Fly in, Nanjing Road Shopping, Acrobats, Night Lights
This morning we flew from Beijing to Shanghai. This is my first time in Shanghai, so I'm really looking forward to it.
The first thing I noticed was that it was noisy again. This was almost a relief after the almost eerie silence in Beijing. Come to think of it, that might have been a temporary effect just for the People's Conference. I'll have to check on my next trip.
Shanghai is VERY different from Beijing. Closer to "New York with Chinese Characteristics", I think. There is a palpable energy and vibe you get from being here - every one of the tour members could feel it. This is a place where both opportunities and business happen! It's also a lot warmer and greener than Beijing right now.
On the way into town, the high speed train passed us at around 230KM/h - which according to our new guide, Katrina (who met us at the airport) is apparently is not it's top speed, but is the fastest it gets in the short run between the city and the airport. To give you an idea, it took us 40 minutes to get from the airport to the city, and the train does it in 8. Nice. It went by too fast for me to get a photo.
Another interesting thing I saw on the way to the hotel was an ad for eBay on the back and side of a bus. Cool. I have a special place in my heart for eBay, as one of the founders, Jeff Skoll, is a fellow canuck.
Our hotel is not bad - pretty nice, actually. The best part is that it's walking distance from the second best shopping place in town, Nanjing Road (I thought it was pretty darn good, until I went to the Xiangyang Road Market the next day). Nanjing road is closed to traffic, and is basically a pedestrian road lined with some great shops.
Since it was clear that we all had totally different shopping agendas, we split up and agreed to meet in front of a McDonalds that happened to be in front of us when we made the decision.
Some of the shops are really interesting. One of them was a dedicated chopstick shop. That's right - they only sold chopsticks! If you need a $400 pair of chopsticks, this is the place to get it from. I wandered around for a while, and was approached by people on the street often enough that I started keeping count: 7 times by attractive young ladies who wanted to be my "friend", 4 times by "art students" who wanted to give me a "free tour", and 3 times by hawkers with menus in hand trying to entice me into going to the restaurant they worked for. I kept my hands on my wallet and walked by, but it was interesting nonetheless.
I finished up early and found myself standing in front of the McDonalds alone. After fending off several street hawkers, I decided I'd be safer inside. A long time ago, I put myself through university working as a manager at McDonalds. This has had several impressions on my life - 1) it really did help my management and people skills, 2) I really don't like french fries anymore, and avoid most other fast food unless I'm out with my kids, and 3) I'm fascinated by differences in the menus between countries and areas. Since McD's is very standardized, regional differences are well researched and reflect local tastes.
I noticed 2 things right away. First, it was dirt cheap. $1 for a cheeseburger combo!. Second, they offered taro root pie, instead of the usual berry flavored one. That was too much to pass up. I bought a combo and a pie, while taking the opportunity to change one of my 100RMB notes into smaller change for some shopping later on. The pie was unusual, but very good.
Shortly afterward, everyone else showed up and we went out to a show. This one was really well done, and for $10 extra we scored front row center tickets, so I got some great shots. There were all sorts of acrobatics and juggling. One thing I noticed was that the performers were quite young (though obviously enthusiastic) and occasionally dropped plates and so forth. Rather than ruining it, this made it more interesting for me, as it made the skill necessary more obvious. But it was a big concern when they brought out the motorcycles.
Now I had seen this in Las Vegas. It's basically a cage about 15 feet in diameter, and you drive a motorcycle into it. You can then drive around at high speeds, including upside down. What makes it even more dangerous is that they will sometimes put more than one motorcycle in the cage at the same time! In Las Vegas, I saw the record, 4. It was one of the most dangerous things I've ever seen, but quite thrilling.
So the first guy goes in, and spins around, including riding with no hands upside down. Very cool. Then they bring out the second guy. Now it gets more interesting. At this point, I whispered to the person next to me (I think it was Brooke) that I'd seen this in Vegas but they had actually had 4 at a time. She whispered back there was no way they'd do that many here, and I agreed. It's just too hard, and these performers are young. Heck they kept dropping plates! Can you imagine making a mistake in a 15 foot cage at 60 MPH with 3 other cycles?
After many death defying stunts, out came motorcycle number 3. Now this was exciting! Especially when they started going in opposite directions. That 3rd cycle really made things cramped in that cage.
Then out came number 4.
Unbelievable. You had to be there. Very cool.
After the show, we walked back to the hotel, as it was a very nice night, and the lights of the city are quite beautiful.
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Fly in, Nanjing Road Shopping, Acrobats, Night Lights