Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shanghai last day and wrap-up

This was the front page article in the Shanghai Daily news today:
http://www.shanghaidaily.com/sp/article/2008/200802/20080205/article_347984.htm

Does anybody believe that is the picture of an investor in the Chinese mainland stock exchange? He looks like a homeless guy who lives outside the stock exchange - asking for 2 RMB so he can buy a steaming pile of nothing.

I forgot to mention something that happened in the most amazing and wonderful Cha-Mate that every person in China should visit ;) A few minutes after I ordered tea and cake, they dropped off a handy-wipe and a small cup of yellow-ish liquid - it looked like jasmine tea. I cleaned my hands and took a sip of the liquid, thinking I had mistakenly ordered a miniscule amount of tea. The liquid didn't have much of a taste - so I left the rest of it on the table. A few minutes later, somebody came by, said a couple things in Chinese, looked slightly confused, and then took away the small cup. Was it a finger bowl? Or a courtesy palate-cleansing tea? Or a mistake? I don't know!!!

This morning, I went back to the Shanghai office to observe and assist with the first weekly videoconference since the improvements performed last week. It was a rousing success! My job and future trips to Shanghai are secured ;)

I went back to the hotel, had breakfast, caught up on email, and then tried to repack my luggage with all the gifts i had bought. I had to sit on my suitcase to close it and luckily the China ticketing desk of United Airlines doesn't have the same 50 Pounds restriction that they have in the US (maybe the same reason they don't have a quarter-pounder at McDonald's here ;))

Here's a photo of a KFC sign in China. After a week here, the Colonel seems to be looking more Asian all the time. Maybe it was a botched facelift a la Kenny Rogers. Or maybe he's trying to keep up with his closest competitor General Gao.

After packing, I was running a bit late for the airport, but I really wanted to try the subway and the MagLev (magnetic levitation) train before leaving. I would regret skipping them and twiddling my thumbs in the airport for 2 hours more than I would regret taking them and missing my flight :) Needless to say, it was totally worth the risk, even though I had to drag my luggage down several flights of stairs. Luckily I didn't buy any breakable porcelain china. When the MagLev hit top speed of 431 km/h, I tried to take a picture, but the train was shaking a bit and there was some glare. Anyway, engineers and train buffs may enjoy the picture of the track and the speedometer at peak speed. I also took a video of the train arriving and one of the speedometer during "take-off" - email me if interested.

There is an interesting souvenir pricing system in the airport. In the terminal, after I went through security and everything, there are official souvenir shops selling e.g. jade Buddhas for let's say $45 USD. In the hallway just next to the shop, there's a guy with a table setup selling the same jade buddha for $100 USD. But if you're not late for your flight, you can haggle him down to about $60 USD. The official no-haggle shops seem to be a better deal, but if you don't know that, then you will haggle with the guy and feel like you saved a ton of money. All of this is silly though because the Yu Garden souvenir shops have the same jade buddha for about $50 pre-haggle and $20 post-haggle. And of course the sales people buy them for about $2 USD and the manufacturer makes them for $1 USD and the jade-buddha-factory worker gets paid 5 cents per buddha. anyway.... my point was about the Shanghai airport vendors.

The flight was pleasant, I didn't get any sleep because it was still the afternoon Shanghai time, but I watched a couple movies, did some emailing, and caught up on some emails. Now I'm a little tired, missing Shanghai a lot, but enjoying being home. I can't wait for the next trip!

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