My first impressions? Amazing, just like what the book said. Big sprawling city with infrastructure that surpasses many developing nations. Ahh… did I just see a bullet train zip past..
Yes, my maiden trip to the Capitalist pride of Communist China; here’s the low down.
The city was indeed welcoming. No problems getting in. Pudong Airport was about an hour away from my hotel. The weather outside was a little chilly, but nothing a jacket and pull-over can’t remedy. Since we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, we wasted no time in dumping our bags and going out for some sightseeing.
The roads and transport system in Shanghai was all swell. Though it can get kind of dangerous crossing roads, even when the green man flashes at the pedestrian corssing, or squeezy in the subway during peak hours. I had the opportunity to try the train one evening. What can I say. Singaporeans do not enter when the train gets crowded, but the Shanghainese, they will push and push till everyone’s supported on all sides by at least four other bodies. You don’t even need to hold on to the pole, and if you wish to get out, start pushing out one station early.
If you’re shopping in Shanghai, you cannot miss the Counterfeit markets. No Xiangyang Market, no worries, these entrepreneurs just band together and emerge somewhere else. In Pudong alone, we visited two big complexes that specialize in such goods. Even the rich Americans staying in luxury suites joke about their fake Rolex. Pirated DVDs are abundant. Just in front of my hotel, we had shops and roadside vendors selling them between 5 to 12 Yuan a piece. I managed to get a piece of the action, earning myself a well bargained Laptop Bag, Wallets, a Chinese Silk Top and a “Little Miss Sunshine” DVD.
Before you think I was only there for leisure, let me set it straight, I had to actually travel around 40 mins daily to our Shanghai Office for work and training. The training was given by a group of Americans and no surprise that they presented the material in their American English. What surprised me was that the majority of the participants were local Chinese. Each with a different level of English Language mastery but each bold enough to throw questions at the speakers. Now I understand why the Chinese strongly believe they can rightly be the regional headquarters for all international businesses and industries. And Singapore should rightly fear them.
I also had the chance to visit Suzhou Industrial Park, a massive project where large factory blocks sit on even larger parcels of land, some with front and backyards large enough to accommodate football fields. I guess everybody there must be saving space for some future expansion plan, either that or land must have been quite cheap there.
Anyway, in my short time there, I managed to squeeze in some time to meet Julian who is working with Marriott, Puxi. Had dinner with him on the 38th floor of his hotel (the hotel starts on floor 38). Coincidently I found out that his older brother was working in the same office as me, and by chance was sitting next to me in our temporary office. Just that he happened to be away on business in the first week I was there. Small world indeed. And also found out on Monday that Steven was in Shanghai for business. Too bad didn’t have time to meet up.
All in all, the trip was an eye opener. Imagine the city when 2010 approaches. I’m sure it will be more than ready to welcome the world then for the World Expo.