Now on to the events of Saturday, 29 September. Pictures (some by D some by me) and more events added 10 November. How could I have forgotten the fireworks?
For the first time, I ended up taking a taxi to the Beijing Airport. All my previous trips the company driver was available to provide transportation. Not much to report here. The ride cost about $10, which included the toll for the expressway. Unlike my previous Shanghai trip, we got to board through a jetway directly onto the plane instead of having to take a shuttle out to the plane. And instead of going to Shanghai’s new Pudong Airport, we flew to the old one, which is called Hongqiao and is situated right in the midst of the city. It was very strange flying below the tops of buildings on the approach.
We had read about the taxi queue, so we followed the signs (no checked bags) and got into a big long line. There were about four lanes of taxis, with a uniformed person directing people to the next available one. There was also a guy who had a big car (not a standard taxi) who was trying to entice people to ride with him instead. I managed to tell our driver where we were going – it was pretty easy since our hotel was on a well-known street right across the street from a major park, and I knew the names of both in Chinese.
We stayed at the Radisson Hotel, a five-star tower that showed up in my pictures from Shanghai in August. It’s the one that looks like a UFO is landing on its roof.
There was some sort of confusion upon check-in. They seemed to think I work for Google. My reservation, which I made online a few days in advance, had got jumbled up with someone else’s. We ended getting upgraded from a standard king room to a deluxe king.
It was really nice, actually a small suite. We were on floor 18 facing towards the river, though other buildings mostly blocked the view. We could see a bit of the Pearl Tower and several other noteworthy buildings.
After getting settled, we went out to explore Nanjing Road, a famous shopping district I visited last time. We mostly just browsed, though we did see a few interesting things.
We were pestered almost constantly by people trying to sell us watches, bags, and whatnot, some of whom were very persistent. Like a store called Baleno that specialized in jeans and other casual wear for young people, but had a big display of items related to Doraemon and Astro Boy in the window, so like moths to a flame, we entered.
By the time we left, we had a sweatshirt and a T-shirt, and only a supreme exercise of will power kept the damage down to that.
Around the time it was starting to get dark, we met a friend for dinner. She took us to a nice Shanghai-style restaurant. It was on the way to dinner that D realized something was missing. She had been carrying her Zen MP3 player in her backpack, and someone had unzipped it and got away with the player. This put quite a damper on the enjoyment of the food.
Upon reflection, we have our own stupidity (or naiveté) to blame. First, there was no reason to have the Zen with us – we should have left it back at the hotel. Second, a backpack is like an invitation to a thief – easy to get into without being noticed, especially in a crowded place where there are jostling people. We’ve noticed many people who use backpacks actually sling them around the front. These are smart people. We can take some small comfort in the fact that Zen players are pretty uncommon here, so the lucky acquirer might have trouble finding accessories like a charger and USB adapter for it. They’re sure to find an odd selection of music on it.
Anyway, back to dinner. Our friend wanted to give us a good sample of Shanghai cuisine, and took us to a place called Shun Feng. It was huge, with well over a hundred tables, taking up what seemed to be an entire floor of a downtown building near the Marriott tower. Our waitress was a tiny little woman who was shorter than us even when we were sitting down, but she seemed to be in charge of that part of the place, ordering others around. Shanghai food is known for being sweet and rich, and we certainly found that to be true. We had a wide sampling of foods, meat, veggies and fish. The fish was a little spicy, and was our favorite. For dessert we had an amazing concoction of sweet black beans, glutinous rice and coconut milk which was ridiculously rich. It was either will power or sheer overstuffing that kept us from finishing it all.
Originally we had sort of planned on going to a pub or something after dinner for drinks, but after the theft, we weren’t in the mood for it, and wanted to call it an evening. But it was Saturday night in Shanghai, and it would be a shame to miss the lights along the Bund and across the Huangpu, so we made a quick little trip to the river.
Several things set this visit apart from my previous one. First, there was this:
It’s a big tourist boat with a water dragon theme, full of people cruising the river. Note the water gushing from the dragons’ mouths. Then we started hearing the sounds of explosions.
The Saturday night before a major holiday – fireworks! We hung around for the whole show, which lasted 20 minutes or so. Combined with the lights of the buildings, it was quite something.
After that, we said goodnight to our friend and took a quick taxi ride back to the hotel.
It was here that we discovered the addictive attraction of the National Geographic Channel. For China Day, they were doing a marathon of documentaries about this country. I watched one which I think must have been made at about the time when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out. It was about one of the prominent wushu (martial arts) schools in China, and profiled several students from the ages of 8-18 or so. As far as I could tell from the credits, it was not an actual NG production, and while the subject matter was fascinating, I was constantly annoyed by the narrator’s consistent mispronunciation of virtually every Chinese name and word. It seems like a matter of simple respect to say people’s names right.
That was a pretty full day.