London, Paris, New York, Shanghai

An extension of the previous post is that Shanghai was nothing like I had expected. To be fair, I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but I was certainly surprised once I got there.

I think I was geared up for somewhere noisy and dirty and bustling, like Bangkok, or faceless and utilitarian like so much of Russia, or more probably a combination of the two. I knew that the Bund was pretty, but I thought it would start and end with that strip.

I also expected something different from the people living there. Most of what I knew about modern china came from reading Jung Chang. Wild Swans and Mao are both amazing books, with an important socio-political role, but they are necessarily polemic and neither of them goes past the 1980s. I extrapolated forwards and drew some pretty desolate conclusions.

I think I expected to meet a population that was broken, shell-shocked, quiet and automated. How vain and simplistic of me! The people of Shanghai are anything but, and why would they be when they live in one of the most beautiful, vibrant and cheerfully modern cities I’ve ever been to.

Far from the bustling sprawl of somewhere like KL or even Hong Kong, so often walking round Shanghai I realised I could easily be in Paris or Tokyo. There are beautiful parks, museums and galleries, without the creepy Stepford wives feeling you get in Singapore.

Shanghai is still young in many senses, but once it finds its feet it’s going to be as important an international player in the fashion and art industries as London or New York.

It’s nice being wrong when the truth is so much better than my assumptions.

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