Blessed to be a witness

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Saturday, February 19

Get off my shoes

I actually got a good wireless signal on the laptop in the hostel room, but it's subscription only, and you have to own a phone to take advantage of it.

I'm back in the hostel cybercaff with a dollop of white stuff on one of my shoes. M was having a lie-down, so I went exploring the market nearby, and, in addition to everyone there beckoning me into their stalls, or indeed grabbing my arm very firmly and dragging me in, some woman tried to encourage me to have my shoes shone by squirting cream on one of them. I expect she thought I'd feel guilty. However, naturally I declined (they're only a couple of days old, for goodness sake), so walked off, and now it looks like a small dog has got overfriendly with my Timberland.

Anyway, after a day walking around the place, I'm impressed. The place really is very modern compared to the places I've been in Western China. The amount of shopping here is astonishing. Every nook, every cranny, every little underground alleyway has a shop in it. Including every square piece of wall in the metro system. This is wonderfully Chinese: despite the signs in Roman script, it's still difficult to get around. The operators also feel the need to have people with megaphones on the platform yelling at everyone, who totally ignore them (the same is true at all the pedestrian lights). The people are yelling, the door alarm is beeping, the doors are shutting, the train is full to bursting, and there's another one along in two minutes, but you, Mr Shanghai Resident, think that by pushing extra hard you can get on in front of the twenty or so people who are already crammed on the platform unable to get on board. What are you thinking?

Also in the "what are you thinking?" category, this time for architecture, is the Pudong Tower just over the river from here. A large dirty concrete tripod that meets in a shiny red ball, with a concrete stalk upwards out of it, another ball, and a hypodermic needle stuck on the top, several hundred metres high. I guess it's a "look at us, we're China and we can build big stuff" kind of project. Near this is a 90-storey building that according to the guidebook is 450m tall, though I find this a little hard to believe. Linking the Bund to this area is the "Sight Seeing Tunnel", which I gather is a weird psychedelic ride under the river, where you stand in a little unmanned pod and whizz through lots of flashing lights. Can't wait.

No success in replacing the knackered battery for the laptop, but M got a very nice Giordano quilted coat against the bitter and rather pervasive cold. For lunch we managed to eat in the Shanghai branch of Delifrance, but I'm looking forward to trying the local dumplings, which are famed all over China. There were some little stalls selling them in the market, and I'm going to brave them tonight or tomorrow, as they smell amazing.

It's funny how one ends up speaking pidgin along with everyone else. The sentiment expressed in the shops and markets is "hello, kind sir, please peruse my products - there is no obligation to purchase anything", but the words are "you you, lookee lookee!" And indeed I have found myself asking "how muchee?" about various products. Yup, definitely back in China, and I'm liking it so far.

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