Blessed to be a witness

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Monday, February 21

This country brought to you by McDonalds, Häagen-Dazs, and KFC

"Hello you lookee lookee."
- "No thanks."
"Just lookee."
- "No thanks."
"You want copy watch? Shanghai T-shirt? Just lookee."
- "No thanks."

In the market again, determined to buy gloves, underwear, and a hat, for as little as possible. The trick is not to want the stuff, and to know there are thousands of other places you can buy the exact same crap. Thus armed with this knowledge, I pointed at pair of fake Calvin Kleins. "Yes you how muchee?" asked the lady. "No, YOU how muchee." I insisted. So we began a war of attrition with a pocket calculator. She asked for 50. I offered 5. Ha ha ha ha, we both laughed, slapping our thighs. "OK 40," she gesticulated with the calculator. I grabbed two pairs. "I give you 10." Ha ha ha, we laughed again. I walked away chuckling. She ran after me: "OK two for 30." I laughed and offered 15. She capitulated at 20. A deal: two pairs of fake CKs for less than 2 euro. And on to another stall to repeat the performance. I got fake North Face gloves and a fake Nike hat to prepare for Beijing for 25 yuan ("I sell you for cost price, because we friends."), which is probably three times the price a local would pay. Feeling very smug, I walked off only to discover that the bloody shoeshine woman had besmirched my other boot with cream, and was chasing me down the road.

The subject of intellectual property rights is a big bone of contention between China and the west, but the scale of the issue defies belief. Everywhere there are copied software and DVDs, and even large respectable departments stores sell knock-off stuff. And since it's probably often coming from the same factories as the real stuff, it's quite often a bargain. KFC, McD's and Häagen-Dazs are ubiuitous. The Shanghai tour trams were even sponsored by McDonald's, but everywhere, sometimes next door, are total rip-offs of the chain logos, though serving stuff that is nothing like the original - for example the KFC rip-off sells only noodles. I even saw a rip-off of a "Southern Fried Chicken" shop that you see in the west trying to rip off KFC. A rip-off of a rip-off.

So to the Bund tunnel. In all my travels I have never seen anything like it. The lamest "attraction" I have ever seen in my life. For 40 yuan return, we stood in a little driverless electric train carriage that chuntered along through a tunnel full of flashing lights, while a voice pretentiously announced "meteorites... fossil...". Halfway through the ride there were inflated mannequins that bobbed around beside the train. It was like a ghost train improvised by a primary school.

But it brought us to Pudong, where we braved icy wind to go up to 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt, where we had a couple of drinks and ridiculously overpriced "Asian tapas", but the view down onto the smaller buildings of Pudong, and the Bund and the rest of Shanghai was worth the expense. Then back to our hostel on the stupid tunnel, which by this time I was looking forward to, and giggled the whole way back.

The next day we booked "soft sleeper" tickets to Beijing - a twelve hour overnight journey, and mooched around until we grabbed a taxi to the station; our first driver unfortunately found that the passenger door in the back wouldn't stay closed. He gestured to M to hold it shut, but we politely declined and got a new cab, leaving him at the side of the road, attacking the door with a screwdriver.

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