Thursday, November 20, 2008
CONTINUED IN SHAGHAI
Today marks one week since I've been back in North America and I know that some of my blog followers are disappointed that I haven't had any new posts. I've been very excited about the positive response I've had to my blog and with the amount of people that have been following it. I've been told by many that reading my blog had become part of their daily routine and how disappointed they were when I would miss a day. I would like to keep up with my blogging, but it will be difficult without having a central theme to focus on like my MS. I've enjoyed writing and it would be really nice if I could make some money doing this. Something I'll think about but in the meantime I will finish up with my experience in Shanghai and Hong Kong and of course I will post updates on any changes or improvements I experience. Hopefully there will still be people logging on to read!
Unfortunately the rain kept up for our second day but it did not deter us from getting out to find some shopping. We had heard that Shanghai is the place to shop and where you'll find the best deals so we headed off to Nanjing Road, China's premier shopping street. We had hired Mr. Lee one of the hospital drivers to take us to Shanghai and he stayed around to be our driver and interpreter even though he wasn’t very good at English. It was a beautiful shopping district and much of the mall we visited was made up of marble road and walkways. It was also made up of many high end stores but this was not the shopping we were after. Being obvious tourist targets it didn't take long to be nabbed by an enterprising Chinese woman who was very eager to be our shopping guide. What is not obvious from the upscale shopping mall are the hundreds of small shops that exist in the small alleyways located directly off the mall. This is the kind of shopping we were looking for, the kind of vendors that sell knock off watches, purses and clothing for extremely cheap prices and then allow you to barter down even further. It was amazing to see all of these little shops existing no more than a few hundred feet away from legitimate stores selling the genuine merchandise!
Our eager shopping guide knew these alleys like the back of her hand and if we didn't find something in one shop she just led us to another. They were definitely not easy to spot or legal as we found out by being delayed in entering one when the police were nearby. Some of the shops were incredible having secret rooms and to enter a wall would spin around revealing several more rooms filled with imitation articles. The experience was very interesting and a lot of fun even though it was raining! Bargaining down prices became an art once we understood how everything worked. We bought some watches, wallets and Chinese artifacts and our Chinese guide seemed very happy, she must get a kick back from these shops. It was extremely valuable to have Mr. Lee accompany us, he would pipe up and argue loudly in Chinese on our behalf and vendors treated us more fairly because we had a Chinese friend with us. It was also very helpful having our own personal chauffeur and someone to push my wheelchair.
That night we went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner which was our first taste of Western style food in five weeks! It was a very good meal but the odd part was that there wasn't any pasta on the menu so our Italian craving didn’t really get satisfied. It was a very beautiful restaurant with a rooftop patio overlooking the Huangpu River that would've had an awesome view of the Shanghai skyline had it not been raining and overcast! By the next morning the rain finally stopped. It was still overcast but the temperature was warmer and the visibility much better so we decided to do some sightseeing. Shanghai really is an amazing city in terms of its buildings and architecture. It has many skyscrapers and the design of its buildings are the most unique I've ever seen. Their use of shapes and different contours in the architecture create a very modern and interesting look. I have not traveled extensively but from what I've seen on TV, movies or magazines; Shanghai would make any downtown in the world look boring. We tried to capture some of this look in photos but didn't really do it justice. The Shanghai World Financial Center is the second tallest building in the world standing at 492 m with 100 floors. It does boast the tallest observatory in the world at 100 floors up; let me tell you that is scary when you're looking down through a glass floor! There are some other tall buildings around 80 stories but the SWFC dwarfs everything and it is extremely modern. We were on the ground floor waiting for the elevator which only has one set of doors to go up to the observatory and when the next elevator came there were too many people for us to fit. I thought to myself waiting for the next elevator will take a while if it has to go up 100 floors when about five seconds later the doors opened to an empty elevator! Somehow they have several elevators going up and down simultaneously that must be on separate tracks because they all end up at a single entry and exit point. The elevator ride in itself was an experience. It had kind of a psychedelic effect with its lighting and sounds, felt like you were in some kind of spaceship. I didn't time it but I'm sure it took less than 30 seconds to reach the top! Everything about this building was ultra modern, even the bathrooms. I've included a picture because they were so cool. The toilet seats were heated, there was a control panel next to the toilet seat that allowed you to wash your rear end or front side with heated water and you could control the oscillation and pressure! You could basically give yourself an enema if you wanted and the only need for toilet paper was to dry off.
This city totally fascinated me; with a population of over 14.6 million it is absolutely huge. I really only saw the central part of the city but that was enough. It had a completely different feel than Hangzhou. Hangzhou is deep China, what some refer to as the real China where you don't see white people and we felt like celebrities with everyone gawking at us. When we hit Shanghai I felt like we lost our celebrity status as there were quite a few Caucasians. I suppose this city is much more of a travel and business destination and it made me feel like we were getting a little closer to home. I'm very glad that I decided to experience more of China than just the hospital and Hangzhou. It will give me a much broader understanding of the country and its people and create some memories other than just those of the hospital.