yup, pretty much all of that land is considered forbidden by most of us... from straight-jacket government policies to the language and the food... very much an enigma for society at large. and anyone who's been there (and survived to tell the tale... :P - sorry couldnt resist that)... is looked at with awe and disbelief. and if you are a vegetarian, there are questions of whether you have finally decided to graduate along the food-chain (more of a PhD at that!)
so there i was, a short hop & jump trip to the land of the dragon... part aware, part enamoured but largely amused :) its like an ancient conspiracy... a project in mass cloning. every one of them just like the one who just passed you by! met l (almost all of them have an english name along with their chinese name) on the evening of our arrival and after the preliminary intros decided to catch up the following day over breakfast. quite unsuspecting, i would be damned if i could spot him the following morning! totally lost as i stood there in the restaurant amidst a sea of clones... saving grace - had he not walked up to me, i would have spent the rest of the day playing dumb charades with the hotel staff...
i must confess, just visiting ShenZhen makes for a very skewed fraction of the country. but thats been by window. an extremely young city that could easily pass of as an average american city... wide roads, american cars, swanky metro rails, buildings shooting into the sky... they say the place has grown from the prosperity of Hong Kong nearby. and with one humongous port to boot, things only got better. but what keeps it from being like any other american city? he he heee... :)
three things. they get those right and nothing could probably stop them. language, language and language. these people couldnt speak english to save their lives... yes, our interaction was with those in the MNCs and they knew english (they had to!) but that doesnt make all of china... a walk down the street and you will find the stores playing ONLY english hits. abba and their remixed derivatives seem to have taken their fancy around here. albeit, not one soul will talk to you in english. you could blabber and mime into eternity and they would keep smiling and noding at you like a hit-me doll... s & i eventually resorted to conversing with them in tamil & hindi. heck! it would sound just as strange as english!
and oh boy, those that do manage to speak a bit leave you astounded to say the least... we ask for directions to a shopping plaza supposedly nearby and lady staff in the 5-star hotel (yeah stayed in one of them! :P) says we need to just walk down the road and its right there. unsure, we confirm if a cab or bus would be more suitable and she rather animatedly, with all five fingers pointing to the pavement below, says "no! nooooo! yu wok on zis gvaund. ok." well, at least someone takes crouching tiger seriously!
and that was only the beginning of an adventure... entered a plaza that would remind me of mumbai's heera-panna or chennai's spencer plaza... bargain to your heart's content here folks. and you can do that rather successfully without a word exchanged... all with the help of the handy calculator. store guy punches in his quote and you need to respond accordingly :) and thats how it goes... right down to the basics there - conning ability against perceived value/cheap buys.
s & i eventually managed to get some cheap stuff (with a bit of help from l) - a shuffle lookalike... 2GB for INR450 equivalent (it was fine at the store, but now it only prefers mono) and an 8GB "SONY" flash drive for INR500 equivalent (it was fine at the store, but now its a black hole - files only get copied onto it) i am now left with a USB charger that i dare not plug any of my gadgets into!