Friday, January 13, 2012

Jan 13 2012 - Yet a couple more days in Shanghai

Queue in front of the Pudong Apple Store.
Today must be the iPhone 4S release day
I had lunch near my office on two successive days at HoF, which stands for House of Flour, but it may as well be House of Cocoa. They started as a bakery making artisanal bread, evolving into a cute cafe that serves a lot of things made out of chocolate - shakes, hot cocoa, truffles, torts. I became friendly with the proprietor Brian Tan, who offered his thoughts on pairing drinks with desserts and even which locale of cocoa bean goes with which type of drink.

Fur Hat and Leather Coat convention in
front of the Oriental Pearl Tower ticket booth??
Many of you have heard me complain about Chinese vendors and their inability to think outside the box. Something that happened Wednesday is a perfect example of the Chinese methodology on troubleshooting. During the course of construction, an IT vendor ran ethernet cables to every desk and connected them into jacks. Another construction firm cut those wires in one office. After a week, the user complained to me and I relayed it to the IT vendor. After some investigation, they informed me that the two options were to either (A) rerun the cable at someone's expense (not theirs) or (B) extend the cable. If you extend an ethernet cable and try to pass a computer network through it, it will fail, intermittently and spectacularly. I told them option B is not an option and we'll need to talk to my office manager to have someone agree to pay for option A. Then they said they already gave the options to the office manager and she approved Option B, although it will fail a cable test (this is the vendor telling me they know it will fail the test, but they already suggested it and it was accepted). Are you with me so far? So I asked them to show me the office in question. Within seconds, I could see at least two other solutions: (C) put a small jack against the wall a little further from the desk but still in a good location (they said this isn't feasible), (D) put the jack under the floor in the wiring conduit and then run long network cables to the computer, phone, etc. In the end, this is what we did. The vendor was amazed at the creativity of the solution. How do you teach that kind of thinking to an entire society?

View of The Bund from my hotel room
in honor of my last night in town

Thursday was my one and only opportunity to go shopping and I almost blew it. Time slipped away from me and pretty soon I was arriving at the knock-off market at 7:45pm. I went to a couple of stalls and they pretty much kicked me out for lowballing. At about 7:55 I realized that everything was closing and kicked into high gear. I walked into a scarf store, asked "what do you have for 10 RMB", how many I needed, and walked out a few minutes later with two bags of pashminas. It was the fastest haggle ever. Success! I didn't get a few things I *wanted* but I got everything I *needed* if I want to be allowed back in the office next week.

Hopped on the Metro Line 7, the Bombardier train cars are connected in a way that there is no separation between one car and another, like a reticulated bus. When you're on a straight stretch of track, it seems as if you can see for miles from the back to the front of the train. On my way back on Line 2, I rode an Alstom train that was built the same way. I guess I just never noticed it before!

Shopping done, I treated myself to a new brewpub nearby in Pudong: The Brew at Kerry Hotel. Dugite Vanilla Stout is a masterfully-made milky stout, a little frothy on top like a milkshake. The White Ant is a White Hefeweizen with distinct lemon flavor, also a little airy and frothy. Not light, but airy.

Amazing Australian pint glasses at The Brew
I love being Pescetarian. I may miss out on dishes like the BLT mac n cheese and burgers and all of the pizzas (margherita is too boring) - but now options like salmon skewers with pita and yogurt will leap off the menu and into my lap. It's very exciting!

The beer glasses are custom blown by a glassmaker in Australia. If you ask nicely, they'll let them go for 176 RMB (almost $30). I definitely gave it a lot of consideration -- maybe next time! I've been to most of the brewpubs in Shanghai (Boxing Cat, Bund, two Paulaner's) and this is by far the best. Maybe Pudong is worthy of a second look!

At breakfast, I had my first pulled noodle soup. On Monday, I saw the chef kneading the dough. Tuesday he was pounding it into the table. Wednesday he was cutting in. Thursday he was making some sort of broth. Today I saw one bowl of the final product and jumped at my chance to have it, not wanting to know if it's meat or veggie broth. Of course it doesn't take a week to make pulled noodle soup, but for some reason I kept missing the final product. The anticipation was the best part :P

If you plan your trip properly, you can stop by the knock-off market one last time (it's actually on the way) to use up your loose RMB. I have it down to a science down where I can haggle prices down to the point where I have 6 RMB remaining, enough for a train to the airport maglev station and an ice cream when I get there.

There's a cute model railroad at the Shanghai international airport. I asked if it could move, the attendant explained succinctly "it's bad." Say no more. Their engineers probably tried to extend the cables.


The other Olga said...

Pudong sounds like it has fun restaurants and maybe shopping? It could be fun for things contemporary.

ivden said...

I don't think a lack of creativity is the problem. It seems to me the culture is still constrained by the legacy of rigid control and bureaucracy of the communist system.

ivden said...

Hmmmm.. I've heard that ants have a lemony flavor. Coincidence? I don't think so. Talk about creativity :-)

ivden said...

Nobody has as much fun as you traveling on your own in a strange land for work. And it's infectious. Your dispatches really spread the fun :-)

Sara Gift said...

I loooove reading about your adventures. I think I need that donation box in my living room for the kids...every time they are "difficult" they have to put a quarter in the box ;)

Karen the first said...

Sara, that's a great idea! Every school could use one of those too. I guess Dave's correct - the Chinese have to learn to think outside the box. In this case, "the donation box".

Dave Grenetz said...

@ivden: if someone will pay me to just travel, experience, and write - i could get used to that!

@Sara and Karen: the box was takings donations and giving them to the difficult - i guess it's that new chinese parenting strategy ;)