We went to Shanghai for Chinese New Year to get a sense of how different or similar it might be to what we've grown used to in Hong Kong.
The main thing we noticed right away was the general lack of festive mood. In Hong Kong people are happier at New Year and will give greetings to everyone they encounter, but we saw none of that. Yes, the Shanghainese decorated and bought gifts and made the rounds to visit relatives, but in attitude it seemed to be just another day.
The only outward sign of festivity was the relentless lighting of firecrackers and fireworks all over the city, an activity that is still illegal in the Big Lychee. We arrived on Lunar New Year's Eve, and from about 8pm onward the explosions were continuous, but it was cool to watch them exploding right outside our hotel room window. When the clock struck midnight everything was set off simultaneously and the noise was immense.
Another difference was in societal behavior, where we couldn't help but observe the spitting and general pushiness. Hong Kong has seen a drastic drop in spitters after the SARS outbreak, and we've become used to not seeing much of it, but in Shanghai folks spit everywhere, all the time. And the pushing was amazing: people, even elderly ladies, would walk up behind us and literally shove us out of the way instead of simply moving around us.
I'll probably never complain again about Hong Kongers who jump aboard trains before others have alighted, because in Shanghai the problem was far worse. I literally had to bulldoze through bodies just to exit the carriage. On our way back to the airport we observed an older woman fight and claw her way through people trying to leave the train with their luggage just so she could get a seat. This video gives you a good idea of what it was like. To survive it, I had to tell myself to just laugh it off.
But overall we had a great time, visited plenty of amazing places, ate great food, and just enjoyed each day together. I came away with many fantastic photographs as well (despite the open hostility a few people displayed because I had the nerve to shoot a street cart or clothing on a hanger), which will eventually end up at my Flickr account. Shanghai is filled with incredible image opportunities, which is one of the main reasons we chose to visit. And we barely scratched the surface, so when we return we'll have plenty of choices of where to visit and what to see.
If we can get on a train, that is.