From a fellow Asian perspective, China is a very modern, neat and crowded (sh… did I say crowded) country. I went to Shanghai and Hong Kong and both these cities were very modern with tons of skyscrapers, giant bridges, very clean roads and lots of people (did I say people….. again). You can find McDonalds, KFC’s, Pizza Huts on almost every corner of the street. I was surprised to see almost all the Chinese women dressed in latest fashions and trends similar to New York.
Shanghai has many sky scrapers, but among these tall new buildings is the old Shanghai city (Top left corner photos). If you see from a sky scraper, you will see sprawling 1 to 2 storey buildings constructed very very close to each and look like a maze from the top.
I couldn’t believe the roads in China – 5 lane roads and exits. If you don’t see the Chinese signs, you would think you are in US. There are traffic rules, but not many seem to follow them. Chinese drivers have very little or no patience at all and they weave through the traffic so fast, you forget which lane you started in. Maximum speed allowed in 120 km/hr (75 miles/hr) and again no body seems to care much (not even the cops). I didn’t see even a single cop car on the highway (I know they have better things to do). Anyway all the trips went well with no major issues on the road.
In Shanghai, there might be around 100 (big and small) malls at every corner of the street. And from my observation, Chinese like to shop similar to Americans. The mall I went to during the weekend was buzzing with activity the whole day. The other reason for the malls being crowded is that they are the only places that are air-conditioned in the city.
Finally, the issue I was worried about before I left to China was the food. It was not as bad I expected. Shanghai and Hong Kong have many restaurants that have vegetarian options (it may be just one or two items on the menu.. but I was really glad they at least had them). Chinese food is nothing like the take-out food (too greasy) we get in the U.S. Vegetables are generally steamed or sautéed in very little oil with lots of flavor (fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce).
For Chinese having lunch or dinner is a communal event. They like to share their food. I noticed that they eat a lot of protein (Fish, seafood, veggies etc) and not too much of carbs.
Apart from Chinese food, we (my manager and I) also had a chance to taste other cuisines. Our director in HK took us to a Indian restaurant (They even had hindi channel “Sahara TV” in the hotel). We went to Angelini’s (another Italian restaurant in HK and I had this awesome potato lasagna.. will try to make it sometime), Pizza Hut in Shanghai (that was our last meal in China.. we were both too home sick to eat Chinese food).
Below are the pictures of Grocery store and farmer's market in China. Grocery stores are filled with western stuff like Barilla pasta and spaghetti sauces.
All in all, it was a great trip (even though I am very glad I am back home) in terms of work and an experience to explore a new country. I didn’t have more time to go out site seeing, but will pass on that for now.. But I definitely would like to go back to visit these awesome places (photos courtesy Impact labs. See more pics here).