I got back to the states this morning after an uneventful flight. The last few days in Shanghai were spent at the same breakneck pace that the first few where. Kevin and I counted that we slept an average of four to five hours a night for the entire week. I’ve developed a bit of a cough that I’m certain is a mixture of the filght, lack of sleep and polution. In the course of the week, I must have inhaled a pack’s worth of pollution over the stay. Luckly, the last day there the rain came and cleared up the air.
Friday night, the whole group went out to Babyface and I didn’t make it back to the hotel until about 3:30AM and we had to wake up at 6:30AM to make the flight out. Babyface is a impressive club, very sleek and sexy with perhaps the best soundsystem I’ve heard in a venue.
The dance club scene in Shanghai is not unlike the United States, outside the fact that there are what I can only describe as call girls, who will ask you to buy them drinks and if you keep it up they’ll spend the evening conversing with you. I guess a better word for them might be geisha. From what I can tell it’s pretty much drinks and conversation only, there is no prositition component; although, once you step out of the club that’s not hard to find as girls will walk up to you, tug your arm and say “sex?” or “you sex me?”
The MSN office in Shanghai is in a skyscraper called the Metro Tower, on the 16th floor. The windows of the conference room afford some pretty cool views, even more so in the evenings when the city lights are at the brightest. I took some amazingly cool photos with Johnny’s Digital Rebel playing with the exposure settings. In any case, the office inside is almost like any other company: a cube farm. Unlike most other, people take a nap in their cubes. They just lower their head and pass out. The other interesting thing that happens is people spit in the office. You can hear the gutteral roar followed by a high velocity spit hitting a trash can (thankfully). It’s very strage.
When I arrived in Shanghai on Friday night, the air was crisp and clear. Saturday I hardly noticed. Sunday was a beautiful day in the low 70s/high 60s and walking around all day I didn’t notice a thing. Then came Monday. And Tuesday. And now Wednesday. The air smells like I imagine chalk would taste. It’s really quite a thing, after a full day of walking around my eyes start to sting and my throat starts to burn a bit. We theorized that it has to do with the fact that over the weekend there arn’t as many cars on the road so the air can clear out, but during the week the roads are jam packed with traffic and I’m sure factories in town are operating at full steam.
The last two days here have been hectic. The entire group for this trip is now in town so we’ve got quite a lot of people here. On Sunday, we checked out Yu Gardens, I think near old town Shanghai. While it seems mostly reconstructed, it’s a beautiful old Chinese garden from the mid 16th (or so) century and a beautiful hideaway from the horns and skyscrapers of the rest of Shanghai. Here are the pictures.
We also made a trip to the Shanghai market where I bought a bunch of pens for friends back home and general fun and havoc was caused by having playing the negotiation game. After a while you’re really only haggling over 50 cents or a dollar, but it’s the principle of the matter that counts. Some pictures of the market. After the market, there was some more massages that took place and some food, of course we fit in a couple hours at the bars on Heng Shan Road on Sunday night and Monday night. Somewhere in there we managed to get some sleep and show up to work.
The hotel I’m staying at has “broadband” internet access, pretty much in name only. It’s a physically wired connection; I get anywhere between 8 kbps to 20 kpbs and the connection comes in and out. Now that I’m in the office, I’m wired up to the wifi, good old MSFTWLAN and it feels so good to have a solid, reliable connection yet again. From the hotel, using Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Google would work maybe two out of three times, but now on the work network, they feel almost as fast as home (almost).
I had an incredibly busy and hectic day yesterday. It started at 9AM with an apointment to take care of some things in Shanghai that went on for four hours. By time time my apointment was done, I was starving and grabbed lunch at the hotel. A couple of us from work met up at the office and made our way over to the Shanghai Normal School (University) where our team members had rented some badminton courts. The grounds of the school were quite nice, spacious and tree lined. We played for about two hours in what was a dedicated gym just for badminton, with something like 10 or 15 courts inside. By the end of it (okay, within a few minutes) I was sweating buckets and running around panting. It turns out that I’m not terrible — I’m far from good, but at least I can play. It was hilarous to see people play for like half an hour, then take a break to smoke, then get back to playing. I’ll never understand that.
After the maraton session of badminton, we went to dinner at some place near the University and then Johnny and I split ways with the team. I went back to my hotel, took a shower, and Johnny came and picked me and we headed to the airport to pick up Andres and Brian. After getting them back to their hotel near Hongqiao, we went and got some dinner at a little place near their hotel; both Brian and I had some noodles (16 RMB or $2 USD for a huge plate) while Andres tried to order a cafe con leche in Spanish without much luck until Johnny translated. Satisfied, we went to a massage place for foot and back massages that lasted two hours (we were there until about 2AM) and split ways and I headed back to my hotel. I’ll have to post at some point about how amazing the Chinese massage places are, they’re something out of this world.
It’s midnight on Friday here and I’m thankfully feeling sleepy enough to make the jetlag effects minimal. Pudong Airport has the worst baggage handlers of any airport I’ve been to, they are the slowest at unloading planes. I flew thru imigration and was stuck for half an hour waiting for my bag. The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was a near death experience more than once. It’s drizzling (or at least it was) and people were acting a bit manic on the roads yet my driver decided that motoring at 110 km/h was still a good idea, swerving between people on the road and delivering a performance on his horn. Luckly, I made it in one piece. The cost of a 40 minute cab ride? 149 RMB, or about $18! Compare that to San Francisco, where the 15 minute ride to the airport costs me $35.
Coming in to Shanghai from the Pudong side is quite a site: it’s exactly what I’d expect Gotham to look like. As the taxi crossed the Lupu Bridge and started on the elevated highway, all you see around you are skyscrapers with lit windows staring back as eyes for miles in every direction. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, completly anonymous as the city passes by on a highway that’s fifty feet off the ground.
My flight on the way from SFO to NRT was uneventful, although while taking a nap I did have a crazy dream that that plane had to fly really low along the route of a highway for an emergency for a few minutes until it could pull back up to the air. I guess that’s what happens when you watch Independence Day before you take a nap. Tokyo is humid, as could be expected and nearly pitch black right now, at 5:45pm. On the way back through the airport back to SF I’ll have to browse the shops and pick up some Japanese treats.
I’m heading out this afternoon to China to work this coming week in the office in Shanghai. I’ve been there once before and it’s a crazy city, full of more skyscrapers then I’ve seen anywhere else in the world with millions of people filling the street, traffic snarls and ever present construction. It’s all kinds of chaos and dystopia (to quote Allen): it feels like the city was built in the last 10 years and the people are just starting to catch up with it. I’ll be blogging thru the trip with pictures so stay tuned.