So, we actually did it. We packed our bikes, desktop computers, threw in some clothes into a suitcase and moved across the world. Why? I’m not so sure. I mean, we’ve done it before and we were kind of bored back home. Also, I really want to see some pandas and be closer to India so I can see wild tigers. After paying Air Canada the amount of a third flight for our bags (they charge an extra $50 on top of a second and third bag fee just for bikes) and binge watching terrible Hollywood movies on a tiny seat-back screen we landed in the biggest city in the world (it is the biggest in some categories says Wikipedia).
Welcome to China! I have only been here for just over one week and it is already probably the most ridiculous country I have ever visited. It is unique, loud and full of character. Shanghai…where can I start?
I cannot compare Shanghai’s road traffic to any other city. The only comparison that comes close is a busy fish highway on a coral reef. If you think there is no way through, just keep going and cars, pedestrians, ebikes, taxis will make room for your obnoxious ass. The only creature that will probably kill you is a bus. They don’t stop for anybody or anything, not a red light or a big truck. They need to get those people to their destinations quickly, no matter the obstacle! Just today, an asphalt roller was holding up traffic putting along on 2 lane road and in the bus driver’s eagerness to get to the next stop, he flung the bus into the oncoming traffic to speed past the slow roller.
Cycling in the city is actually not as bad as many might think. It is like taking the worst, most stressful 10 seconds of my bike ride in Toronto and stretching them to however long your bike ride may be in Shanghai. Having said that, I feel safer on my bike than I do crossing the road as a pedestrian. I am just thinking of all the things that I would do if I were to get hit by a car. Would I try to break their mirror? Should I slap the driver? I most likely won’t be able to do much because the driver would just drive away. At least that is the impression that I get from the way people drive. Have you gotten hit by a car in China or Shanghai?
If I am ever in doubt about the 26 million population statistic, I can just head down and take the metro. It is always busy, it is just busier during rush hour. The subway network in Shanghai is phenomenal. To think that it all came together in the last 20 years is incredible. Shanghai has accomplished more in the last 10 years than Toronto has in the last 60.
In a decadent city like Shanghai, the disparity between the poor and the rich is very noticeable. For instance I live in a “gated community” apartment complex and the neighbouring old, run down, shanty town apartment buildings would share the overly pretentious manicured courtyard and koi pond if it weren’t for the 10 meter fence outlining the property. There are no cheap or old cars, all cars are midrange to luxury brands. The only Nissan GTR I’ve seen in my life was in Shanghai. Before I came to the city I was expecting more beat up cars.
The first week in Shanghai was a complete whirlwind and my first impression is pretty positive. I can’t say I had culture shock but some things will take some getting used to. I’m finally getting used to taking the subway to and from work during rush hour where I am for the first time in my life packed in with others like in a sardine can. Watching a TV show on my smartphone really helps take me out of the surroundings. It will take me no time getting used to cheap same day grocery deliveries, delicious food and confident Chinese that try to use all English that they know, unlike many Koreans that are too afraid of making mistakes. I will never get used to constant horking, kids peeing in public places and how stressful grocery shopping is on a weekend. It’s all part of the experience. I am in China after all.