26 July 2010
Nurture or nature; it’s an imposing question. I personally think everyone born within the large M25 car park is bestowed the gene granting ability to queue. Along with this skill is the uncanny aptitude of instant anger at anyone daring to jump said queue. It generates the same kind of rage as a passing motorist having neglected to nod or lift hand to say “thank you”. If you want to experience the most awe-inspiring jaw-dropping queues, you’ve got precisely 4 months to get your arse to Shanghai.
Queue at the ticket dispensing machines in the Subway and tap foot as it takes a full 10 seconds for the screen to refresh. Queue for the third time that day to have your bag scanned on the underground X-Ray machine (then wonder if your tech will still function). Queue waiting for the subway and then brace for impact as the queue of bodies piles past you. Queue at the Expo site for stunningly expensive 160Y entrance price and then again at security for your 4th X-Ray scan (tech must be feeling it by now). Queue for an average of 2.5 hours to enter your country’s display of choice (and with around 70 exhibitions, that’s some serious time and money to view them all), for the 10 minutes of attention it deserves. Queue for one hour to get to the first lift of the Pearl Tower and try not to get angry as the latest barging local selfishly jumps the queue. Queue half way up for an hour in order to enter the second lift that will take you to the top; painful. Queue once at the top for stock-shot of you-in-front-of foggy glass with white over-exposed background. Queue to come back down in torrent of hoarding humans with no respect or understanding for anyone else. Queue to catch ferry back to the other side of river. Queue amongst other queuing humans for shot in front of the Shanghai skyline, whilst under-powered flashguns go off throughout the night. Queue… queue bloody queue.
In total the day was spent with around an hour of viewing time, 6 queuing and 3 in transport. Whilst the Expo is something to behold, it’s a shame that the site’s size can’t accommodate faster throughput of humans at each display. The Japanese exhibition had a five hour queue according to all estimates of stewards and in searing heat, the two hours of patience-testing queuing in order to enter the UK exhibit was enough for me. In general most people agreed; the majority of displays were simply not worth the time spent queuing to visit.
To the top of the Pearl Tower and it’s another to tick off my list of skyscrapers visited. Though with so many people and no way of taking any kind of acceptable photo once at the top, it’s a disappointing way to spend so much time and money. It’s also one of the worst designed towers (if not the worst), I’ve had the misfortune of escalating. With only one lift to ascend bodies to the top ay half-duplex speed, the sheer number of waiting humans causing a compression wave in direction of the lift is relentless. So I’m passing time by jumping up and down on the clear glass floor to see if the architects got their numbers right – it’s the only other way to the bottom I’m sure of it and anything, literally anything but more sweaty pushing humans.
Shanghai does have some benefits over other cities in the North of China; for one it seems less racist and more welcoming to foreigners. With far fewer “lao wai!” and accompanying laughs shouted in my general direction, and a usually good command of basic English – it makes for an easier destination to tour. The People’s Square beckons some attention, but as more of an Oval and including a basic theme park and spattering of Coffee shops, it’s good for photo opportunities but little else. Females with hubbie’s plastic in hand will love Shanghai; turn a few degrees and there will be another shopping mall beckoning your other halves hard earned money. The usual suspects are hence also present, liberally coating the surface of malls; with Starf*cks, Burger King, Hagen Dazs and KFC easy to find.
It’s a city of perpetual development, with a monstrous appetite for construction. Visit the Jing’an Temple and realise shortly after entering that the 30Y entrance price was a waste of money – most of it being under tarpaulin. The high-rise buildings that flank it on all sides make what was surely once a mysterious and peaceful place of worship and thought, more of a tourist trap. The 15 tonne solid silver Buddha being the biggest waste of precious material ever, which would better serve Argos for hoop earring manufacture and sale to chavs.
My pick has to be the “foreigner street” in precisely the middle of nowhere. Imagine that in London – a street not only named as much, but lit with large neon signs at either end. Politically correct this lot sure aint. It’s the perfect place to meet people from all walks and with some nice eye-candy in the form of waitresses; a great venue to watch Germany lose, spend too much and miss the last train home.