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A retired Aussie programmer from Sydney, I am an ardent traveller, student of things Chinese, and in retirement both an online teacher and online MOOC student. I write mostly about travel and experiences in China, and of interaction with Asian culture and people. Don’t expect controversy because, like a cat in a puddle, I tread carefully - but sometimes I just might throw in a ‘googly’!
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My very first sojourn in China - last century arriving in Shanghai (1)    

By LaoGui 老贵的博客
231 Views | 7 Comments | 3/17/2019 12:54:59 PM

Shanghai old town street

Arrival in Shanghai



Landing in Shanghai that March Easter evening was absolutely terrifying, not because of the thump or bounce, but because within a second the corridor was filled with luggage and passengers, whilst the plane was still taxiing at over 200kph and I had visions of flying bodies and bags and parcels and death everywhere.  250 passengers all standing must have changed the plane balance and stability, as with deceleration they all crushed forward.  Things are a little less willing now, thank goodness!  The two fellow passengers had already roughly scrambled over me in equal haste, unlit cigarettes in hand. I Stayed put of course.  The queue compression was a phenomenon I was soon to see again,



Disembarking and arriving at customs, at the rear of the long queue, about 10 rows wide, I noted the customs desks were empty, and they remained so for 45 minutes, until half a dozen guys trooped out with tall glass tea containers, sat, and leisurely prepared to commence work. By the time the 6 or 8 had settled and looked up, I think another 8 planes had arrived, the queues were now 30 wide and perhaps 100 deep. '8 people won't do this' was my thinking; service was somewhat less willing in those days - but it is palpably better now!



Curiously whilst the desks remained empty the queue inched forward, and mystified I was scanning around to see if there was some secret exit - but not we were just getting breathlessly closer, cheek by jowl.  Two hours to get through customs, and then there she was, elaborately coiffed and gorgeous.



As is her wont she ignored the taxi queue and leapt in the first empty one, only to be ejected.  So queue we did.  Then on the way to the Yangtze Jiu Dian . an argument erupted between her and the driver; in the middle of the freeway the driver pulled to a dead stop – not just an argument, rather a screaming match during which I was wondering who would be the first one to pull a knife and I was freaking out about stopping mid-freeway (15 years later something similar happened on the way to Zigong, but it was in a Daba).  Unsurprisingly there is more than one Yangtze Jiu dian in Shanghai, but the one 50 km further away was where he was heading.  At the intended hotel following a second altercation about the fare, of course (Ningbo people are indeed loud -宁可和苏州人吵架,也不和宁波人讲话!), we registered and were escorted to separate rooms on separate floors, the floors guarded and the rooms watched to avoid any possibility of consorting.  A funny night, and many more to come!



The Australian Consulate



Next day we went in search of the Australian consulate, for an interview, as it happened with a mustachioed and goateed Aussie.  On the way I noted with curiosity a long line of Chinese chefs march into the consulate building.  We arranged to return that afternoon.  Now that day happened to be the first Tuesday of November, a day of great cultural significance to Australians.  Melbourne Cup Day!  In the afternoon there were no staff, the whole building was silent and seemingly abandoned, so we wandered through and out into the lovely tree-shaded garden which was littered with beer kegs and tables equally littered with drunkards and the remains of an elaborate banquet.  The meeting of two cultures and an equally funny day.   The moustache and goatee were nowhere to be found.



Just one very poor quality photo, the old city street in Shanghai - tourist street (shanghai - then (and now, since on my study camp this January I returned there)



老鬼



 


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(Showing 1 to 7 of 7) 1
#2019-03-17 12:54:07 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

This blog, for the most part, reminds me of my first arrival in China, and several similar experiences to the ones you describe. However, I'm really curious to know which year you are talking about, because while I did experience much of what you did, including even the hard bounce of your flight touching down, but I did not ever experience the rush of the passengers to hit the aisle immediately on the wheels touching tarmac. They did bolt before a full stop, but not long before.

I can well imagine it though, and have no doubt it did happen regularly not that long before my time, which was early 2002. So I'm trying to assess how much before the turn of the century you are talking about, the better to understand how close I may have come to experience that. Frankly I envy you that experience, and I often wish I had made my way to China several decades before I finally did. I would love to have been able to watch the changes occurring during those earlier times.

I look forward to your following blogs, based on this one.

#2019-03-17 14:06:35 by oldghost @oldghost

@ja - 7 years earlier, 6 years after the Tiananmen events.  This and my next visit were at the height of the Pudong development, when the skyline was filled with half the world's derricks, and the streets and huge department stores were empty of customers.  An enormous jewellery store seemed to have hundreds of uniformed hands-clasped young women behind the counters, and only the two of us wandering the long aisles.

lao'gui 老鬼

#2019-03-18 18:26:24 by melcyan @melcyan

@oldghost

After my home city, Shanghai is the next place in the world that I have a great affinity for.  I love its history both old and new. I look forward to reading more of your words about Shanghai (my partner's birthplace).

#2019-03-18 21:57:56 by newbeginning @newbeginning

I guessed from the woman's fashion style the picture was was from the early to mid 90's. Even now there are alot of stores, malls and big apartment blocks completely empty. The Chinese motto seems to be "build it and they will come" 

Ah the Chinese trait of butting in and not waiting.....hehe They are even like that in my city. It seems thousands of years of doing things the same way are hard to break.

#2019-03-19 20:50:31 by oldghost @oldghost

@melcyan Shanghai is by no means my favourite place in China - these days I head immediately to Kunshan first stop up the gaotie line to Nanjing, about 20 minutes.  There I feel much more at home, and it is a short bus trip from Zhouzhuang, even nicer and cheaper.

#2019-03-19 20:59:04 by oldghost @oldghost

@newbie travelling by train as I almost always do, I see the empty or abandoned or unfinished buildings everywhere.  They are almost as common as the new developments.  It beggars belief.

#2019-03-22 07:58:13 by melcyan @melcyan

 @oldghost

 

"Shanghai is by no means my favourite place in China"

 

I have been to Suzhou but I can’t remember if I have ever been to your Kushan. The word “favourite” has no meaning for me with regard to cities in China. I feel bonded to Shanghai because that is where my partner was born. I have walked the same narrow walkways in which she walked, ran and played as a child. There are parts of Shanghai that have not changed much in 50 years, (probably much longer). The evening cooking smells fill your nostrils. Sometimes you can see the food on the kitchen table through windows. The food seems so close. If only I had longer arms I could have reached inside to take some. 

 

There are buildings that almost talk to you. One of her old school friends lives in a house that would have belonged to a wealthy family before the Cultural Revolution. This house was seized and reallocated to five poor families during the Cultural Revolution. The large, once grand kitchen is now shared on a roster basis. I ate there twice all the while soaking in the amazing history of this grand old home. Shanghai will always be a part of my partner. For that reason alone, it will always be part of me.

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