The rivalry between Beijing and Shanghai runs pretty deep; it’s like Tom and Jerry, Ali vs. Frazier, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Beijing is the political and cultural capital of China, while Shanghai leads on finance and fashion. Beijing has smog, Shanghai is smug. And so on.
There’s no doubt which side we here at beijingkids fall on – the clue is in the name. However to live in China and not experience one of its great cities would be taking civic loyalty a step too far. So Andrew Killeen and his family set off for the town once known as “Little Suzhou,” to see what it has to offer.
Our first stop was the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. This is easy enough to find, as it has its own subway station, conveniently named after it. From there though, if you choose the wrong exit, you have to navigate through an underground market where you will run the gauntlet of eager salespeople offering you shoes, silk dresses and fake soccer jerseys.
The Museum itself is a vast, shiny construction, looking a little like a flying saucer. It boasts five floors of displays for a mere RMB 60 per adult / RMB 30 per child (kids under 1.4m get in free), and you should allow at least a couple of hours if you want to see all it has to offer. It’s so big I’ve had to stretch this account over two blog posts, but as a major draw for children it’s also very crowded, unpleasantly so in places. Of which more later.
My boys, being nature lovers, headed straight for Animals World, where we encountered displays of charismatic megafauna from all continents. They were delighted, pointing out the snow leopard and the red panda, but I was a little disturbed. Some, like the hippo and crocodile, looked like plastic models, but most of the mammals appeared to be – stuffed?
Another area featured a mocked-up rain forest, and stone caverns with giant robot bugs and snakes of dubious educational value. Perhaps most poignant was the stuffed pangolin. This beautiful and desperately rare creature was posed in a plastic ball, staring at us with glass eyes.
“I’m finding this a bit depressing,” Noah said, as we surveyed a cabinet which educated us about conservation by means of dead stuffed examples of the most endangered species.
I agreed, but Joseph said “I love it here!”
Then Noah explained to him how taxidermy worked. He nearly walked out of the Museum in disgust.
“Come on,” I said, “let’s skip the Spiders.” (The display was so packed we couldn’t get into anyway.) “Let’s go and see the Robots! Surely there can’t be any ethical issues there.”
Just goes to show how wrong you can be…
Photos: Andrew Killeen