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Ten reasons why I fell in love with Shanghai

by Mike

4 April 2017 • Sometimes in life you meet somebody briefly, and you know it will be a friend forever. No need to see each other frequently; the friendship is there to stay.

Our ship, the VOLENDAM, was only in Shanghai for two days. But after day one I already realized that my bond with Shanghai would last forever.


1. Stunning architecture

The architecture is simply impressive, especially on the Pudong side of the river. There is no such thing as a boring building in Shanghai. The skyscrapers are made to impress and to show off, and that's exactly what they do.


2. Skyscrapers growing at the speed of bamboo

The 24 million inhabitants (and some more to come soon) need houses and offices. There are construction sites everywhere and I am sure the landscape of the city will look different year after year, with more towers being added constantly.

From our ship we could observe the relentless parade of cargo ships loaded with building materials.


3. Must-see: the Bund

The Bund is probably the first place that any tourist will want to see. The strip of grand colonial edifices along the Huangpu River make you feel home in a decor which feels a little European. This is the place where you would forget that China is a communist country. The Bund is all about money, luxury brands, celebrity restaurants and corporate power.


4. So clean

I was so surprised about the cleanliness.  A piece of paper dropped unintentionally will not spend more than a minute on the pavement. It is as if an army of communal cleaners is hiding all over the place to get into action as soon as some litter lands on the wrong place.

It was also easy to find public toilets, which were all spotlessly clean.


5. A job for everyone

The Chinese society seems to be very well organized. There's a job for everyone, and there is the right clothing for every job. Chinese obviously love uniforms.

Police and security staff are everywhere. You might not see them until you do not behave. In my search for the perfect photographic angles I sometimes trespassed forbidden areas, because nobody was in sight. I thought... My attempts were always aborted within seconds, by a uniformed guard who popped up from nowhere.


6. East meets west

I love the interaction with the locals, which seem as interested in us as we are in the Chinese. Most people I talked with were very open and friendly, and English was ok.

The picture shows my Dutch colleague Ed Lodewijks, showing a picture he took at a food stall. We learned that asking permission to take pictures of people is the way to go. Well, that's how we would like the Chinese to do in our home countries too, isn't it?


7. Happiness 

Happiness is subjective and difficult to measure. However, my first days in China made me realize that Chinese are not so different regarding the pursuit of a happy and prosperous life. A job, good health, love and moments of pleasure are as important. In general I found the Chinese here more relaxed than the ones I see discovering Europe at the speed of a bullet train.


8. Ecology

I was expecting pollution and smog. Actually I was surprised to see the amount of electric cars and especially electric scooters.


9. Devotion

If there was one polluted place, then it must have been the Jade Buddha Temple or Yufo Temple, where worshippers light incense and burn paper bags with fake money. The constant smoke can't be healthy but the spiritual energy and devotion surprised and impressed me.


10. Chinglish

Once I discovered this funny translation somewhere on the Bund I started a collection of "Chinglish" signs, which at times are simply hilarious.


I am on a two-week cruise from Hong Kong to China, Korea and Japan, with ms VOLENDAM from Holland America Line.

Text & photos: Mike