Thursday, April 10, 2008

My first trip to China

For my second straight trip, I have been picked up at the airport (a very nice change!) Shaun, a friend from high school picked up Michelle and I from the airport and we relaxed back at his place until close to midnight. It had been a busy day of high school friends, as I had lunch with Dodd, another friend who was performing a show called Malibu Mines Dollhouse in Seoul (unfortunately during the exact days I was either at a client dinner or in Shanghai!) Needless to say I found out over the week about friends I had not heard from in years, learned that one of my classmates had been on the Bachelorette (won the first year). Craziness.

The second day was a whirl, managing to circle the block for about 30 minutes (the streets in Shanghai were difficult even for our friend who lived there). But it all ended well with an amazing brunch, picked out by Ellon's friend Paddy (not sure how to spell that, you can blame computer-generated names at a big corporation I won't name). The most amazing shrimp in a wasabi cream sauce!

Afterwards was off to the antiques road, where Michelle put on her bargaining pants. Anything they said, take off 50%. We walked off with 2 mah jong sets, a mandolin, and a wooden carving for my wall. All beautiful stuff, and amazingly cheap. The bargaining didn't stop there though, we went to a different market at night and bought clothes and random household goods. The classic moment was seeing a beautiful shirt which we wanted to get as a present, but deciding we would buy it later. We went to another store and tried on about 10 different shirts and jackets. Michelle wasn't wild about most of them, but finally settled on one shirt. Wouldn't you know it, when we went back to the first store, the shirt we had our eyes on before was the same one we had just purchased (for less money of course).

The food in Shanghai was fantastic, we made multiple stops for things like Bubble tea, and a dinner Saturday that was made with very natural and healthy ingredients. Funny enough, our dim sum on Sunday was across the street from our dinner the night before. An excellent choice as tens of plates came out with various favorites of both Michelle and I. The afternoon was spent wandering around, and a massage at a place called Dragonfly. This was an upscale place in Shanghai, and it only cost about $25!!

Unfortunately I lost all of the relaxation later in the afternoon when I was military-time challenged. Oh, 16:00 means 4 pm. Sh*t. Ran out to the street to catch a cab (I was supposed to be on the way to the airport at 4 pm, and we had to get across the city to Shaun's place to get my stuff. Needless to say, my taxi cab driver was amazing, and I made it to the airport with at least 10 minutes to spare.

We had some interesting cultural moments in Shanghai. On the way to Dim Sum we passed a Korean tour bus that was stopping at an alley where the Korean Communist party held their first meeting. Shaun said "Excuse me" and everyone got out of the way. He said, "They have to be Koreans, the Chinese wouldn't move." Wow. The Koreans are not easy to work with in a crowded space (see other posts about the Korean subway), and that was nearly a full-damnation on Chinese people.

The other interesting point involved the air and pollution. I am heading to the Olympics in August, and I have heard that the Chinese have shut down factories to improve the air quality. I asked Shaun, "doesn't that just mean that things will get worse right after the Olympics?" He brought up an interesting point, the Olympics in 1988 were a bit of a coming out party for Seoul, and there are similarities in China. 10 years ago Chinese were scraping to make enough money, now there are more thoughts about health and quality of life. The pollution should only get better. Or so one hopes, since Michelle's description of the "fog" in Beijing was not very good.

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