Part 2 – (Read Part 1 Here)
So I Go to Shanghai (2008)
It was a long painful 11 hours flight from London to Shanghai. Tired but excited I peeped out of the window. The airport was not so impressive from the outside, a bit rusty. As soon as I stepped into the building I was amazed. It was very modern and clean. Nicely uniformed officers were escorting passengers to different immigration queues. I joined one, soon I was presenting my British passport to an officer wholooked at me suspiciously “he doesn’t look like English”. He enquired something in Chinglish, I didn’t quite get it. He swiftly called up his supervisor and handed the matter over to him. Show me your ID card, supervisor demanded. I don’t have any (there is no ID card in UK, driving license does the same job). What no ID? He was shocked. Having no ID in China means you don’t officially exist. Any other document, demand come. Luckily I had my driving license. The officer was satisfied so he let me into China. Thank you Sir! Fun had only begun!
Here I am in the biggest city of the biggest country of world. Shanghai has 14.2 million official (20 million unofficial) population (China is 1.32 Billion). As Chinese say, if want to experience 1000s of years of Chinese history head to Beijing, and if you want to experience 100s of years of history visit Shanghai. It is a truly modern & relatively new city.
Maglev – The Fastest Flying Train
Soon I was heading to board the flying train, the Maglev. Yes, Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) is a system that uses magnetic levitation to suspend (float), guide and push train with magnets rather than using conventional wheels; so it flies. The Shanghai Maglev train line is 30 km long and connects the airport to the Pudong district taking only 7 minutes and 20 seconds. The top speed of this train is 431 km/h (268 mph), making it the world’s fastest train in regular commercial services since its opening in 2004 (as claimed by Chinese)! It really was fast anyway but I didn’t notice it was gliding in air!
I took a taxi from the station and reached my hotel Motel168. It was an average hotel. My other colleagues were also staying here. My Italian colleague complained later that someone would call his room really late at night and offer ‘massage’! Pudong is a modern district of Shanghai with nicely built infrastructure and buildings. There are many offices here.
Do you know why they call it People’s Republic of China? Because there are people, people and more people here everywhere! World’s 20% people call it home (nearest is India with 17%). I have not seen such a crowd in my life (except at Hajj). Wherever I went, streets, shops, stations, it was crowded. I salute Chinese government on managing the nation. No wonder officials are very strict and harsh in dealing with people. It is not an easy task to manage such a huge number. The military like control was obvious. Perhaps it stems from their ex-system Socialism.
Having seen many countries of the world China is a complete shock to me. China has recorded history of nearly 4,000 years (unrecorded history is far too long). They have a unique culture which is absolutely different in every aspect. Everything is just different to the rest of the world, culture, food, appearance, ethics, language. I could not find many similarities. Let me explain. We start with the language:
Chinese Language – Mandarin:
– The Chinese language is called Mandarin. It is the most spoken languages in the world, and is one of the six official languages used by the United Nations.
– Chinese themselves call it Putonghua which means “common speech” or “standard language”. Actually China has numerous dialects & variations of the language. They have developed a common or standard language so everybody could understand.
– Mandarin does Not have alphabets, instead it is written with symbols. These symbols are called Chinese characters.
– There are over 100,000 Chinese characters recorded in the Chinese dictionaries. New symbols are developed all the time so Chinese characters are always growing.
– Chinese characters can be written from left to right, right to left, or from top to bottom
– There are two types of Chinese characters, the original and more beautiful one is called Traditional Chinese, It is used mainly in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and some tourist areas of mainland China. While the other Chinese is Simplified Chinese which is used in mainland China and Singapore.
– Written Chinese emerged around 6,000 years ago. Chinese characters represent the one of the oldest writing system in the world.
– Mandarin Chinese has four tones (pronunciations). So one word may have four different meanings depending on how it is pronounced. Mastering the four Chinese tones is the most difficult in learning it.
Chinese are Smart Looking
People here are smart; I have not seen any fat Chinese, probably due to their diet. Girls are prettier than men, with very clean, fair skin & thick black silky hair. Chinese are very friendly and hospitable people (I am not referring to girls only…). English is not spoken or understood commonly so communication and finding your way is far too difficult than you could imagine. One day I was travelling in metro. There was a girl sitting on the opposite seat. She smiled so I smiled back! Few stations later she disembarked. While standing outside, she waved; I responded back. She waved again; a bit excitedly. Then she waved frantically. I didn’t quite understand. I looked around, the train cabin was empty; all the passengers had left. It was the last station and train was about to leave back. I quickly came out of the cabin and thanked her.
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