I don't think I want to live in China. No insult at all to native Chinese, nor to any ex-pat enjoying life there. But for me personally, it's just too much activity, and too much effort. Likely if I did live there I'd get more used to the flow and find it less effort and more pleasant, but I fear I've gotten too soft living in Suburbia to handle a major city, let alone a major city in China.
I take back every good thing I've ever said about taxi drivers in China and how honest they are. At least in Chengdu. Out of 5 taxi rides, they tried to cheat us twice. And I don't mean just go a couple extra blocks longer for an extra yuan or two (used to that), I mean try to charge us 2x-3x the proper fare. And these are in licensed, metered taxis.
It's too difficult to find diet soda in China. On the plus side, when I do find it, it's usually Coke Zero.
Things are still cheap in China. I was concerned that between the USD-RMB exchange rate going from 8.4:1 to 6.2:1 since I was there last, and the high inflation rate in China, things would feel expensive. Nope, still not. Especially in 3rd tier cities like Pingxiang. One morning took my daughter to a neighborhood square to run around; we bought three rides on those kiddie coin-op rides, two bottled drinks (water and "iced" tea), and two "ice cream" snacks; total cost, 14 yuan (!). Compare that to, say, the cheapest bottle water I found in terminal D of the Shanghai airport was 34 yuan (but it was Evian).
Mixed kids still gets a lot of attention in China. I'm used to be stared at when out and about, but with her, it was a lot more attention. People even came up and wanted to have their picture taken with her!
I was more impressed with Shanghai than I was last time I was there (2005). Not sure what the difference is, but it feels like it's advanced a lot in the last 7 years.
Chengdu is backwards. I don't mean the infrastructure -- it's quite developed. I mean the peoples' thinking. I can't believe in 2012, in the central business district of a major city, one still has kids yelling "hello!" to all the random 老外. Yes, I'm white, not Chinese, get over it. I really felt the difference between Chengdu and Shanghai.
In addition, I was less impressed with the food in Chengdu than I expected. I've heard great things about Sichuan food, but we didn't see it. This is certainly due in part to our choice of food -- we didn't have Sichuan hot pot (too spicy), for example. But we did go to what was told were decent restaurants and tried Sichuan dishes. Not bad, but not great, and everything was much too oily.
On the plus side, I think Chengdu woman are more attractive. To me, Beijing and Shanghai woman are too skinny, Chengdu woman are much curvier. They also dress skimpier, but less fashionable.
I don't like jiaozi as much as I thought I did. Last trip (in Beijing), I ate jiaozi at every opportunity, and loved every one, down to the 1 yuan street vendor ones. This trip, had a couple of them, not so impressed. Only decent one was at the Nanxiang 1900 (at the Super Brand Mall). I even encountered ones I actually didn't like, first time ever.
I no longer feel the need to speak in Chinese just to show them that I can speak Chinese. On past trips, I've had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it; this trip, well, not only did I not mind switching to English if they replied in English to my Chinese, but I would often just start in English. The only exception to that was passing by a book store in Shanghai airport, a woman calls out to me (in English) "Do you want to learn Chinese?" I had to reply in Chinese to that!
The second best part of the Oriental Pearl is the History of Shanghai Museum (at the end). "Interestingly" enough, there are no signs in English saying what it is, nor saying that it's free (with ticket to visit the tower). It's a really well done museum, very interesting, with signage in English and Chinese (and Japanese).
Plane ticket to China for my daughter: $1400. Look on her face the first time she sees (and needs to use) a squat toilet: priceless!
What's up with the meaningless use of pinyin? As an example, I saw a road/traffic working with a sign on his back saying 交通 -- with "jiao tong" written on the back. How can that ever be helpful?
A much smaller percent of the people smoked than I remember. I remember last trip it seemed like freeking EVERYONE smoked. This trip, very few people smoked. On the downside, those that smoked did so freeking EVERYWHERE: hotel lobbies, next to non-smoking signs, even in elevators! And in bathrooms -- it seems a common way to smoke in non-smoking buildings (hotels, airports) is to go into a bathroom stall, lock the door, and puff away.