Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dodging scams in Shanghai

Shanghai is like the New York of China. Skyscrapers seem to be everywhere you look and it's a busy place. I had planned to avoid it, but it was on route so might as well check it out. The guidebook suggested a whole bunch of museums and art galleries, but I prefer to be outside. I spent most of the day walking around, going through The Bund, the "Old Town" and the French Concession.

I realized that everywhere you go in Shanghai, as a tourist, there's someone nearby that'll try to scam you. While taking photos at The Bund, a girl approached me about taking a photo of her and her friends. I was happy to help. After I took the photo they seemed to want to chat and wanted to find out where I was from. The conversation was quite pleasant, until I realized that it was all part of a scam. As soon as they started talking about "tea ceremonies" and inviting me out with them, I thanked them and moved on. This was something I had heard about before. They take you to a fancy restaurant that probably gives them a few bucks and then you end up flipping an expensive bill. I would ran into another group minutes later that did the exact same routine. I also ran into the "art students" who lure you to an art gallery and try and give you limited time deals on their hard-worked paintings. I politely declined.

As I walked to the City God Temple and through the "Old Town" it was Rolex watches. Every single corner had men who were in my face trying to sell fake Rolex watches. It was the first time I really got frustrated with the peddlers. I bought a ticket to a nearby temple just to get away from the annoyances. The "Old Town" looked fairly new to me and it was like a giant shopping mall with couple of Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut and overpriced Chinese food. I didn't stay there long.

On the way back to my hostel I walked back through the French Concession. Here the appeal is old western style architecture. It didn't really do much for me. It didn't help that every corner had women and men trying to sell real leather "lady bags." I don't know why I looked like I would be interested in a "lady bag."

The only neat thing about Shanghai is how much it doesn't look like it's a city in China. I feel like I've already spent too much time here and look forward to moving on. Tomorrow I'll be taking my first overnight train, should be interesting.

The Bund:

City God Temple and Old Town:

Streets of Shanghai: