Sunday, May 20, 2007

China Day 5: Around Shanghai (May 2)

Today we had an awesome day! We started early and saw a ton of stuff. In the morning we went got tickets to go on an hour-long river cruise on the Huang Pu River, with a great view of both sides of the Bund. (Actually, it was more like a 50-minute cruise – check it out, we’re back early, aren’t you glad? Hah.) On the way to buy cruise tickets we ran into a bunch of police force guys who were practically falling all over themselves when we walked by. Um, perhaps we were their first foreigners. No idea. It rather set the tone for the day, though, because Amanda and I decided to be totally immature and buy princess crowns that vendors were selling on the street (hey, there were other adults wearing them! a couple…), and when we wore them we got plenty of extra attention, honks and compliments.

After the river cruise we decided to take the Bund sightseeing tunnel under the Huang Pu River to Pu Dong. The sightseeing tunnel is interesting, to say the least. It is completely dark and has a lot of strange lights and a recording in English and Chinese, which in a comforting singsong voice says things like “H-e-l-l-l” and then these blow-up puppets apparently representing hell pop up in the middle of the track, and then things like “Meteor Shower” and all these silver star lights flash by. An experience. A psychedelic experience? Who knows. On the way over to the sightseeing tunnel we got an idea of how many people are actually in Shanghai – everyone was out on the holiday, and we must have shuffled along in a 10 meter wide wall of people for about 15 minutes.

We had lunch in the 8-story “Super Brand Mall” (very communist – not) – Amanda wanted to get a window seat at the 5th floor Pizza Hut, which she claims has the city’s best view of the Bund – but today there was a 2-hour wait. So we settled for something else Western and then headed back across the Huang Pu River on a ferry boat that costs 6 cents. Apparently, all the motor bikers in town take the ferry, so it was just us and them. Next to us was standing what we think must have been a very unique Chinese version of a pimp. This guy had black pants and a black jacket, a burgundy velour button down shirt, which all but one button unbuttoned, and a gold necklace – yes, he had bling! I was waiting for him to pull out a cigar but he seemed to be a fan of ordinary cigarettes.

On the other side of the river we decided to climb the Nan Pu Bridge, a huge suspension bridge across the Huang Pu River. In fact you don’t really climb the bridge – you pay a dollar and take an elevator to the top, where you can walk around. The views are awesome. To some extent it really captures the vastness of Shanghai in one glance. Amanda and I donned our princess crowns and took some classic Chinese pictures, flashing the peace sign (or is it V for victory sign?) – a Chinese trademark. (Everyone from little kids to adults makes the peace sign in photos.) We got tons of compliments.

From the bridge we went over to super crowded Old Town Shanghai to look for souvenirs. Amanda bargained for me. It is truly difficult to find a unique souvenir in China, because you realize that, hey, wait, everything on Earth is Made in China. Somehow you feel you’ve seen it all before. Here we also got plenty of street vendors tapping us on the arms and shouting “Hello! Watches, Hello! DVDs” and flashing some kinds of product brochures at us. They’re very persistent – they will follow you for a while and repeat this phrase. However by today I felt adjusted enough to China to handle it. It is actually pretty funny, after all, some little Chinese guy chasing you with his two English words – “Hello! DVDs”.

We actually had Taiwanese food for dinner, and it was very close to the American Chinese food you order in. In the evening we went to an acrobats show with Amanda’s boyfriend Chris and his friend Benny, and it was awesome!!! (Chris works for an American investment company in Shanghai, and Benny teaches at an international school. They’re both Middlebury grads.) Anyway, acrobats – it was amazing what these guys (and gals) could do. We opted not for the complete circus acrobat type show, but at the same time this was not exactly traditional. They had a number of different acts – everything from typical tumbling to a girl balancing one lamp of each of her feet, hands, and 3 on her nose – and then changing positions! – to guys in sperm-looking costumes jumping through hoops to a love story to tumbling to the tune of Ricky Martin music to a pretty funny comedy act. What a great day.

Pictures: with Pu Dong in the background on river cruise, 2. river cruise boat, 3. view of Huang Pu River from Nan Pu bridge, 4. me and Amanda being Chinese on the Nan Pu bridge, 5. view of Pu Xi side from Nan Pu bridge, 6. Old Town Shanghai, 7. Acrobats (routine to Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs”) – yes, they caught him in the chair

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