Shanghai Disneyland review

What happens when Disney expands into China? How do the master storytellers of Hollywood tap into 5,000 years of history, art, language, and culture? Answer: you get U.S. Disneyland with a Chinese restaurant and without any obese people on mobility scooters.

A Metro ride will get you in smooth modern comfort from anywhere in the city to Shanghai Disneyland for between 50 cents and $1. There will be a clean restroom in every station through which you travel and the trains run every 2-5 minutes. From the center of Shanghai it is roughly 45 minutes on the Metro to Disney.

Bring your passport. Disneyland has not been briefed on the merits of hosting a large population of the undocumented. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at a ticket booth on site (no line at 10:00 am on a Monday, one hour after opening) at a cost of roughly 50 percent of what you would pay in Florida or California. Lines for rides can be 30-45 minutes so it makes sense to pay roughly double (still no more than the U.S. price) for a “Premier Access” add-on that gives you an anytime fast pass for each big ride.

You can do all of the big rides in one day, but it would probably take two days to explore all of the corners of the and wait in line for the smaller rides for which fast passes are not available (you can pay about $1,000 for the super VIP guide, though, and maybe skip those lines too?). As a strategy, consider saving the Crystal Grotto ride for after dark. It has beautifully lit scenes that might not seem magical during the daytime.

Most of the rides are tame so it is easy to get inured to the dire warnings cautioning the pregnant, the drunk, etc. The TRON roller coaster (ride through), on the other hand, makes you wonder “Why is this legal?” There is a “recovery area” for after the ride.

There is a fun ropes course:

Alice in Wonderland gets a maze (how long before everything related to Lewis Carroll has to be ripped out of U.S. parks?):

I did try the Chinese restaurant for lunch, noting on Facebook “The same boring noodles with crab sauce as at US Disney parks.”

Prices are fairly reasonable, but the most sensible strategy is to have lunch in the adjacent “town” that has a bunch of ordinary restaurants, including a Cheesecake Factory(!), selling Shanghai mall-style food at Shanghai mall-style prices (e.g., about $5 for a bowl of noodles with dumplings or whatever; divide the 35 price below by 7 and remember that it includes tax and service/tip). It is about a 5-minute walk from the park to these restaurants and getting back in is easy with your ticket.

Disney did bring the best of American cuisine to the captive Chinese audience e.g., turkey legs and corn dogs. A water bottle inside the park is about $1.50, but most Chinese bring their own bottles and refill as necessary.

Skip Remy’s Patisserie. Maybe a rat can cook, but he can’t bake.

If you need a souvenir, the castle contains a gift shop with a $260,000 glass replica of the castle..

The parade (video I made for the kids) is off the charts with between 5 and 20 dancers milling around each float and one float per movie. People begin occupying prime spots 30 minutes before it starts, though the Premier Access top level pass should give you a dedicated viewing area. It is helpful to be at least 6′ tall if you’re not going to arrive well before.

Going back to a downtown hotel is as easy as strolling to the Metro station:

Overall: a much better experience than in the U.S. Disney park due to the reduced crowding, a fun activity for an off-peak weekday if you’re in Shanghai, not too much Chinese-specific design.

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NYT promoted the idea of more authority in the White House…

…. but it was in 2012, during the Obama administration: “Why China’s Political Model Is Superior”

Some excepts:

Many have characterized the competition between these two giants as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. But this is false. America and China view their political systems in fundamentally different ways: whereas America sees democratic government as an end in itself, China sees its current form of government, or any political system for that matter, merely as a means to achieving larger national ends.

The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.

The West seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when its survival may depend on such a shift. In this sense, America today is similar to the old Soviet Union, which also viewed its political system as the ultimate end.

Certainly the elites would be happier today if they’d remembered to take voting rights away from anyone who doesn’t live in a coastal city, thus making the U.S. “less democratic” if not “less Democratic”!

(Regarding the similarity to the Soviet system, Russian immigrant friends say that a big difference is “Back in Russia, we didn’t believe the propaganda.”)

I wonder if this article could get published today, now that the NYT tells us that we have an unbalanced strongman in the White House.

How did this come up? Some Facebook friends were sharing their excitement over the latest strike by government-employed teachers in Chicago (“Still no deal for Chicago Teachers Union, city after marathon talks as walkout enters 9th day”). My comment:

While Americans argue about how much teachers should get paid, people in China are teaching and studying…

Predictably, this was not appreciated by the righteous. Striking workers, even when they’re avoiding teaching American children, are a beautiful sight. They said that it was irrelevant that Chinese students are studying because Chinese schools are of low quality. This was also a good chance to bash Chinese society:

I don’t think we typically hold China as our human rights/equity model.

Are you aware that China is a dictatorship with one official political party?

I replied wondering if China’s political system at the municipal level is that different from what Chicago has. Both Shanghai and Chicago will have one political party, but multiple candidates in elections. I pointed out despite the lack of any partisan division, the Americans in all-Democrat Chicago could not reach a consensus on appropriate pay and the result was an interruption in their children’s education. In China, by contrast, the divisions among people are not so great that it prevents them from continuing to operate schools.

I do wonder why it is socially acceptable for Americans to whitesplain the inferiority of nearly everything that happens in China. Most of the whitesplaining is contradicted by recent GDP growth data and a history of thousands of years of stable government within China (the Ming dynasty alone lasted for longer than the U.S. thus far). But even without these data, why is it always okay to bash China? Whatever the merits of their political system might be, China has not sent its military halfway across the planet to start wars. American Freedom (TM) means an imprisonment rate that is 5X as high as China’s. Whatever the system is for compensating teachers in China, the work is voluntary (i.e., teachers could quit if they don’t like it, just as a schoolteacher in the U.S. could quit (though American teachers are only 1/4 as likely to quit as American workers on average (Fortune)).

The average Chinese citizen does not have a huge say in how government operates, but the same can be said for the average U.S. citizen.

Why is it okay to look at a Chinese achievement, e.g., Tesla building a Shanghai car factory in 168 working days, and then say “well, their system of government is inferior to what we have”?

(Separately, I wonder if the fight around teacher salary is China-related. The average teacher in Chicago under the city’s latest offer will be earning over $100,000 per year within a few years, plus a guaranteed pension and other benefits worth another $100,000/year or so. Yet in a globalized economy with a growing population, including a rapidly growing Chinese middle class, $200,000/year in total compensation isn’t sufficient to command what would be an acceptable (to the teacher) share of resources.)

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Electronic device security traveling in China

There are a lot of dire warnings about traveling to China with a smartphone and laptop. Examples:


Is the situation truly riskier than in the U.S.? What special tools do attackers in China have that couldn’t be deployed at a Starbucks in Peoria?

I’m not worried about someone from the Chinese government reading all of my email. Any opinions that I have about China and the Chinese government are already published here on this blog (and they’re mostly wrong! In 2003, I predicted that the Chinese would be able to make and export a basic automobile for $2,000 to $3,000 (at most $4,200 in today’s mini-dollars). As of 2016, there was a $2,400 Chinese four-seat car, but it lacks A/C and other “basics”. Today there is a $9,000 Chinese made four-door electric car.)

I wouldn’t want someone transferring money out of my online banking accounts, using my credit cards, etc., however. Given two-factor authentication with text messages to my phone, can people truly do that without having control of my mobile number?

Update: Based on Denis’s comment below, I updated the “SIM PIN” on my iPhone away from the Verizon factory default. I hope that is what he meant by “Make sure your sim is locked.”

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Shanghai has already accomplished what will take Californians more than 4 years

I’m planning a trip to Shanghai, November 13-24.

From the Okura Garden web site:

In accordance with the Shanghai municipal environment regulations, unless requested by staying hotel guest, the hotel no longer proactively provides single-use toiletry amenities such as toothbrush, comb, razor, nail file and shoe mitt from July 1st, 2019. If you have further inquiry please contact the hotel’s guest services.

I think this proves my theory that it will be the Chinese who will save Planet Earth. Californians will need until 2024 to achieve this goal (previous post).

Separately, who wants to get together in Shanghai, Suzhou, or Hangzhou?

What about hotels? Okura Garden comes up as “best value” in the booking engines. Is it better to stay right on the Bund? I will be visiting NYU Shanghai across the river, but mostly hitting all of the tourist sites, museums, etc.

(Airfares to China show the absurd lack of competition for domestic travel. The basic fare plus tax from Boston to Shanghai, 14+ hours of flight time, is $590 (United, with a connection) or $640 (Hainan, nonstop).)

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Were young people in China studying and working during the Climate Strike?

Here’s a dumb question, but I haven’t seen it answered in the media: What were young folks in China doing while #ClimateStrike was trending worldwide last week?


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If fentanyl has been legal in China, why so few addicts?

“China Bans All Types of Fentanyl, Cutting Supply of Deadly Drug to U.S. and Fulfilling Pledge to Trump” (nytimes):

China announced on Monday that it would ban all variants of the powerful opioid fentanyl, a move that could slow the supply of a drug that in recent years has caused tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the United States.

China already treats more than two dozen variants of fentanyl and its precursors as controlled substances, thus strictly regulating their production and distribution, but it has banned those variants only after reviewing them case by case, a process that can be lengthy. And because so many more variants exist, and new ones are constantly being created, banning them as a broadly defined class could be far more effective.

“We believe that the United States is the main cause of the problem of the abuse of fentanyl in the United States,” [Liu Yuejin, vice commissioner of the National Narcotics Control Commission] said, citing weak enforcement and a culture of addiction. He noted that the United States consumed 80 percent of the world’s opioids while making up only 5 percent of the world’s population.

In other words, until now fentanyl has been de facto legal in China. Why does a Google search for “China fentanyl addicts” turn up essentially nothing about Chinese people in China being addicted?


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