The Chinese beginning (中国开始)

It has been on my high-priority list to visit Tibet, but as independent travel is prohibited we didn’t manage to go 5 years ago when we toured China. So we decided to put it on the itinerary for this big trip. 😍 October seemed the perfect time to visit as it’s the first month off-season (from mid-Oct) and before it gets to winter cold. As we would unfortunately need a Chinese visa for it anyway then we thought why not make the most of it and start the journey by visiting some friends.

On October 11th we got on a plane from Tallinn to Helsinki to Shanghai.
P.S. Finnair treated us very well, plane was very new and service was great!👌

So, upon arrival in the worlds biggest city, Shanghai (24 million people, 6.34 billion m2), we took the bus to Hangzhou (9.5 million people) and spent the weekend with Justas and his family and caught up with Ieva.🤩 We had interesting talks on methods to apply when raising children (3 year old speaks Lithuanian, Mandarin and a bit of English. Impressive!), feminism, economics, Chinese vs European etc.

After the weekend in Hangzhou we spent a couple of days touristing around Shanghai – visited the Propaganda museum, the Bund, toured around the key streets collecting ideas.

Things we learned and observed:

  • Traffic is very quiet. Apparently the supreme leader has said that the country should go fully electric by 2025. And progress is visible/hearable. Also having many new cars on the streets helps. You can see the Chinese wealth. Some people bring their scooters into their apartment – into the elevator and up to the 20th floor. 😂
From the elevator to the front door
  • Buildings and things get old so quickly. A building built 10 years ago looks 50 years old and everything is falling apart. Apparently the outside looks so bad due to the huge amount of dust (there is construction happening all around).
  • Health and safety rules are not quite there yet. Men are cutting metal without any glasses, in normal clothes and some smoking a cigarette at the same time. 🙈
  • Some employees need to collect receipts in the amount to cover half of their salary every month. A special tax receipt for anything you buy.
  • For Chinese there’s no definitive list of names, as in John and Tom that you know are names and don’t mean anything else. They just pick some normal words they like and that will be their name.
  • Hence we realized there’s no signature either, so e.g. when we signed the SIM-card contract they asked me to write my name and were puzzled when I asked ‘signature or name’?
  • It seems like they eat the same food all day long – no difference between breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • They order a lot of food – is it to show the greatness? Luckily it mostly gets packed and taken home later.
  • Most people have iPhones in the cities it seems. Or there’s a Chinese version that looks exactly the same. So Apple’s popularity doesn’t seem to have decreased.
  • There’s so many people everywhere, I think they would feel uncomfortable in a Baltic summer house where neighbor is 1km+ away. Like we feel here among the masses of people on every corner: for a weekend it’s ok, but I think I would start craving some privacy pretty soon if I would live here.
  • One child policy has left a big hole and created an excess of ca 50 million single men
  • White men are very popular here (among both men and women), especially Vaidotas, but white women don’t get so much attention
  • Toilets are mostly still holes in the floor. And I realized women don’t actually know how to use the Western toilets 🚽, they still climb on the toilet seat with their feet and use it like the traditional ones
  • As for public toilets, I must say the Asian version is more convenient as nothing but the soles of your shoes touch the toilet
  • Big brother is watching everywhere
  • VPN and internet use have been annoying. Without VPN it pushes you all the messages (on messanger, whatapp, facebook etc) you have received, but you cannot reply to them.

Compared to 5 years ago there have been 2 great improvements that are still to be observed if they are just big city phenomena or cover the whole country (last time we visited a lot smaller and more poor places too):

  • They have become more English friendly (last time the Lonely Planet guide was our life saver and we used it a lot to show things in hieroglyphs). This time I used google translate with the pharmacist and he had his own translation app, but otherwise we got by without any tools pretty well.
  • There’s no littering, and now even recycling bins are available. Last time we had cultural shocks and understood why the oceans are so full of plastic.

Foods we ate:

  • Sweet potato noodle soup at a local place (dinner for 4.5ppl cost 50 yuan🙈)
  • Many various dumplings. The pan fried (Korean) ones so far tastiest
  • Lots of egg fried rice
  • Pork, chicken and veggies in various ways
  • Found croissants at a bakery and they were so good. In Copenhagen no bakery knows how to do proper ones, but in Shanghai.. yum!
  • Beer (Tsingtao) is so much cheaper than tea, so had it with our food most times and it’s tasty beer here, very light. 🍻
  • Final dinner at Shanghai: Peking duck pancakes at Quan Ju De. The one we were craving for a lot before the trip and looked forward to it. It did not disappoint.🤤

In total we spent 318 Euros during the 6 days in China, from October 12 till October 17th.

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