Thursday, November 1, 2007

Shanghai, The good and the bad

When I arrived in Shanghai on the bus I was ask if I wanted a taxi and said yes and show the address in Chinese for a change to the person. They said it will be 100 Yuan. I said no and caught a taxi on the street with a meter. It cost me 16 Yuan to get to the hotel. After checking in I bought a city map and figured out the walk to the subway station and spent some time figuring how to buy a ticket and took a short ride before returning to my hotel.

The next day I visited the Shanghai Museum and walked around on both sides of the river to see the area that they call the Bund. I found the Shanghai really good and it struck me as funny that in a few days they will be having an exhibit from the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. I came half way around the world to see an exhibit that was only a short walk from where I use to live. The vases and the different figures were the parts of the museum that I enjoyed the most.

The south side of the river was nice to look at the area called the Bund with all the different building and all the lights. I don’t know why but it sort of reminded me of Las Vegas. I was surprised to see a Goodyear blimp flying up and down the river. Goodyear on one side and all Chinese charters on the other that I just assume also said Goodyear.

On the north side of the river it was also bright and interesting to see if people would have just left me alone to enjoy it. I got off the subway and within 1 minute had been ask 3 times if I wanted to buy a watch, shoes, bag and etc. After walking 2 or 3 blocks I got off the main street Nanjing and went to one of the side streets. It amazes me how different a city can be within one block. Bright lights big city one street and the next street dirty and poor looking. At least on the poor streets people left me alone. I walked down to the river to the section that is known as the Bund and there being left alone ended. I could not walk 5 feet without being harassed by someone trying to sell me something or begging. One beggar must have walked with me for at least 200 meter rubbing my arm and saying money. I had on my MP3 player thinking that would help and it only helped for this beggar when I turned up the volume load enough that she could hear my heavy music. I made it down most of the river walk and took the back streets again back to the subway.

When I was buying my ticket for the subway I was told that lines 3, 4 and 5 where not running. I would take the 2 to the 1 and then at the train station transfer to the 4 or the 5. I figured I would just catch a cab at the train station. First when I am coming out of the subway station at the train station I am pretty sure a guy was trying to pickpocket me. He had a piece of paper between my face and my shirt pocket and just too interested in my shirt pocket. The stuff in my pocket was worthless just some paper and a pen I use to communicate some of the time but still a bad feeling. After I’m out of the subway station a guy comes up to me and ask me if I needed a cab I said yes and showed him on the map where I wanted to go. He said 60 Yuan. I know I sound really cheap but from the bus station the day before which was really close to the train station it had been 16 Yuan so I said no too much. I said it cost me 16 yesterday. He then told me “Far Away”. I was already tired of all the beggar, people harassing me to buy stuff and someone trying to rob me and this seemed to be the thing that made me loss my cool. I had just showed him on the map where I was going and of course I knew where I was. He knew I had a map how stupid did he think I was, “Far Away”. I knew it was only 2 subway stops away and him telling me “far away”. I just sort of lost it. I said 2 subway stops and he said “not far away”. I took out my map and told him we are here and pointed at the next subway stop and said 1 then the 2nd subway stop and said 2 not far away. I just walked away at this point to find a cab myself. I started to talk to a driver and who pops up but the same guy talking to the driver in Chinese and then says to me 50 Yuan OK. I said meter to the driver and the driver said no meter and the guy always sticking his nose in and I finally told the guy LEAVE ME ALONE. GO AWAY. He would say yes and then stands there. I kept telling him GO AWAY and BYE BYE but I was getting nowhere so I finally said I will walk and walked away. Within 20 meters a different driver (I think he had been watching) pulled up along side of me and opened his door. I show him the 2nd subway stop on the map and he said OK. I got in he turned on the meter. The meters start at 11 Yuan in Shanghai and when I got out at the subway stop it was still on 11 Yuan. I gave the driver 15 for taking me and for telling me on the ride that taxis with plates that start in BX are bad. Really all he said was “BX Bad” pointing at the plate of a cab but I understood because I had written down the plate number of the cab that would not use the meter and it also started with BX.

The following day I went to the Yuyuan Gardens and within 500 meters of the Gardens it was the pressure sales again all the way to the entrance to the gardens. I did not know what to expect from the gardens and it was really a sort of rock garden with pools and temple looking buildings. I think I was the most impressed with the bright orange fish in the pools.

I guess you have the feeling that I hated Shanghai by now. Well that may not be far from the truth but there was also a good side to the city. I enjoyed some of the small side streets a ways away from the major tourist sites. I walked to and from the train station from my hotel after the fun with the cabs just to see how far it was on foot and really enjoyed the walks. I came across this great dumpling type of place on one of these walks and it currently is one of the favorite things in China to eat. I ate them 3 times in 2 days and when I go back through Shanghai for my flight to Hong Kong they will be my first stop. My guidebook talks about Shanghai’s favorite dumpling called a Xiaolongbao. I am not sure that was what I was eating but it sounds like it since it said there is a trick to eating them without being burnt by the oil. It is a really tricky thing to eat these dumplings. Each time I bite into one of these the juice inside goes everywhere. I thought some people were laughing at me trying to bit into them and making a mess and burning myself a little when I decided to watch others eating them I figured I might get the trick of eating these things from others but it appeared to me no one else knew the trick because it seemed like everyone was having a hard time eating these tasty dumplings. I will practice again when I am in Shanghai and let you know if I work it out.

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