Is Shanghai The Best City In The World?
At the intersection of the modernization at the speed of light and the preservation of its rich cultural history, only one thing is for certain.
For better or for worse, you will never forget Shanghai.
China's biggest city and financial hub serves as its gateway to the rest of the world. Its eye-popping population of 24 million people trumps entire nations, and not by a small margin.
Suffice to say, it is one of the most important cities in the world. Some might even argue that it is the best place to live, because in Shanghai, anything is possible.
Just ask CNN.
But for me, Shanghai wasn't exactly the way I envisioned it to be. After less than a week, I was ready to move on.
Here's my personal opinion of a city that really doesn't sleep. I'm curious to hear other opinions as well, so please feel free to comment below and chime in with your own experiences.
On my first subway ride from the airport, I was first in line waiting for the train to arrive. Once the train stopped on the platform, all of a sudden all these airport employees just jumped in front of me like I didn't exist.
Dramatic? Not really. I still got a seat and everything. I knew before my first visit to China that queues aren't really a thing around here. If someone doesn’t feel like waiting around, they just go to the front while ignoring everyone else.
Same thing happened on another occasion when I was in line to buy a train ticket. An elderly man casually walked up to the front and asked for a ticket, ignoring everyone else in the process.
Still, it was annoying as hell, and it was something I had to get used to.
Traffic in Shanghai literally does not stop for anyone. If you’re crossing the street, you better be aware of your surroundings. An incoming vehicle will under no circumstances slow down for you. We definitely had a few close calls.
Honking is normal and almost expected.
If you decide to grab a taxi, do know that a lot of them smell like cigarettes, since most drivers smoke.
And good luck trying to get the driver to help you out with anything. We had trouble getting our luggage into a taxi's trunk, and the driver sat behind the wheel impatiently waiting for us to hurry the heck up.
Just walk around The Bund, Shanghai's world famous cityscape, and you will see a fair share of skyscrapers and construction projects.
The Bund was my favorite destination in Shanghai. Although it was super touristy, the sunset view along the Huangpu River was magnificent.
The experience would have even been better if it wasn't for...
Coming from Los Angeles, I know a thing or two about smog.
Or at least I thought I did.
Shanghai's smog level was exponentially worse than one of the smoggiest cities in the US. I had a hard time breathing during my entire stay. I was not a happy camper.
If I were to re-visit Shanghai, I would definitely invest in a high quality mask to combat the pollution. But then again, I probably won't be going back any time soon.
What I enjoyed the most about Shanghai was not its lightning speed modernization, but its rich history fighting to stay relevant.
Whether it was the Tai Chi lady practicing her craft for everyone to see or the calligraphy man writing perfectly beautiful Chinese poems with an oversized paint brush, the older generation is not going away quietly.
They are staying at the forefront, letting everyone know that they are still as relevant as ever.
And they should be.
At the end of the day, Shanghai is a mega metropolis with tons of history and culture with a keen eye towards the future. Other than making sure to avoid incoming traffic, the city felt quite safe. Walking around at night posed no threats.
Public transportation options are abundant. The subway can literally take you anywhere within the city, and long-haul trains will take you to more distant lands.
If you don’t mind the smog, by all means, I highly recommend a visit to Shanghai. Many people swear by it, and probably think that I'm being overly melodramatic.
However, if you have any aversions to pollution whatsoever and aren't prepared for the inevitable culture shock, you should think twice before booking your flight.
Until next time,
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