Today we left for Xi’an for Shanghai, which is the Chinese city I am most looking forward to visiting. On our 6 hour train ride, I took the time to reflect on my experiences so far.
Compared to Beijing, Xi’an seemed much more traditional. To me, this was most obvious in the behavior of the people in Xi’an. If we were lucky, my peers and I were just stared at, but more often than not, we were photographed as well. I’m not sure how many Chinese people have my picture or a picture of my peers, but almost everywhere we went in Xi’an, people held up phones to take pictures. Some people asked to take a picture me but most did so without consent. It definitely was something I’ve never experienced before, but I expected it because there is not much ethnic diversity in China, especially in more traditional areas in China. After a while it even became fun to wave to people whenever I saw them taking a picture. They’d always smile and wave back and it made me feel less like a spectacle!
Obviously, a big difference between the U.S. and China is the food and eating style. The meals here typically consist of meat and vegetables. There is some fruit served and never dessert. Beyond rice, there are rarely other carbs because bread is not eaten often. Furthermore, the eating style is very different than in the U.S. The dishes you ordred are brought out on plates and people at the table graze from the selection of foods. The plates you eat off are probably half the size of those in the U.S., so the amount of food infront of you at anytime is much smaller; you eat until you’re full not until you finish what’s on your plate. As a result of these eating habits there are hardly any overweight people in China.
When we finally arrived in Shanghai I was beyond ecstatic! I’m a lover of big cities and couldn’t wait to see on of the biggest in the world. My first impression of Shanghai was that it looked very different than Beijing and Xi’an. The buildings were much taller and more modern looking. Also, there were many more people of different ethnicities on the streets, which further pointed to Shanghai’s westernization.
The first thing we did in Shanghai was visit the Shanghai History Museum located in the base of the Shanghai tower. It was interesting to see the history of European influence in the city and the remnants of this western influence that can be seen today (mainly in the sprinkling of european architecture throughout the city).
We ended the day with a cruise along the Huangpu river during which I got to take in the city’s sheer modern brilliance. We got to see several famous buildings lit up in a myriad of colors that reflected off of the moonlit river. I have to say, I fell in love instantly and promised myself I’d return one day.