With no apologies for sweeping generalisations: if the British are a nation who love to queue, then the Chinese are a nation of individuals constantly forced to queue but for whom actually queuing seems entirely optional. Whilst the queues themselves can be quite specific (one queue per destination*), people will occasionally amble straight up to the counter at the front of the queue, push in front of the person standing there and argue/begin a transaction with the official without fear of confrontation. Unless, of course, the person at the front of the queue is British. In which case the Chinese pusher-inner gets intercepted and the Brits are served first.
In the UK there’s always the odd person who will attempt to push in, but in a typically relaxed yet infuriating way, those who jump the queues in China rarely seem to be chastised by those patiently waiting.
No doubt Tuesday’s day of travelling to Mount Putuo (or Putuoshan to give it its pinyin title**) would have been much easier were we able to read Chinese characters rather than just attempting to pattern match them against translated approximations from Google. Getting to the bus station was the easy bit – finding the correct bus to board took a little more effort.
Our friends visiting from the UK, Ann & Ian (with daughter Emily in tow), had bought the bus and ferry tickets to Mount Putuo for us, but in typical Chinese style (stereotyping again) they wasn’t allowed to buy return tickets at the same time. Yet more queuing…
So after a 7 hour (door-to-door) journey, we finally arrived on the island of Mount Putuo, situated to the southeast of Shanghai, for our three day/two night mini-holiday. A revered location in Chinese Buddhism, the island of just over 12 square kilometres in size is one of the few remaining locations in the myriad of Zhoushan Islands yet to be connected by a bridge. Well worth the trip; the island offers beaches, mountains, several Buddhist Temples and glorious scenery.
And whilst the “car-free” description is accurate enough, the island instead has many minibuses*** to transport its visitors between tourist spots. Still, great to spend a few days away from the traffic jams and incessant horn blaring of Shanghai.
It was also a great experience for us to spend some time in a location clearly not that familiar with Western tourists: other than ourselves, I think we saw perhaps half a dozen non-Chinese people in our entire time there. Pinyin was available to aid transport on the minibuses, but with little English spoken on the island, what little Mandarin we do know came in very handy.
A beautiful location and fantastic hotel (despite some of the guests****) – a destination to return to in future when less hot.
On Monday we’d travelled to Tongli for the day via private taxi with Ann, Ian and Emily. One of several canal towns within a couple of hours drive from Shanghai, Tongli is now a location largely aimed at tourists (commanding, as it does, a fee to enter the town). Nicknamed “Venice of the East”, Tongli has canals interspersed with tranquil gardens, tree-lined streets and, erm, the China Sex Museum (which we didn’t visit being accompanied, as we were, by a 2 ½ year old).
All-in-all a fantastic few days off work despite the heat (38 degrees at one point during the week), and great to spend some time with the Moulds family.
Another Internations event on Thursday night to mark our return to Shanghai, this time at the Sofitel on Nanjing Lu. With a bit more of a business feel than previous events we’d attended, we escaped from the main meeting room to spend most of the evening outside on the terrace chatting to an American lady called Kimyn, who was sadly only passing through and not a resident.
Last night I had a rare Friday night in whilst Bron joined her marketing colleagues for a night of Karaoke (or “KTV” as its known in China), Guinness and dancing. A curry beckons this evening, and hopefully a restful Sunday as work gets more and more hectic…
* If Mandarin characters are indecipherable, you have to randomly join one queue, speak to the official at the end of the queue before being directed to a completely different queue and start again.
** “Pinyin” is the term used to describe the translation of Chinese characters into Latin script for those of us only used to Latin letters.
*** I really must learn the Chinese for “Sorry, this seat is taken” as somebody attempts to sit on the rucksack positioned on the seat next to me in an attempt to reserve it for Bronwen (who was otherwise engaged commandeering miscellaneous breakfast materials from the hotel restaurant).
****A note for the loud, angry American guy in the hotel – it’s not the hotel staff’s fault you’re diabetic. Screaming at them to hurry up serving your cake, and then berating your companion else you might fall into a coma is not an excuse for your lack of ability to self-medicate (ignoring, as you did, the option to buy a bottle of readily available Coca Cola or similar sugar-rich drink). Our minor emergency (absence of Prosecco) was dealt with much more easily by negotiating a bottle of Champagne down to the equivalent Prosecco price.