Shanghai, population 24 million, is the biggest city in China. By some measurements, it's the biggest city in the world. I've visited Shanghai three times since moving to China, two years ago. The city is all business. The Pudong district, on the far side of the Huangpu River, is full of skyscrapers, including the Shanghai Tower, the second-tallest building in the world. The French Concession has beautiful broad avenues and boutique shops. Even in “old” places such as the Yuyuan gardens, shopping is the name of the game.
...I found a group of women from my tour and they invited me to have lunch with them, near the edge of one of the lakes. They were extremely nice and insisted that I take their food. I ate pig spine and chicken gizzard. They refused to try my peanut butter. I looked around and noticed that they were all enjoying themselves immensely. Maybe, just maybe, I was beginning to understand something about Chinese culture: This was exactly the nature experience most Chinese wanted. They valued shared experiences, something they could talk about later with each other. And they wanted to observe nature from afar, like they were watching it on a really high definition TV. Whereas I (and most Westerners, I imagine), wanted to be a part of nature, to walk through it alone, to listen to the chirping of birds and the blowing of wind, to feel snow crunching under my boots, to smell the flowers, to camp outdoors, to really take it all in, not just look at it. Maybe that was why I was frustrated and everyone else seemed happy.