Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sketches From Shanghai

Jet Lag

When you fly to China you leave the US on a Friday Morning and you get to Shanghai on Saturday evening. You have probably been up for like 24 hours by the time you reach your hotel and if you are lucky you can stay up for a few more hours until it is like 9:00pm local time and then sleep through the night and magically avoid all vestiges of Jet Lag.

No one is lucky.

Well, no one is that lucky. My partner and I did manage to get TSA Precheck. Both of us.  That means we both get to go to the "no line" line and pass through the "don't have to undress" scanner. Usually they only give the precheck to the father traveling with a large family so they can watch his actions. Either he will curse when he finds that his family can't pre-screen with him and then stay with his wife (all the while bitching) or he will go through without them and never sleep in his bed again. Either way, the TSA agents win. My partner and I had purchased our tickets separately, thus foiling their evil scheme. We also ended up with an empty seat in our 3 seat section. Heavenly.

But as far as Jet Lag, upon getting to our hotel room on Saturday night, my partner and I did sleep pretty much through to 7:00 am local and so we found ourselves awake but very groggy in our very nice hotel room looking out on a dark Shanghai morning. Breakfast is included with our stay here at the Shanghai Marriott Hongqiao and I predict that this breakfast is going to be a very serious daily affair. Something that will challenge my virtue and my waistline. Man o man there are a bunch of yummy things down there. Some memories: little pancakes and waffles with fun fruit toppings, make your own sandwiches with fresh vegetables and salmon, assorted fresh made pastries, a small selection of Chinese dumplings, noodles, rice and pork, eggs, tea eggs (chicken eggs boiled in black tea), roasted tomatoes, a ramen bar (I say ramen, but it is probably a local Chinese equivalent), cereal, fresh loaves of bread, good coffee, salad, bagels and locks (didn't see cream cheese), and a tap that looks just like a beer tap and says “Tiger” on it coming out of a large dispensing unit. It looks like Beer. But I am guessing that it is filtered water. Never did try it. Lot's of yumminess. Fortunately there is also a very nice gym here. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to download any Amazon video content from here, so how am I doing to spend on hour on a machine when I can't watch a free episode of “Rome” on my Amazon Fire?

After breakfast we escaped out to the streets in search of minor adventure, orientation, and a market. The market we were directed to turns out to be a (wait for it) WalMart. Only about a 10 minute walk to get over there. This is a Sunday and the streets are not too crowded with cars. I had expected to be seeing a lot of scooters like we had seen in Taipei. There are a lot of scooters, but nothing on the scale of Taipei. Instead the light transportation of choice that I see is the electric scooter or electric bicycle. There are a lot of styles to choose from but none of them have I seen in the US. The most common looks like a classic euro moped. The bike has been lengthened a little to accommodate what looks like standard car batteries slung under the carriage right below where your feet rest. This seems like a very reasonable construction method as it takes advantage of the car battery market and would certainly make the things much cheaper. In the US, the electric bicycles all have special ultra-light and ultra-expensive batteries built into the frame of the bike making the things pretty much cost prohibitive for a lower middle class person. Here, it looks like they just might be cheap. When I have internet again I will try and back research. (My Shanghai friends say, "starting around $200 US")

Note the Battery slung low between the wheels. May be a standard Car battery

This Battery has a handle. Presumably to take it inside to charge.

Doesn't this look ancient? The electric conversion is makeshift DIY

The other electric vehicle is a 3 wheel light delivery vehicle. They look like they may be handmade or hand converted from a peddle version, with the car battery (or perhaps motorcycle battery) just sort of siting in the back wagon of the peddle truck. But their backs are loaded with goods and the guys get on them and hit a switch and go cruising off. Now, they don't have to go very fast, 15 or 20 is probably fine, and there don't seem to be any hills or such around in this area. But still, pretty cool for inner city delivery and transport. Yet again another thing you wouldn't see in the US. They just look too shoddy.

This seems to be a more modern rendition. Has mounts and chains for the motor

What are other defining characteristics of the city? We were warned about air pollution on our way over. I got everything from “You need a mask” to “Oh, Shanghai isn't that bad”. If Shanghai isn't that bad then I doubt that I would be able to do Beijing. The fog (or something) has rolled in and now when I go outside I notice that everything sort of smells like you are walking into a smokey bar. But I don't think it is tobacco I am smelling. And going out into it for an hour made me nauseous.

Sorry, I had meant to take you to Walmart.

Certainly the biggest and strangest Walmart I have ever been in. The bottom floor of the 4 story building was dedicated to lots of independent shops. Clothes for children, Comic Book store, and a few jewelry stores. But these were sort of schlock jewelry stores. They were selling jade bracelets (mainly). There were 3 or 4 of them and they were these sort of booths sitting out in the middle of the mall shops. Like the kind that might be selling smart phone chargers back in the states in the hallways of the local Mall. So OK, Jade bracelets. How much could they be? I looked at one display case that maybe had 50 or so of the bracelets on sale. I saw the price and did the math. Had to do it twice because I had convinced myself that I had added a zero in there when I converted to dollars. Nope. $1200. Holy moly, I have never seen anything so expensive marketed in such a strange fashion.

We rode the moving ramp up to the Walmart proper and had a fine old time. The 2nd floor was much like any Walmart (bunches of cheap clothing made in China) but the 3rd floor was all grocery and that was much more fun. Large corner filled with live fish for sale. Well, also a lot of salted or frozen fish. Strange critters that you wouldn't be seeing in the states.

New Years Decorations

Some of the Chinese Fish swim upside down.

I have no idea. Ugly Fish. And frozen. Ugly Fishcicles

Rice seems really cheap. (Did I take a picture). Around $1 a pound? (Gotta do the math both ways on this since it was in grams.). There were also a lot of candy and decorations for some celebration that is coming up (New Year in 2 weeks)(You mean Chinese New Year?)(No, over hear they just call it New Year).

Let's Do Math. 2.99 RMB for Half Kilo. That is about .50 cents for 1.1 pound. Walmart says $9 for 20 lbs in the US. Hmm. seems to be about the same.
Editor's Note:  We did get our needed supplies and made it back to our room, now set up for several days.  Perrier (I can't stand to spend $3 US for water from the mini bar), fresh fruit, coffee and milk, some sandwich makings.  And we found the subway station, bought our cards and loaded a few dollars.  Jon is working at an event in our hotel for the next 5 days.  I've brought a bunch of work with me, and plan to work half of each day and go explore the other half (and go to the gym at least 5 of the 9 days we are here).


Finally had some sun today. Actually saw the sun coming up pretty and yellow through the haze of the city. That might even be some blue sky I see up there. Hurray. We have a lot we want to try to do today and so I guess we might as well be about it.

Mag Lev. No Rails. No Wheels

Around 10 years ago, China built one of the first commercial high speed Magnetic Levitation transport systems from the city out to the Pudong airport. My partner had seen this in a tour guidebook and realized that her engineering lover would go gaga over a chance to ride the thing. Fastest land transport in the entire fraking world. What is not to want?

in the Station

I didn't feel ordinary
Hey, these are nice seats. Perhaps we got into the VIP section

No, the VIP section is over here
AHHHH. VIP section. You get there 2 minutes earlier.

We road the metro out line 2 to the Maglev station. There were two  tracks going from the station to the airport. 30 miles. 8 minutes. 430 KPH. Oh my.

The train track doesn't actually have any track. It is a set of concrete slabs with electro magnets built in that energize to make a cushion of magnetic force that the train rests on. The train is “Magnetically Levitated” MagLev. Get it?

From the MagLev Museum

The Pilot? Engineer? He gets to ride up front

Then, the fun part. To make it go, you pulse the magnetic field at the right frequency and use that to push the train forward. Really fast. Smooth,even, acceleration. No bumps on the track. Over 260 MPH. ZOOM. So fast that there is a very noticeable tilt to the train as it hits the banked curves. Like a fighter Jet !! SWOOSH.

So Cool. So why aren't there these things all over China? (and Disney Land?)

Because the magnetic roadway is so fraking expensive. I mean, there are no wheels or tracks or just about any moving parts to wear out, so the actual maintenance of the thing should be pretty reasonable. But the initial cost is HUGE. Each foot of the roadway has to have all of those magnets and sensors installed in it. So even though it is 10 years after building this puppy, people are still arguing over whether MagLev is a commercially viable technology at all.

The main issue here may be air friction. At the speeds this thing is moving, the main thing you are using energy for is overcoming the air friction of moving along. That is why airplanes fly so high, to reduce air friction in the thin, high altitude air. So making a really fast train doesn't make too much sense unless you can put it into a tunnel and pump the air out. Oh, that sounds cheap, doesn't it?

Greetings from MagLev

My Partner shot this during the film below. 430 KPH = 267 MPH
Of course, the Star Tours ride at Disney Land goes TransLight

The view from the Maglev is also interesting. The monorail-like elevated track passes through what seems to be a debris field of trash and torn apart buildings. Things that probably shouldn't be inhabited in an area where no one in their right mind would want to raise their one child. But there it was. I am sort of surprised that China built an obvious technological show piece like the Maglev and then surrounded it with examples of cultural failure.

Or maybe the wind from the 260 MPH train blew these things down

Hey, want to watch the 6 minute Video of the ride back from the Airport?

Downtown (don't wait a minute more)

10 years ago, there were only 2 subway lines.

You can ride Line 10 from the Hongqiao (Hong Chow) area right into downtown Shanghai. Change to line 2 a stop or two after Yuyuan (you yawn) garden and ride just one stop to Nanjing, change lines and get off at Luijiazui. This is the big building center of the city (at least on the East side of the river).

Some nice decorations in the subway.
Remember, a lot of this is new in the last decade

This is electric signage. The adds changes. In China, you can't show cleavage,
But you can evidently intimate all you want.
I think the English for this was "One Night Stud". Movie? Play? Delivery Service?

Well Japanese anime girls can show anything they want.
This train was themed to this anime both outside and in.
Get out of the subway and walk until you run into people that have stopped on the sidewalk and are aiming their cameras up. Look up. Right there in front of you is the Alien spacecraft that landed on earth in 1990 and the Shanghai people have been pretending is actually a radio tower and observatory.

Alien Spaceship or "TV TOWER". You decide

If you go to the base of the spaceship there is a ticket office where you can pay hundreds of RMB for the privilege of going up to various levels in the vessel. Presumably the aliens use this to fund their research and also provide them with unwitting test subjects for brain and anal probing. My partner and I were a bit too wise to fall for their little tricks, however. And it was too expensive. I think it was 240 Yuan (how does one make the yuan sign in text language. Must be a way.¥ there. Let me start over). I think it was ¥240. That is like $40 per person. (and the day we checked it out it was cold and raining and cloudy and the view would have sucked). 

Anyway. Spaceships. Alien Invaders. Unclear that the Shanghai people were completely surprised by the arrival of the Aliens as many of the structures in the immediate vincinity are clearly anti-spacecraft ray beam guns. A virtual array of them exists just to the west. Hell, maybe they shot the aliens down and are now doing experiments on THEM !! HA !! That will teach those alien scum.

Nearby Plasma Ray Projectors protect the city.
If only Tokyo had these in the 60s they would have been safe from Godzilla

It also turns out there there were these 3 guys in Shanghai who had a lot of money and who were evidently in some sort of Freudian competition with each other in a architectural sort of way. One guy built his “tallest building in Shanghai” and then the other two had to come in and build one a couple of floors higher and a little more impressive. And to really rub salt in the wound, each one built their tower  right next to their rival. I mean, right next to. Across the street right next to. Holy smokes that must have pissed off the first guy. Here are some pictures of the buildings.

Not sure how much further up that one on the right goes

One of them is designed to look very Chinese. From a distance it looks very intense. A intentional mixture of modern structure with ancient styling. On closer inspection the oriental shape of the outline is all created by a metal rod facade and sort of ugly.

This shows the oriental looking building and the brief case handle

The next building, at least in height, is the world trade center. It looks like some sort of huge piece of modern luggage, with a nice little handle up on top. The rates for going to the observatory were a little better than the TV tower (but we still decided against it).

The last building is the tallest and by far the coolest looking. It is a crystal spiral bounding up to the clouds. It isn't finished yet, we couldn't get into the base of it, but the structure appears to be done. It not only has the spiral but, if you look at the pictures, you should be able to see that it has an inner core that will have the inhabitable spaces, surrounded by an empty shell. For beauty? For Cooling? For ease of transporting goods through the launched craft in zero G whilst en route to the Alien's planet?

You can see inside of it. Is this for Cooling?

All along the base of these giants are sprawled the most expensive and exlusive shopping malls that a mere earthling could ever hope to find. The IFC mall had Loius Vu
itton, Gucci, Cartier and others and if you walked over on the sky bridge you would come to the Super Brand Mall, which was full of dozens of small shops with what I assume are famous designer names for people with pants stuffed full of ¥10,000 bills. I checked my pants and they indicated that I did not recognize the designer names.

That is a tree made of gold chocolates. For New Year Celebration next week (CNY)
A very small lady with very big feet

Perhaps this picture is sideways.......

Wait... Sky Bridge? Yes, there is a nice walkway one story above the roads that winds around from the metro station to the various tall buildings and shopping malls. All very nice.

BKM for River Ride

So, you want to take a short boat ride on the HuangPo river but you need a BKM (Best Known Method) to assist in having a possitive experience. Here it is:
  1. Follow the BKM on getting a Metro card and learning the Metro.
  2. Take the Metro to the Nanjing road (east) stop.
  3. Gasp and take a picture of the TV Tower.
    1. Ask the young gasping couple next to you to take your picture in return for taking theirs.

  4. Go up the escalator to the skywalk.

  5. Head clockwise around the circular skywalk generally toward the Radio Tower. It is quicker to go anti-clockwise, but you want clockwise. Trust me.

  6. As you cross the road, look off to your left. Note the big 3 buildings. Gasp a little more. Take some more pictures. Note that the Church of Jobs is very predominant in China. Continue on.

    The Church of Jobs in Downtown Shanghai

  7. As you pass the “Super Brand Mall” realize that you really need to use a bathroom. You won't find any bathrooms further on nor would you have found them if you had gone clockwise. In fact, if you had gone clockwise you would have:
    1. Gone to the base of the TV tower and found that the rate was too expensive.
    2. Inquired at the little Tourist Information shop about actual prices.
    3. Found a very enthusiastic young woman eager to practice her English.
    4. Had the following conversation:
      1. Can you tell me where a restroom is?
        1. You are tired? You need to rest?
      2. No. A washroom. Where is a washroom?
        1. You need to wash your hands?
      3. A bathroom.
        1. You need to take a bath?
      4. No. I need to urinate.
        1. Urinate? Hmm. Urinate. I don't know that... oh oh. You need a toilet !!
      5. Yes. A Toilet.
        1. Oh, no toilet here. You should have read the BKM and gone clockwise around the skywalk. So sorry.
    5. You might spend some time ruminating on how an English student might learn the word “urinate” but not learn the American euphemism “bathroom”.
  8. Upon entering the Super Brand Mall veer to the right and go must past Malco Marco (or some similar store) and turn right into the restroom area. I mean, the washroom area. I mean, the Urination Facility.
  9. Bathe
  10. At this point you could wander around the mall a little. If it is near New Year (and by that, I mean Chinese New Year, which, in China, they call New Year) you will see a lot of gold and chocolate. In fact, it looked like there were young women dressing up as dancing gold chocolates, but I digress.
    The Bathroom is to the left
    Inside Super Brand Mall (Notice the wigs, everywhere)

  11. Exit the mall by whence you came and continue your clockwise orbit of the traffic circle. Go back down to street level as if you were headed to the Radio Tower (hey, stop by and say hi to the enthusiastic English speaker). At this point, you are walking down the street with the radio tower to your right. You are headed toward the river. (Careful, you are on a Peninsula, many ways go to the river)  Editor's note:  Actually it was more of a curve in the river, which really messed up Jon's internal mapping system, which is almost always very accurate, and drove him a bit crazy on this trip. I have no such mapping system, and thus can revel when his doesn't work, as long as we aren't out lost in the snow.
  12. Pass the Insect Museum (evidently like an aquarium only more creepy) and go through a little traffic barrier and you are at the River (even if you can't see it). The building in front of you looks like a big stretched piece of canvas. It is right next to the building with the two giant globes. There is a booth out front to buy tickets and a reasonable little restaurant across the street (Julie's) to grab some lunch. Hey, there is a good bathroom in Julie's also.
  13. Buy your tickets. Show up early for the ride. Get a seat on the Starboard side of the boat so that the things you see will be in sync with the pre-recorded descriptions.

    Here are the cool things we saw. Mainly nice views of the city skyline
    Inside our cruise boat

    There are hundreds of these little barges. They seem to have family dwellings on the stern.

    No Idea. Yet.

    The aforementioned tent building (tour terminal) and the Globes

    Part of the Famous Bund. Lots of Old Buildings. Underwhelming.
So many things you miss when you just follow the BKM.

For instance. If you want something a little nicer than Julie's place, head east up the river on the road until you get a chance to cut over to the river walk. Now you can get a great view of the river and you will be walking past a long row of little restaurants (most of them foreign, i.e. not Chinese, food).
River Walk
Cruise Terminal
The walk itself is nice. Good views of the river and the buildings on the East side. My god there is a lot of traffic on this river. Large (and old) barges going back and forth continuously. This is where I noticed that the ones going east seemed to be much bigger than the ones going west. No, that isn't it. The ones going west are loaded. The ones going east are empty and high in the water. My oh my, look at the difference in height of the laden and unladen vessels. I never realized that one could put so much stuff into a ship!!!. It probably helps that these are local river traffic boats and they won't have too much weather to deal with. Because it looks like they would founder and sink in any kind of sea at all. Take a look at the pictures. I also think that many of these vessels are family homes. See the clothing drying out back? I could see one of these things being the family's entire investment and business for generations. The main things I saw being carried were sand and coal. Lots and lots of coal going one direction and empty boats coming back the other. All of that coal right into the electric generation plants and up into the air. Coal from ships from America? Must research when I get Google back.

Heavily Laden going one way

Same sort of boat, empty, going the other way

Google is blocked. No search. No google maps. No Gmail. Hmmm. Do you think Apple engineered this?

Pearl Markets

We are staying in Hongqiao, which is a rather high tech business and high end residential district. We had wanted to go to a traditional Flower and Bird market which our tourist map listed as being a few blocks from the hotel but the concierge informed us that it “was already closed”. It was early in the morning so closed for the day was strange. Perhaps closed for the season? No, my partner informed me that she had read in the local paper (in English) that many of the neighborhood markets operated without state license and they were being closed down. I suspect that this is also a function of gentrification. The government would like to close down the markets in the old communities to make way for new and expensive housing.

There is a market area a couple of long blocks away from the hotel. It is a sort of foreigner area with a special Foreigner street with restaurants catering to non-Chinese and a fairly large silk and pearl market. I had wanted to but my partner some jewelry (for practice) and so we went into the market one day. This was a three story building taking up half a block. The first story was mainly silk scarves and garments but also tourist type gifts of toys, chop sticks, and cheap electronics. If we had gone here earlier in the week (when we were freezing out on our adventures) we probably would have bought some scarves, but today we pushed passed the salespeople and rode the escalator up to the second floor. This was the Pearl market. What a strange place. Shop after 15 foot wide shop loaded with pretty much identical wares of pearls. Stacked strings of pearls. Pearl necklaces and earrings. Some earrings of other gems and such. But so many pearl shops. All of them essentially identical and all of them right next to each other. Must have been 50 or more. I don't understand the logic. Hard to see how they could possibly get enough customers to justify all of the shop space. And how do you stand out in such a setting. I would much rather be the one pearl store in the mall than one of 100 in the pearl mall. 

There were actually maybe 25-30 small shops.  Full of strands of pearls, and other interesting jewelry.  All a little different, but mostly full of strands of different colors, sizes and lengths of pearls. It was a good place to "practice" buying jewelry. 

Rows of Pearl Jewelry Shops

We did finally find a shop that seemed to have some nice and different looking earrings. We had a very nice (non-pushy) salesperson that helped us try on some earrings and gave us a nice chat. They had some nice stuff and pictures of a visiting Arnold Schwartzenager and Jesse Ventura on the walls. When I finally bought something she wrapped up the earrings and then told us how thankful she was because we were her “First business”. Of the day? Of the New Year sales season? Unclear. But the 4 ladies in the store were all gathered around sort of helping. I handed the earrings to my partner and wished her luck and happy new year and gave her a kiss. The staff was delighted. They all laughed in a very pleasant friendly way. China can be such a fun place.

One thing we didn't do at the nice earring place that we would normally do at other markets was haggle. In the pearl market all the jewelry we looked at was about 40% off the ticketed price.  Our Shanghai friends told us that we should never pay more than 50% of the asking price in the city markets. We should, in fact, be starting our bargaining at about 20% of the asking price. I don't much like haggling, but my partner is very good at it. In a pearl shop in the market at Yuyuan Garden we got a string of pearls for 50% off with earrings thrown in for good measure and once again the staff was so happy to make the sale. “Be sure to tell your friends and family about us. Bring them back to visit us, we will make you a good deal!”, Well I am going to bring all of the power of the internet to their aid for the nice way they treated us. The pearl store in Yuyuan (well, perhaps in Xintaindi) was called Daxi Pearl and Jewelry. Thanks Lisa!. The other shop where we got the nice earrings was called Rupeipei Pearls and Jewelry. Thanks Coco!

One Child Policy

Here is something to think about. For a couple of generations now, China has had a “One child per couple” policy. They enforce this policy pretty harshly, at least in the cities, as they deemed it necessary to prevent over population and secure the future of their country. Can't say as I disagree with them. I imagine that we are headed for such a policy for the entire planet as we fill up all the nooks and crannies. I mean, either we have mandatory birth control or we take care of the extra populous with war, famine, and plague. 

The one child policy has some other side effects that I had not previously considered. I mean, sure, each child is an “only”. Hell, every PERSON younger than 50 in the country is an Only. Think about what else that means. Each parent has one child. Each set of Grandparents only has one grandchild. Because of this no one has any siblings. They also have no cousins or aunts or uncles. Pretty much no relatives at all except for the 6 adults whose constant attention they have earned by their single birth. Wow. Could this lead to empowerment issues. Perhaps problems with sharing? 

This line of conversation has the editor thinking a lot about child development and socialization and child care and the children of Jon's colleagues, who are engineers and live here and are raising families.  Maybe next time we come over to Taiwan or China I will try and set up some interviews with parents and some infant/child observations.


You want to go touring around Shanghai? You probably want to keep an eye out for bathrooms. Just in case you need one. And you should bring your own toilet paper. The nicer malls and such have nice bathrooms (and TP) but many of the smaller places may not be so well equipped. Even if there is a bathroom, it may not be a western style bathroom. This means the toilet may be the sort of thing where it is a porcelain trough on the floor that you have to squat over to use. It isn't like it is dirty or anything, but I sure as hell don't have the knees that lend themselves to that kind of relief. Fortunately, as a guy, my plumbing allows me to stand for most activities. Action Adventure Girl needed to do more planning.

One place we went into, for instance, was called 85° C. It was a coffee shop (with presumably exactly correct coffee temperature). It also had a wide assortment of wonderfully made cakes, breads and sandwiches. We had a very delightful cup of mocha and rested after we got off of the MagLev. But when we took a look at the very nice bathroom.... no place to sit down.
85 C Mocha

See, it looks like it would be a nice bathroom. And it is. Just not a Western Style commode.

Looking for that Strange Building

On the boat cruise we took through the downtown area we saw this interesting building on the shore behind the international cruise boat terminal (a Princess Line was in port). It was a set of 5 or 6 ten story boxy structures. There were somewhat randomly placed balconies of bright primary colors and then the entire side facing the river had a sort of clear bubble arching out around the building. In the center of the cluster of buildings was what I can only describe as a piece of structural art. It was integral to the building itself and consisted of huge brightly colored gourd shaped compartments. There were walkways from gourd to gourd and what might be an elevator going up the middle. See the pictures. Later in the week I thought it would be interesting to metro over there and see if we could figure out what those things were. Perhaps go up in the gourds. Action Adventure Girl was up for it and planned a route that took a new (to us) metro line over there. We caught the line (4) that we saw went in a complete loop around the city. Upon transfer we found that the part of the line going clockwise around the city from the west was above ground. How fun. We got to loop around the North of the city and see what was going on. What we saw was mostly residential highrises. Most were pretty old and run down but row after row after row of 20 story condos. Just thinking of the number of people they must house was astonishing. And all of those people eating and sleeping and showering and turning on electric lights. We are burning up the planet, you know. The ancient plants and algae spent millions on millions of years pulling the carbon dioxide from the air and putting it into the earth in the form of coal and oil. All that work to make the atmosphere such that we could breath it and oxygenate our lunch. And here we have a prime example of how we, in our hurry, are going to take all of that carbon and put it as quickly as we can back into our overloaded atmosphere. Hey, I am not blaming global warming and destruction on Shanghai. It was just the scale of the city that made me think about our eminent destruction.

Just rows upon rows of these things

And older section of town. Just before the train went back underground

The train eventually ducked back underground. We ended up in a less touristy part of town. Had to come up out of the station, get our bearings, and then head back down and loop back to catch the train to the ship terminal. We found those funny buildings. Brightly colored. A sort of shell over the balconies. They are obviously an office park, but no one was home on a Sunday (which would be strange for an American office park) and though there was an elevator going up into the Gourds, it was all locked up and deserted looking.

Covering over the balconies.

Took this from a little viewpoint arch in the river park

Yuyuan Garden

Friday night we headed out for a short adventure and caught Line 10 of the metro to the Yuyuan garden stop. Talking to a friend the other day he pointed out how funny translations can be. He said that “Yuan” means garden. So Yu Yuan is Yu Garden. So Yuyuan Garden is Yu Garden Garden. Probably so assigned by the department of redundancy department. The tour book tagged this location as a place to buy “traditional gifts” and to see some historic old buildings and a famous tea shop. It was easy enough to find. We came out of the subway and headed toward what looked like a shopping district. Such a wide mixture of goods and shops. At the entrance to the main street were a few stores that sold very cheap trinket things. Chinese lanterns, a multitude of cheap lighters, rip-off watches, little plastic figures, bells, hangy thingees. Right next to these cute little places is like the ultimate gold mart. A number of little display shops pushed into a larger building. Lots of glass. Lots of bright yellow made into various shapes and sizes and being sold by weight. Everything seemed to be pricing out at thousands of dollars. A very upscale joint.

Entrance to the main street

Everything lights up at night, and the famous tea house on the lake

We walked out and down the street and ran into the more traditional shopping area. Now this was a cool area. Little booths were set up along some streets with local artists showing traditional (and modern) hand art. Have your portrait done. Buy a rose carved in the traditional manner from black and red lacquered wood. Have some traditional candy made on site. Tea pots of a famous clay. Tea and Ginseng. An ancient and famous tea house visited by Presidents and famous sports figures. Then we realized that the buildings themselves had changed in character. We were now walking among some very old 2-3 story buildings. Some with dates from the 1800s (perhaps earlier). Old Chinese architecture. Lots of modern lights, though. There were also a number of very large bronze sculptures that are a historic feature of this area. I tried to do some research on these guys. The main thing I found was that I wasn't actually in Yu Garden. The garden was further back past the historic tea house. We were at the (still historic) buildings out in front of the Old City God temple. OK.

There are always nice teenagers around to take your picture

Lots of Brass Statues and old guys that think they are amusing

Groundhog Day

We flew back home on Groundhog Day. We were having a Bill Murray sort of Groundhog day this time around. We got up at 7:00 am on a Groundhog Monday. We caught a cab to the airport. We breezed through immigration and security and got on our 747 to the States. We spent 13 hours on the plane. And when we got off in San Francisco it was once again 8:00 in the morning on Groundhog Day. The only thing missing was the Sonny and Cher music. 

They have a new thing for entertainment on the planes. They have a local internet set up and they are streaming movies. So everyone is watching an assortment of movies on their tablets and laptops. I tried to watch something on my Kindle Fire but that didn't work. Don't know what is up with that. My partner's Ipad seemed to stream “The Avengers” just fine.  Editor's note:  But, I did buy the wifi access on the way over, hoping to be able to access a course that I'm teaching, and get some grading done.  I did get my email, and could log onto my course, but the connection kept cutting out, making it impossible to grade anything.  Another interesting note.  While I was able to access the platform for my course at PSU while in China, the University's general website was blocked.  So I could teach my course, but not access the calendar to see when the next course started, or go to the library and do research.  Go figure.

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