See both sides of the coin at the same time.
by Greg Shield , 2012
My girlfriend, mother and I visited China on a whim in April 2012 and had no idea what to expect (other than a culture shock of some description). What we got was a much more diverse and interesting place than we ever imagined. The trip really was a tale of two cities: the cool, sophisticated & cramped Shanghai and the wide open spaces of traditional, dusty Beijing.
Shanghai is a mix of shoe-box sized apartments and towers that reach the pollution perma-fog. We spent days walking the narrow streets passing live animals and vegetables for sale on the road, only to see Zara on the next corner. Lunch in Shanghai is lining up for Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings) and eating them on the curb in the rain. Dinner is at a classy European-Chinese resturant overlooking the river, lit by the neon skyscraper city of Pudong.
A short high-speed train trip and the scale of Beijing is mind-boggling. The Forbidden city goes on and on through gate after gate and Tiananmen Square may even need its own postcode. When the map betrays you and your feet begin to ache, a rickshaw is there to whisk you off the the Temple of Heaven. Just out of Beijing, the Great Wall is something you really need to see to believe (cliche, I know).
In two weeks we mostly noticed the stark difference between those with opportunities and those left to live in the shadows of the others. But even the poorest have a smile if you do.
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