Having been to Taiwan many times before, I knew not what to expect of the Mainland. Even though we only covered a tiny fraction of the country in and around the city of Shanghai, I must say it has all been very enlightening.
Shanghai is a mix of the old and the modern, the past and the futuristic. Thirteen million people live in the city and not once in two weeks did I see an obese local, even though our culture basically revolves around the consumption of copious amounts of food at regular intervals through the day. It's uncanny I tell you...
In the countryside, the people live quaint, simple, productive, and content lives. They welcome foreigners with an amicable curiosity. I notice everyone is always hustling and bustling to get somewhere, to transport something, to accomplish something, or to eat something. It seems every city (even separated by mere hours) has its own local dialect and that everyone is basically billingual. The work ethic and hospitality are astonishing.
I was fortunate enough to see some niches of the country not normally visited by tourists. It has been fascinating to see a society that has literally been evolving for thousands of years to become the way it is now - the good and the bad. Whether or not it is better or worse thant the life you already know is simply a matter of opinion.
Thanks to our great hosts Ashley, Cyndia, and company. It has all been quite humbling to say the least and I hope future excursions back to China will be equally enlightening.
(for the record, I'm from Taiwan, not China...they're similar but different)