Thursday, January 31, 2008

Day 3 in Shanghai

Work is going well, I had one of the two important meetings - the other is scheduled for tomorrow. Also we moved all IT equipment to the new office and I got the internet and VPN up. The consultants are working on the phone system and videoconference, both scheduled to be finished tomorrow. Fingers crossed. There is an interesting billing practive with ChinaTel phone service and China Netcom internet service - they bill in full-month increments. Somebody at my company decided to end service on the phone and internet in the old office on Jan 31 in order to save one 1 month's service. Between the time that I left the hotel at 9:00am and walked across the street to the office, they cut off the internet. These vendors are very prompt! Needless to say, this saved us some money, but we weren't able to get very much work done today.

The office went out for lunch to a nice Japanese place. There was a plate of sushi for the table - I am trying to avoid possibly questionable foods in China, so I tried the cucumber roll (which was very very good) and something that looked fried. For the main course, everybody received a huge tray with two kinds of salads, some marinated potatoes with (raw?) bacon on top, miso soup, and an entree (mine was Japanese beef strips).

I spent a lot of time kibbitzing with my coworkers today, but still couldn't convince anyone to come out with me tonight. Someone at work made me a reservation at his favorite restaurant (Japanese-French Fusion) for 7:30 tonight. He said the directions were too complicated and I should just take a taxicab. I started looking for a cab at 6:40 and didn't find one until 8:00!! There seems to be a crazy shortage of taxicabs in Shanghai. There were absolutely no cabs driving around without people in them. The only way to get a cab is to pick a good location where people will be getting out of cabs. Then when you see a cab that looks like it's going to let somebody off, you run like crazy and hope you're the first person in the cab. Anyway it took me well over an hour to get in one. So far, both times I have taken a taxicab in Shanghai, the price has come to 11 RMB, which is about $1.50 USD. Last night I tried to take one to Xin Tian Di - I had some idea where I was going so I started walking in that direction while trying to get a cab. When I finally found one, it turned out I was only a minute from the destination, but I didn't know that and the driver didn't speak any English. I guess 11 RMB is the minimum rate.

I was about 45 minutes late for my reservation tonight, but it's not hard to squeeze one person into a restaurant. I had the "appetizer cubes" (a plate with four compartments of different appetizers - I think some were raw) and fried swordfish for a main course (yum!) There were some very interesting things that I would try if I felt more comfortable (e.g. beef sashimi, cuddlefish with plum sauce (it didn't say if it was cooked), etc). The food was absolutely delicious.

Then I walked home because I could see from the ride that it was very simple to get back. It also helps that my hotel is across the street from the tallest building in this part of downtown - it's impossible to get lost :) I did a little shopping at a Hello Kitty-type store where they have all sorts of little mostly-Japanese trinkets. The only picture I took today is of the "Liv Tyler (r)" shoe store I passed while walking back. Apparently I'm not the first one to notice this store because here is a blog entry:

I found this by googling Liv Tyler shoe - so I guess Shanghai is the only location?? I wonder what the relationship is to the actress...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2nd day in Shanghai

Work is good - it's great to finally meet everyone. Met with the vendors and made a schedule / project plan. Noticed some critical things that hadn't been performed by the vendors - I didn't get here a moment too soon. Scheduled some important meetings for tomorrow - and also the IT systems will start moving to the new office tomorrow.

Most of the office went out for lunch, so I did have one authentic Chinese (Cantonese) meal today. The strangest thing I tried was something that looked like calamari.

Guess what, it's duck tongue!! The outside is chewy, the inside is ligamenty, and the whole thing is not super tasty. The funny thing is that China gets most of their duck tongues from the US because we don't eat them - and because we are constantly sending back empty cargo ships due to the trade imbalance. Also had a couple of steamed dim sum plates, lots of chicken dishes, some soups, etc.

Walked to Xin Tian Di (it was recommended by a co-worker).

The place looks really cool in a Boston Faneuil Hall sorta way and is one of the few preserved "old" buildings in Asia, but then after walking around I noticed that every restaurant and shop is some sort of chain. Had dinner there at Paulaner (German brewpub). There were mostly Chinese and Germans in there, which makes it fairly authentic :)

Here's a couple of pictures of Xin Tian Di and HuaiHai Street that runs between there and my hotel/office. So far I have successfully avoided the Chicken Feet.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Arrived in Shanghai

Not much to report yet, just got in. The flight was 13 hours - had two+ meals, did some reading, took some catnaps. Overall the time went fairly quickly. Attached is a picture I took out the window as we flew directly south of Siberia (I'm not sure which body of water/ice that is).

Made a friend at the airport - some lady from San Francisco who for some reason kept asking me for advice about picking up luggage, customs, how much money to get at the ATM, how to find a ride, etc. The ride from the airport to the hotel took almost an hour. When we got off the highway, I could swear we were in St Petersburg based on the architecture and weather. But that quickly changed as we entered downtown - it looks more like Times Square. Here's a random view out the window of my hotel.

I had stayed up all night finishing things and packing before flying out, so as a result I seem to be completely adjusted to the Shanghai time zone. The weather is much better than I had heard it would be (no snow right now). Stay tuned.