Amazing add campaign
People who made my travels more enjoyable: Michelle (USA), Selina (China)
The follow entry has been written by Michelle:
No one can deny that China has probably developed faster than most other countries in the last fifteen to twenty years. The evidence of such growth can be found in China’s own metropolis – Shanghai. As a child, my family never visited China very much, even though my parents were born and raised there. My mother and her family are actually originally from Shanghai, so I always felt some sort of ancestral connection to the city, despite rarely visiting.
My first visit to China was in the summer of 1993 – I was five years old and my mother had not been back since she left in the ‘80s.
She brought me along to visit with her family and friends who were still there. I was very young, but I do recall quite a bit of that trip, most likely because it was such a foreign land and completely new experience for me. Air conditioning was just becoming a common household good, there were very few cars (mostly bicycles and mopeds) and there were no high rises. The tallest buildings (which were only a few stories high) existed on the Bund, which is the area in Puxi that had mostly been dominated by the Europeans all those years ago. These buildings on the Bund still make up the view currently seen from the other side of the Huangpu River – on the Pudong side of the city. It’s funny – in 1993, Pudong was still considered “the countryside.” Now it’s the site of some of the tallest buildings in the world.
After that visit, I did not return to China until the summer of 2006. I had just graduated from high school and was about to enter college, and at some point during my senior year, I developed this need/desire to spend my summer in Asia. Japan was a given, as I’d been fascinated by the country for years and had never been, and I added China as my second stop. I thought it was a good idea to sign up for some summer Chinese language classes at Jiaotong University in Shanghai – I guess I was finally somewhat embarrassed about being unable to speak Mandarin all those years.
Much had changed in 13 years – that was obvious. For one, the airport I arrived at in 1993 was not the airport I arrived at in 2006 – Pudong International Airport did not exist in 1993 and Hongqiao Airport had been converted into a domestic flight airport.
On the bus ride from the airport to my aunt and uncle’s home, I noticed that we drove over bridges that didn’t exist in 1993. 24-hour convenience stores, similar to 7-11 here in the US, dotted the streets. Underground malls were everywhere and super shopping centers were being built in every neighborhood. I was shocked to see the presence of Papa John’s, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, KFC and TGI Friday’s, of all things. It was definitely an eye-opening summer – I was witnessing the Chinese people becoming an increasingly consumer-driven society.
After that summer, I was able to return to China four more times. In 2007, I spent the summer studying in Beijing, which was right when the city began its transformation for the 2008 Olympics.
Outside one of the largest malls in China
I visited Shanghai at the very end of summer in 2008 for pleasure. I was able to obtain an internship with the American Consulate General in Shanghai and so I spent the winter of 2009 living on my own and working there. Lastly, I returned in the summer of 2010 after I graduated from college as the final leg of my big Asia trip with my friends. I had a chance to visit the World Expo during this trip.
As a native New Yorker, I can pretty much guarantee you that if I left New York for a year and came back, I would not notice any drastic changes to the city, mainly because there probably wouldn’t have been any. New York is not a rapidly growing city – it’s pretty much fully developed with a few minor modifications that happen here and there. Shanghai, on the other hand, sees new additions to its Pudong skyline every few months.
In 2006, there were four metro lines. In 2007, there were still four. In 2008, there were 6. In 2009, there were 8. In 2010, there were 10. Today, there are 11 metro lines, excluding the high speed Maglev train to the airport. In 2006, the tallest building in Shanghai was the Oriental Pearl Tower (or as I like to call it, the Ball Tower). In 2008, Shanghai World Financial Center and One Lujiazui opened, both on the Pudong side. The Shanghai IFC and Wheelock Square opened in 2010. These are just a few of the skyscrapers that have been erected in the last six years, and it has all been an interesting experience to watch.
Somehow, every time I return to Shanghai, I find that the streets are cleaner (which is always a good thing.) Nevertheless, you can’t necessarily change a culture by simply adding new and fancy things to the city.
Pudong skyline at night
No matter how beautiful and shiny the subways and buses are, the people riding them are the same – you will still find yourself being shoved and pushed (even if the train isn’t crowded…). Cars have taken over the city, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people have stopped riding bicycles. A family friend once told me, “In the US, a typical family will have two cars. In China, a typical family will have at least two bicycles.” Traffic laws for bicycles do not exist in China, and pedestrians most definitely do NOT have the right of way. The key is not to begin crossing the street when the light changes – instead, you cross when everyone else crosses. I nearly had a heart attack one day when I was riding in a car with a family friend and she was carrying her 10-month old in her arms.
Without flash (blurry)
As she drove. I quickly grabbed the baby from her and she only laughed at my “antics” about car safety.
Along with shiny new cars and electronics, the concept of fast food has completely taken over the country. This is why six years ago, I would have been considered “fat,” but if I went to China now, I’d be considered “normal” or a flattering “slim.” Consumerism is really taking over and one can find the evidence no easier than in Shanghai.
It has been two years since I’ve last visited China – this is the longest I’ve stayed away since I started going in 2006. I can only imagine what new sites await me for my next visit.