Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Queuing with a nation unable to queue

Wednesday 20th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Not while I'm around – Jamie Cullum

Weather: Similar to yesterday just a little cooler.

I was up and out of the hostel around 8am; not feeling too hungry I decided to wait until I'd reached my destination before hunter-gathering for breakfast. Once again I'd have to head into the underground and catch 'line two'; once again I'd be doing this during rush hour. I waited on the platform where the arrows told me to wait and watched as a train, with Chinese people plastered against the inside of the windows, come to a gradual halt. Unable to understand the concept of queuing Chinese people, mainly women and the old, pushed in front of me and stood where the arrows indicated passengers to exit. As you can imagine, as the doors of the train opened, the people wishing to alight were met by a wall of Chinese people all pushing to get on. I held back my queue, shifting slightly to the right to allow passengers to exit the vehicle; however as soon as I did other passengers behind me moved into this gap rendering my attempts, to ease the flow, useless. I shoved myself onto the train and counted the stops. Only five to go.

The train started to slow once more; Outside a huge sea of Chinese people could be seen, each one eying up any kind of space on a already full train. Once again the passengers trying to alight had troubles getting through the crowd of people pushing their way on. The Chinese people were indeed pushing their way on; so much so in fact that one guy almost fell over as he entered the train. I let out a curse making sure the whole carriage could hear, and see, my disgust in the way people were behaving. Even cattle move from one field to another in a more orderly fashion. Eventually the train stopped where I wanted to get off. Again I took the stairs as these were vacant. Once outside I spotted a french bakery; I stepped inside and into a world of croissants, cakes and other delightful pastries. I picked up a tray and placed one butted croissant, and one chocolate mousse, on it; once at the cashier I asked for a hot chocolate. Once sat down I started to devour the meal in front of me. Now I'm not French but if I was (perish the thought) I would have been very disappointed with the food in front of me; the croissant was hard and the hot chocolate was very bitter. I couldn't understand how someone could make something - which should be sweet - so bitter. At least the mousse was tasty however I knew that I would have this bitter, hot mud, taste within my mouth for the whole morning.

I left the bakery and headed away from the crowds towards the riverfront. For a while I was walking along the side of a road, peering over some large bushes to my left, knowing that the riverfront must be on the other side. Once I'd found an opening I left the chaotic traffic for the relatively quiet riverfront. As I walked north I saw 'The Bund' across the water; even though there was a chilling breeze the sun was out providing a beautiful 'baby blue' coloured sky. I took many photos as I continued walking along the riverfront until the path ended.

I was now heading east along this never ending riverfront walkway. I was out of the heart of the financial district and on my own. In one way it was lovely; to be rid of the crowds and finally be on my own was magical. There were only a handful of Chinese about, the ones that were seemed to either be working or doing their daily exercise routines. I don't like to leave something unfinished, now that I'd started walking along this walkway I wanted to finish it however I was far out of the main financial area and, as I looked into the distance, I could see that the path showed no sign of stopping. I eventually decided to turn around, adding another bitter taste to my mouth. I was back in the heart of the action by 10:45am. I went into a shopping center (called 'Superbrand Mall') to purchase some aftershave before getting another hot chocolate, and a slice of cake, to rid me of these bitter tastes. As I went up the main escalators I noticed that they had a whole floor dedicated to sports wear. Eventually I found a 'Formula One Shanghai ticket desk' which I thought was rather odd considering that the race had finished last Sunday. It wasn't until I got closer that I noticed, behind the counter, there was a stock of F1 goods. I inquired into Mclaren clothing but the salesman shook his head. I then asked whether this huge sports shop would stock any and he shook his head again. I gave up and headed to Starbucks for 'elevenses'. As I ate my cake and drank my hot chocolate (which, again, wasn't great) I decided what my next stops should be. Next up I would hunt out the sex museum before finding my way to the 'Jinmao Tower' for a panoramic view of the city.

I searched high and low for this sex museum; surprisingly the Shanghai authorities hadn't sign posted it (which made me even more determined to find it) and, as I read my guidebook's description of the location, I knew I was in the correct spot. Alas it seems as though the sex museum had been replaced by a fake Chinese 'arctic adventure' theme ride. I left most disappointed.

It wasn't hard to locate the Jinmao Tower; with it's unique architecture it was only a question of finding the entrance to the observation deck. After a minor search mission, conducted by myself, I gave up and asked the information desk. But of course, to go up, first of all I had to head down into the basement. As I traveled down the escalator I read my guidebook to find out that the Jinmao Tower's observation deck is at the top of the building and should cost 50 Yuan (£5). This was a lot cheaper than the Oriental Pearl Tower (and without the queue) however, once at the cashier desk, I noticed that the price had jumped to 100 Yuan (£10). I left, not willing to pay £10 for a view of the city I got for £3 yesterday (Okay it was a scale model but it's the same thing).

Once out of the tower I looked at my watch noticing that the time was midday. I therefore decided that I would head back to the Expo area and purchase a ticket for the Chinese Pavilion. I looked at my underground map to work out the best way to get there; luckily for me the best line went past the 'Shanghai Science and Technological Museum'. I had no inclination in going into said museum (and, once there, after seeing the amount of school groups my decision not to partake was officially confirmed) it was the building that I wanted to see. Well that's not strictly true, I had been told that this was a good area to look for cheap F1 merchandise. Once out of the underground station I ended up in the middle of a market; it was indeed a good place to find F1 stuff however, it was mostly Ferrari and Mercedes. I gave up and after taking a couple of photos of the round building, with a huge ball in the middle, I went back into the underground and continued to the Expo area.

Even though it was late in the afternoon the queues hadn't died down. I purchase my ticket and followed the signs. It was at this point that my hatred, for the race of people all around me, came to light. Get a Chinese person on their own and they are lovely, in a crowd they are stupid, thick and selfish. As we moved, from one queue to another, people would start to push as they saw others starting to move. The old would start to jog and people would think of nothing other than trying to get to the front, or as close as possible. The idea of 'first come first served' seems alien to these people; even when the queue was stationary people (mainly the old) would shove people out of their way to get further to the front. I found it ironic that in a communist society – where you are supposed to look after thy neighbour and all that – I found the people here more selfish than in any other country that I've visited. I tried to make myself as large as possible, but it was no good; it seemed as though the Chinese people have had years of being rude, barbaric and totally uncivilised as they managed to push past me into the smallest space possible. We kept moving from once queue to another for almost two hours; each time I had to defend my position and put up with arms being pushed into my back. I tried to keep the moral high ground, really I did. I told myself that I came from a more civilised country and that I should demonstrate how things, within a civilised society, operate; in truth I did throw a few elbows. The military, on the other hand, were trying their best. They lead hordes of people as they moved queues; three soldiers abreast would march slowly, and professionally, with a rabble of people pushing and running behind them. As I watched this unfold I couldn't believe my eyes; the final straw came when a woman, with a small child, almost got pushed, and knocked over, into a barrier. It was at this point that I totally lost my temper and said something like “...The Japanese wouldn't behave like this...”. I wasn't even in the Chinese Pavilion and yet I wanted to leave.

Two hours of queuing and I finally went through security and into the building. Annoyingly I had to join another queue which went into an elevator and up to the top level. There I had to watch a ten minute film, on how great this uncivilised nation was, before being allowed to make my way down the many levels to the exit. It's a shame really but after queuing for almost two hours I flew through the building not wishing to read any of the information present. I would say though that the attractions, within the pavilion, were good; I saw a Terracotta chariot, I went on a small cart ride (which the attendant nearly crushed my hand as she put the safety rail down) and all of the exhibits were very spacious and futuristic. To leave I had to travel down a large escalator within a round room; flowers were positioned around the perimeter with a constant flow of water being pumped around the glass walls. Once down I saw a long line of cheap souvenir sellers blocking the exit. I performed a little pushing of my own as I opened up a gap which I stormed through. I headed straight towards the underground not looking back.

Once back at the hostel I sat down and surfed the internet whilst thinking about my day. The financial district had been lovely to walk around and the China Pavilion had been an interesting, and futuristic, exhibition. It's just a shame that both were spoilt by the huge amounts of people. As I looked though my guidebook I noticed that I was very short on things to do; with a whole day tomorrow I think I'll head to a temple, and an area of Shanghai famous for it's art galleries, before coming back to the hostel for lunch. I'll stay in the hostel until nightfall where I'll head to 'The Bund' for some night photography. The day after I'll relax within the hostel awaiting my train to Xi'an. Even though I like Shanghai I am ready to leave.

Toodle Pip!

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