Hong Kong vs Shanghai

Old Mar 18th, 2008, 07:32 AM
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Hong Kong vs Shanghai

Soliciting opinions on whether to spend 2-4 days in Shanghai or Hong Kong as part of a two week trip to include Beijing, Xian and one or two other places.

We enjoy historic sites/museums and eating interesting food including street food.

Thanks

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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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What about spending 2 days in each???
I spent a very very nice weekend in PVG and did the same several times in HKG.

If it's possible to do them both, I'd certainly give it a try.
For ME, the answer would be Shanghai if I had to do only one of them - much more interesting for MY tastes.

Best, Dave
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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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I had considered both, but I don't want spend all of my time traveling. I prefer places that arent' too westernized, so I was planning on a few days in Shanghai, but another poster thought Hong Kong was more interesting and the weather would be better.

What are your tastes that made Shanghai more interesting?
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Old Mar 18th, 2008, 10:15 PM
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The notion that Hong Kong is more “westernized” than Shanghai is a persistent one that is based on what I can only assume is a superficial observation by people visiting both places and seeing more McDonalds and signs in English in Hong Kong, and finding that waiters and taxi cab drivers speak better English in Hong Kong than in Shanghai. It continues to puzzle me that people draw such a sweeping conclusion from such slim evidence. I actually believe that Hong Kong is far more traditionally Chinese than Shanghai ever was or at least has been for the better part of the last century; as Shanghai was a village backwater which was given to foreigners as war reparations because the Chinese deemed it worthless (not unlike Hong Kong), and then the Communist party and the Cultural Revolution pretty much destroyed anything that was left of traditional Chinese culture, at least in terms of what the tourist can see (quite unlike Hong Kong).

I frankly don’t know what people mean when they say that someone or something is “westernized” anyway. I take my shoes off when I enter my house, eat with chopsticks, cook in a wok, and speak some Cantonese and Mandarin, but that does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make me Chinese. Conversely, a Chinese who speaks English, uses a mobile phone or a computer, shops in a supermarket, enjoys a good French red wine, and eats at McDonalds on occasion does not, IMO, loose any aspect of his Chinese nature by doing so. He may not be nearly as photogenic in a business suit as opposed to a blue Mao peasant suit, but he is not any less Chinese. Do not confuse the adoption of Western technology or aspects of popular culture by people in Asia with the adoption of Western ways of thinking or interacting with people; I would not say that has occurred in Hong Kong any more than it has occurred in Dubai. In any event, there are far more Starbucks in Shanghai than there are in many US cities, so don’t expect people in conical straw hats working in rice paddies or anything....expect very tall buildings, traffic, and everyone talking into a mobile phone. But do look beneath the surface in both places, as both are most emphatically “Chinese”.

As an example, I would venture to say that there are far more practicing Buddhists here in Hong Kong than in Shanghai. (While Buddishm was of course founded in India, its has been adopted in and adapted to Chinese culture, and you may even think of it as a traditionally “Chinese” religion.) There are hundreds of active temples, and several Buddhist monasteries. Temples are thin on the ground in Shanghai, but they have thrived in Hong Kong. You find street shines here everywhere, which you generally do not see in the PRC (at least not in my experience). There are many religious festivals celebrated here throughout the year, if you can let me know when your trip is scheduled, I can check to see if it would coincide with any of them. Some (like the bun festival on Cheng Chau, or the Tin Hau festival on Lamma) are quite interesting to observe. In addition, there are several beautiful old clan halls which you can visit here, they are still active with clan association activities; these are hard, if not impossible, to find in Shanghai as far as I know. There are several “walled villages” in the New Territories which are hundreds of years old but are still lived in and have been adapted, in some cased kind of bizarrely, to modern life, that are very interesting, IMO, to visit.

In terms of more mundane comparisons for tourists, Shanghai has slightly more than twice the population of Hong Kong. Shanghai has about 12 million people (I am not sure they really know the number), Hong Kong has about 6 million. Hong Kong has a magnificent harbour surrounded by lovely green hills and thus has quite a dramatic city- versus-mountain skyline. Shanghai is on a flat plain, and while it has some great views along the river, some good views from the tops of buildings, and some really interesting architecture, it does not have the same thrilling geography, IMO. There really is nothing like it anywhere else on earth. You can take ferry rides or hire boats and do trips to small islands, beaches and go by public transport to remote village areas in Hong Kong and can get quickly out of the city part, which is not possible in Shanghai, although you can certainly go to an ancient capital like Suzhou or a water village like Xitang for a day trip (2-3 hours or so each way by train or car). However, if you want outdoor activities like walks/hikes, bird watching, sailing, kayaking, etc, you have to come to Hong Kong. (I even know places on Hong Kong Island where you can find a few tiny farmers’ fields and people in conical hats working them; and you can find these is many places in the New Territories, some complete with a little temple in the distance with incense pouring out of it and mountains in the background.)

I would say Hong Kong is quite a bit easier to get around in as a tourist. It is much more compact and you can walk, ferry, bus, taxi (very cheap) or take the subway to everything. Shanghai has a very good subway system, but in a city that large is not as easy to get from place to place. Traffic can be quite heavy. The walking neighborhoods are more spread out. They do have some colonial pockets left with some interesting architecture, however, which are worth a walk. English is better and more widely spoken in Hong Kong and is on all signage, but overall I don’t think you would find this a big issue in Shanghai. Both have a good and growing selection of restaurants of many cuisines (many in Shanghai are in fact outlets of ones started in Hong Kong or Singapore). IMO there is a much larger selection of restaurants of all cuisines in Hong Kong (including various regional Chinese and all European) and they are in a more compact area, so it is easier to sample them. Shopping in both is good, for local handicrafts and artifacts, and local artists, although I would be more wary of buying silk and cashmere in Shanghai and the PRC generally (too many chances of fakes) and personally would never buy jewelry in the PRC.

Shanghai has a very good history museum, as does Hong Kong, which also has several “walled village” museums of restored villages showing what life was like in typical Chinese villages at various periods. (No one is living in these, unlike some of the other “walled villages” that are still actively lived in.) Both have pretty good art museums. Neither have sights of significant historical interest (you have to go to Beijing for that).

Time of year would possibly be an issue. You may not want to go to Shanghai in December as it will be freezing, but would love it in Hong Kong, when it will be in the low 70s F, sunny and dry. Hong Kong has very hot, wet and humid summers, although Shanghai can be quite hot as well. Air pollution in both is quite bad, I think Hong Kong’s is a bit better than Shanghai, but neither is good, Hong Kong in summer (roughly June to late Sept) has clearer air overall. Sometimes the air pollution is so bad in Shanghai that views would be obscured, but that can happen in Hong Kong as well. Take a look at weatherbase.com for information.

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Old Mar 19th, 2008, 05:56 AM
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Nice take on things Cicerone. I guess for us we're looking for one of those two places for our departure city. The flights back to the states from Shanghai are several hours shorter than from HK, so I had been leaning towards that. I'd love to go to both, but there are so many places to see.

At this point we're thinking of flying into Beijing, spending 4 nights. Overnight deluxe soft sleeper to Xian for one or two nights then fly to Chengdu for 2 nights. From there to Lijiang for a few nights and from there to our departure city. I have 14-15 days to play with.

I'm also considering a stop in Pingyao on the way from Beijing to Xian or a few days in Yangshuo, but I don't want to go to too many places.
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