Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fifth day in Shanghai

I finished the last major project at work - adjusting and testing the videoconference between our two offices. I took off the rest of Saturday (and all of Sunday). I went back to my room to drop off my laptop and I noticed something peculiar. The bed looked different that it normally does when I come to the hotel after work. I had sort of noticed this before, but I couldn't quite figure it out. These photos show the room at mid-day and then evening. Note that I didn't touch the lights, bed, etc - I guess this is what they mean by turn-down service...
A co-worker had recommended the Dim Sum lunch at the JW Marriott hotel - which is where Carla (the lady I met at the airport) is staying. We had all-you-can-eat dim sum, lots of really unique things that were super tasty - my favorite was the pan-fried sweet potato with peanuts and sesame seeds. We ordered 10 different things to try and it came to about $10 per person.

Then I decided to walk to the Yu Garden. A few people said it's something nice to see, but kind of touristy. I didn't bother to research it to see what's so nice about it. I had 3 hours to kill between lunch and dinner and I was in the right part of town - so I asked the doormen at the Marriott how to get to the Yu Garden. They thought I was crazy to want to walk all the way there in the light dusting of snow - surely something was lost in translation. "How far to the Yu Garden?" "About 10 minutes by taxicab". "How far by foot?" "30 minutes... but... What?!?!?!" Anyway it took about 45 minutes to get there at a leisurely pace and along to way I took the only picture so far that I appear in (I passed through a lovely park and there was a guy there who was taking some pictures for himself so I motioned him to use my camera). Picture is attached. Besides the goofy stance, it turned out well.

I'm not 100% sure I made it to the Yu Garden because I didn't check a guidebook to see what it's supposed to look like, and I didn't see much of anything when I got to the intersection where it's supposed to be. There were a few trees and bushes covered in snow, and a lot of mud and construction vehicles. Now that I am googling it, I'm quite sure I didn't actually see the Yu Garden as the description sounds picturesque. But I did find the souvenir gift shops bordering the garden, and picked up plenty of Chinese trinkets.

I was running a little late for the dinner meeting, so I started quickly walking back to the Marriott. About 60% of the way back, I finally saw a taxicab. I beat some other people into it, ran in and locked the door. When I said "Marriot" and the cab driver looked confused, I knew there was a problem. I looked through all of my notes to try to find the Chinese name of the Marriott, and I described it the best I could. I should've known something was up when he took me the exact wrong direction. Anyway we ended up at the Westin and I asked the doorman there to tell the cabbie the Chinese name of the Marriott. I ended up entering the Marriott rotating door just as Carla was entering it from the other side. Just made it!!

We went to a Szechwan Chinese restaurant with her students (she is teaching CAD design tools to circuit board engineers at Cisco). All of the food was spicy (hot) and very tasty. There is a special Szechwan black pepper they put in most of the foods that makes your lips and tongue go numb and tingle A LOT! It's very cool!! It was nice to have dinner with a bunch of locals.

Then we went back to the Marriott and had drinks at the Executive Club - apparently entrance, drinks, snacks, etc are all free if you stay at the Marriott enough. One interesting thing is that you can take a spiral staircase up from the Executive Club to a library - and there's a sign saying you are in the highest library in the world. The library is a small room with no windows but two telescopes that look out of place. We were trying to figure out how to use the telescopes when we noticed that one of the bookshelves is on a hinge - open the bookcase and a secret passageway appears that leads to the roof deck on the 60th floor. It was cool looking out over the city (although we couldn't see much of anything because of the snow - it's a complete white-out from that height).

Here's some background on the last three pictures:

There was a street vendor selling some kind of cushion. Sorry about the blurriness. From what I can figure out, it's an electric inflatable pillow? The English transliterated title doesn't quite explain things (ZHEJIANGCIXISHIFUAJZHENSHENGXINDIANQICHANG)

Here's a block I passed where they were apparently doing some construction. There's a huge pile of bamboo on the street in front of the building.

A few minutes later I passed a small alley were all of the balconies are supported by rickety bamboo! Scary!

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