Shanghai, Hangzhou and Woman Power!

I don’t know if it’s the primal call of the few strands of my Mesopotamian DNA, or whatever, but I get a real thrill when I am in a big city, pulsating with life… And it doesn’t get bigger than this – the largest single city proper on the face of the planet, Shanghai throbs with the history of 300 years and the minds and souls of its 25 million denizens…

Any visitor to Shanghai is overwhelmed by its ultimate urbanism. It warms the cockles of every urban heart to enter the city on the Maglev at 330 km per hour, see the multi-tiered flyovers, whiz around the underwater tunnels and watch the industrious Shanghainese going about their business. I mean, where else do hundreds make a living, just taking tourists on a cruise to watch the glittering signs of the corporate megaliths of Shanghai’s iconic skyline ?

Call a halt and go into the streets under the flyovers, and you are transported back into time and of course, the Bund is history incarnate. Those days of opium wars when drug running made the fortunes of several corporate houses in India, now utterly respectable of course… the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession… and the entry of the word ‘shanghaied’ into the English dictionary.

How apposite that as you look across to the other bank, you see the rising towers of China rampant…perhaps, the world’s largest economy today… Shanghai Bund Interestingly, we were told that because of the single child norm, the gender ratio in Shanghai is so skewed, that the typical, treasured Shanghai girl can pick and choose the husband she likes, one who most fulfils her many demands. And remains a good and faithful husband all his life!

We did meet a really powerful Shanghai woman who runs a huge business exporting jade jewellery around the world. And when she asked her staff to present all women in our group with a complimentary pendant and insisted on slipping a magnificent jade bangle around my wrist for a ridiculously low price… well I truly felt part of a privileged sisterhood…

A day trip from Shanghai takes you to a real gem of a place, missed by most Indian tourists – Hangzhou. We went by bullet train, and unlike Beijing and Shanghai’s airport-like terminals, Hangzhou railway station was simply a cleaner version of any station in India. An ancient capital with the choicest architecture, a beautifully clean lake, and palaces and pagodas all around.

Hangzhou 2    Hangzhou 6

Hangzhou 3    Hangzhou 1

Hangzhou is also the home of the Legendary Longjing tea estates – the queen of all of China’s great teas. And the Longjingshan Tea Cultural Village is the ultimate in photo-ops:

Hangzhou 4  ???????????????????????????????

After giving us a tour, and a tea tasting, while we lingered before returning to Shanghai in our humble bus, we noticed a lot of the young ladies who whizzed off, each in her own car – a Merc here, a Porsche there, and the ubiquitous BMWs. And learnt an interesting factoid from our guide. This village has traditionally had a matrilineal society, and all the money is controlled by the women in the family, some of whom are among the richest women in China… Ha ha… One lives and learns…

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