The government were also paranoid about foreign media reports about China being shown in their own country. Every time BBC Worldwide or CNN did a feature on the change of leadership or interviewed anyone who had anything uncomplimentary to say about the leadership, the feed went off and the screen went black for 5 or 6 minutes. When BBC interviewed Ai Weiwei, I thought it may never come back! Speaking to an expat currently living in Shanghai, she said that they knew more about what was going on in the country than the typical Chinese person did. Censorship was still widespread in the media (as I witnessed). I'm not sure how much longer this can keep up though - they have more internet users than any other country in the world (500million), how do they expect to censor them in this digital world? Blocking of twitter and facebook is only going to last for so long...
Anyway, onto less political matters. My second to last night in Shanghai and as the following evening will be spent trying to squeeze all my tourist tat into my suitcases, I thought I would venture out amongst the pimps and get some final nighttime photos of the water front.
I have also run out of pants, but wanting to take some photos sounds a bit more organised.
So first to some new underwear. Giordano is just across the street from the hotel, so braving the constant enquiries of lady massages and sexy girls, I popped in to have a nose. Its a bit like Gap, only a little bit trendier and I think I still fit the Gap demographic (just). I was only after some pants, so two pairs of boxers, three pairs of socks and three t-shirts later I was on my way to the Bund...
I decided to take the 'back street' to the Bund to avoid the crowds and came across some nice colonial-era buildings and non-oriental lions on the Postal Savings Bank of China Building.
On Thursday morning the limo picked us up for the short journey to Pudong airport and our 13 hour flight home. The business class lounge wasn't up to the Virgin one in Heathrow unfortunately, but at least it had free WiFi so I could fire off a few work emails before going silent for half a day. The flight was a lot more bearable on the way home - mainly due to me deciding not to drink alcohol I think. Managed to watch Snow White and the Huntsman, Dark Shadows and the Raid on the TV, though. the entertainment system could do with an upgrade now. People are becoming increasingly used to having HD from films on their TV's and now their phones, so a low resolution film in cropped 4:3 ratio doesn't really cut it anymore. It could have been a lot worse though.
On landing, the immigration controls were lightning fast (Heathrow in doing something right shocker!) so I was in departures by 5:30. I had planned to go to the Virgin Revive lounge and get a shower and a bite to eat, but it was only open in the morning (you didn't put that on the website did you Virgin?), so I jumped on the Heathrow express and decided to chance my arm on an earlier train out of Paddington. Oh my, I had forgotten what a merry bunch of people London commuters are. The train was rammed leaving Paddington and I was already public enemy number one for having the temerity to want to put my two suitcases in the empty luggage rack. After lots of tutting, signing whipping of newspapers and muttering I managed to find a spot and stood until Reading and then found a seat for the final part of the journey to Taunton.
The trip was one of those experiences I don't think I'll ever forget. Possibly the only time I'll get to fly business class and travel to China along with the opportunity to sample a culture and sights half a world away - wow. The things I'll take away from the trip are:
- The staggering amount of money there is now sloshing around China
- Despite the complete absence of order in both the subway and on the roads, the transport system copes
- Haggling is not a humiliating or an embarrassing thing to do - its actually quite a lot of fun!
- Constant spitting in the street is disgusting and the quicker the Chinese authorities quash it, the better
- My hatred for MacDonalds, KFC and Starbucks grows ever deeper as they try (and unfortunately succeed) to take over the world
- Skyscrapers are beautiful
- No matter how you dress it up, 10-13 hours in an aluminium tube at 600km/h is hell. Having a flat bed and nice food just makes it a little more like the third level of hell, rather than the seventh (but hell nonetheless).
- Jetlag is a bitch
- Pimps all look the same and can be spotted a mile off, if you know what you are looking for!
- How a government still censors what its 'subjects' can and cannot do.
- The smell of fried tofu will haunt me to my grave.
So thats it for the Shanghai posts, back to triathlon training next time...