I’d like to say my first impression of China was a good one. I had imagined Shanghai as exciting, pretty and cosmopolitan. Just the name “Shanghai” speaks to me of old glamour, mystery and intrigue. Sadly, after an excruciatingly long 48-hour boat ride from Osaka, I was not so pleased to rest my eyes on this:
Smog. A huge cloud of it blanketing the city with humid, grimy air. I spent two full days there and the entire time I felt like I was suffocating. After just one city block of wlaking I’d be out of breath, my clothes felt stiff with dirt, sweat and dust. You know those little smoker’s lounges in the airport, where the air is heavy with brown toxins? That is what the entire city of Shanghai felt like.
Maybe I overreacted. After all, while Shanghai may be the largest city in China, it doesn’t even making it into the top 10 for most polluted (I shudder to think of what living in Lifen, China is like). But it’s pretty bad, especially if your body isn’t used to it. I miss clean air. And, to hop on my little soapbox, it really is a short-sighted shame that China is literally destroying it’s cities, people and ecosystem all for the sake of economic expansion.
So, I was feeling kind of down about my first stop in China, until I met Sasha.Sasha, the bright writer behind mind behind On Ur Way Travel and a guest poster here, teaches English in Shanghai and was happy to show me around the city. In addition to my first amazing chinese meal, she showed me around Shanghai after dark , which is a whole new world.
At night brilliant electricity courses and crackles through the buildings of Shanghai, lighting the city up like a Christmas tree. The buildings of Pudong (Shanghai’s business center) sparkle like brilliant ornaments while glittering ferry boats float up and down the river Bund.
With the smog hidden under the cover of nightfall, it’s easy to forget the pollution problem. It’s easy to forget you are in China at all, here finally was the cosmopolitan city I’d been expecting, full of tourists and locals enjoying a pleasant night out in glittering Shanghai.
I have a feeling China is not going to be the easiest country to love; with it’s harsh grey, smoky exterior. I think with some patience though there are glimmering jewels to be unearthed here.