What good things can I say about Shanghai? Hm. Well it has a really nice museum full of ancient pottery and paintings and writings. Very similar to the British Museum, but with only Chinese exhibits. I spent a rainy Saturday afternoon there.
The rest of the city is not worth bothering with. Where to start? The worst thing in Shanghai is the constant stream of hawkers and scammers who come up to you offering fake watches and “massages”. They are everywhere and they do not leave you alone, especially if you are male and by yourself. Maybe I was paranoid because I’d been reading up on the huge number of scams. The best advice seems to be to ignore anyone who approaches you on the street speaking English, which leads to the second problem…
If you are learning Chinese, Shanghai is the worst place you can go to practice. Want to try ordering some bubble tea in 普通话? Don’t bother, no one cares, everyone speaks English and you are wasting their very precious time. This is actually the complete reverse of my experience in Taiwan (and other nearby parts of China later) where people seem genuinely happy if you manage to stumble out even a few words. The best example was when I was trying to buy a train ticket to leave. The ticket office for foreigners is in a different building on another street, because reasons. When I finally found it and queued up I proudly said “我要一张票去苏州!” and the guy just shouted “PASSPORT!” and pointed to the price on the screen. Typical.
Shanghai has a nice enough skyline, which is quite impressive considering it was all built in the last few decades. Do you know what’s under that TV tower? An Apple store.
Around Sunday lunchtime I decided to cut my losses and move on to Suzhou where I was going to spend the week at a contract manufacturer and finally meet up with some of my colleagues. I wish I’d done this sooner as rather than the drab Slough-esque industrial wasteland I’d been led to believe, Suzhou turned out to be surprisingly pleasant.