Thursday, November 14, 2002

Beijing couldn’t be more different to Shanghai. Shanghai is clutter and scrummage, Beijing is wide and scattered. Beijing has mountains from Southern California. Shanghai has grids of sky scrapers that confine pavements to shadow and funnel the wind.
Beijing is crisp and fresh (well it was when we arrived, now it’s biting, chapping and ice-cream headache); Shanghai humid or wet.
Shanghai is neon, Beijing tinsel in comparison. Shanghai is construction and the demolition of the old and crumbly that precedes it.
Both challenge the most determined walker, Shanghai with the sheer mass of people and traffic negotiation and Beijing with the sheer distances involved and the monotonous highways to walk beside (in Shanghai you will walk through many people’s lives on any given journey – it’s far more interesting). Beijing is ten-lane parading boulevards with a smattering of traffic and eight-lane ring roads in gridlock. Beijing has huge parks and beautiful restored buildings; temples and city gates. It’s just more chilled. Shanghai has coins for small denomination money, while Beijing only notes. I have a wallet with notes that are worth 1.5pence. Shanghai has Bok Choi, haven’t come across it in Beijing yet. Beijing has ex-pats and the paraphernalia (Irish bars) that surrounds them.
As far as talent spotting goes Shanghai wins hands down. (although to be fair we existed in the domain of the pretty people – the fashionable shopping streets). Faces smooth and subtle where the application of makeup would only serve to add coarseness. Waitresses in restaurants would smile sweetly and giggly and leave you staring puppy-faced back into their eyes (in preference to de-ciphering the menu). We christened one such attendant 'Marble Girl', for a blemish we could not find upon her visible skin (the only inaccuracy of this description manifesting itself as a sexy flush at the top-center of her pale cheeks). She wore inner beauty raditing from a face on which the most expensive cosmetics in the world would be wasted. Her looks only surpassed by her ability to understand our request for beers to be served cold, and not warm with an accompanying glass of ice.

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