to, but I do on occasion fall for the cheap knock off shirt, etc, this is mainly due to the fact that it's easy to wear out clothes while traveling and this is a cheap way to replace them.
Nanjing Road in Shanghai
Anyway, as I've said before, Shanghai is amazing and everyone should take a trip there. However, there are a few things you should know. If you are a westerner and you are walking down most streets in Shanghai, you will be offered Rolex's, Omega's, or whatever watch you can think of for ridiculously low prices. Now, no matter how tempting that is, you shouldn't buy them. First, they're obviously fake, second, it's illegal to bring back into the U.S., third, they break within weeks, and fourth, many times you will have to follow these stealth street salesmen (or women) to a "secret" location which means that you will go to some small scary closed in closet like shop and possibly have the door locked behind you…should I go on?
Alleyway in Shanghai
These sneaky sales people stand about every 15 feet amongst the crowds and creep up beside you as you walk while whispering their latest deal. Clearly people buy these things or there wouldn't be so many offers. You WILL get tired of it. Also, there are many other offers that you will have to fend off throughout the day and night. I hate to tell you, but aside from Japan, this is a very common practice in many asian countries. I'm delayed in writing this, so by now I've been to a few other places and I can tell you it does get worse.
Police Officer in Shanghai
One of the common scams for tourist in Shanghai is that you will be walking in a park or tourist area and some college age kids will approach you and try to strike up an innocent conversation. "Where are you from?", "What is your name?" etc. Unfortunately, 99% of the time, they are not just being friendly locals. The scam is that they try to befriend you and then come around to take you to a "Special Tea Ceremony" (which frankly would bore the hell out of me). However, once the victim falls for this, they are taken to a "Tea House" which is in on the scam and ultimately you will get stuck with a bill that can run anywhere from $100-$1,000. Yes, the friendly students will have run off by now and you can bet they will get a cut. As I've said before, I am the ultimate skeptic and I (thank God) have never fallen for these things, but I have found out about people who have.
Shanghai Locals Knitting on a Park Bench
I hope by now that I haven't completely turned you off to traveling in Shanghai, as it is overall safe and wonderful, but it's important to know that these are the kinds of issues you will face, and once I get a chance to write about Vietnam and some other places, you will see that its important to have a thick skin at times.
Shanghai Senior Man
Nanjing is quite long and is filled with shops, malls and very expensive stores. A large part of Nanjing is pedestrian only, with a few motor cycles that slip through. The funny thing, and locals will tell you this, is that Shanghai is known for powerful women who like expensive things and "soft" men who do all the cooking and chores. I thought this was a joke of sorts until I sat and started watching the many well dressed and very, very confident women who were strutting down Nanjing. I was scared. I took a few shots of them here and there, but frankly they would flash me a "You couldn't afford me" look and walk on. The outfits and hairdo's were fantastic if you like the whole "The Devil Wears Prada" kind of thing.
Although Shanghai is a shopping Mecca…you can't afford it. Trust me. Just wait until you get to Hong Kong. We looked in shop after shop and something as simple as a Lacoste shirt (in the U.S. costs $70 retail) would run about $165 in Shanghai. Most all of the clothing is marked way up. There are a few deals to be had here and there if you're willing to buy local things that you've never heard of, but mostly it's ridiculous. I think they say Shanghai is one of the top three most expensive cities in the world.
Shanghai Locals Dancing in Park
However…food is cheap and hotels are reasonable. For instance, for lunch we paid about $4 each for a full meal of noodles with beef and a mushroom salad, including iced tea. Taxi's are also very cheap, but make sure you insist they have the meter on. Taxi drivers seem to have the potential for crookedness the world wide.
Shanghai Local Grandmother Holds Baby
Two of the four days that I was in Shanghai were met with polluted skies. Yes, unfortunately there is a lot of smog in the air at times. I believe this comes from coal burning, but hopefully over time they will improve the air quality. Right now, Shanghai is preparing furiously for the 2010 World Expo. They have closed off part of the famous "Bund" that is the waterfront area along part of the river and are building multiple structures and sites. In fact, much of the city is being refurbished and added to for this occasion.
Young Lovers in Shanghai
As with most places on this trip, I have tried to take simple snapshots to show people what it looks like from street corner to street corner. If you'd like to see the second set of Shanghai photos, you can click HERE.