Okay, so I know I will get tons of sympathy out there. Yesterday (Monday) I spent an hour crafting an especially poignant and heart-wrenching tale of woe and sorrow about some the more disturbing sights we have experienced. If I say so myself, it may be the finest piece of blog-writing on the net. Just as I was adding the final touches (two award winning photos, I’m sure), I realized that something was wrong. The text had all disappeared, never to be seen again, and all I had were those two photos. I need to confess that the writing took too much out of me emotionally and I just cannot do it again. I’m sorry, but you will have to do with a description of our weekend in Shanghai instead.
Friday it was raining (our third day of rain since arriving, I think – this week is beautifully sunny and crisp) so Terry and I took a cab to the railway station. Now in the three previous times we have gone, we have breezed through security (they have x-ray machines like the airports). Not Friday. We were lined up outside the building for 5-10 minutes waiting to get in. Once through the machine, we had to show our tickets and passports before getting into the seating area. Normally, 15 minutes before your train leaves, you then go through one of 6 turnstiles to get on to the platform. On Friday, however, the people getting on to the train ahead of ours were shepherded into two lines and then had their tickets and ids checked again. When we didn’t have that problem, I realized that it was because the previous train had been going to Beijing – home of the 18th People’s Congress this weekend.
This was also the reason that access to the internet this weekend was at best flaky and at worst non-existent. On Sunday our VPN provider issued a statement that China had blocked all VPNs over the weekend. It gave me an idea of how different/difficult/impossible it would have been here for us if there wasn’t access to a VPN. It also says that the Chinese government has the power to block it if they want but still let it happen, most of the time. A point in their favour, perhaps.
Anyway, once we got into Shanghai, we went for dinner (salads for each of us – my incredible weight loss and developing liking of vegetables continues). After dinner we went back to the store where Terry bought her half cowboy boots to see if they had any other big sizes. Lo and behold they did. Which ones did she buy?
On Saturday morning we were off to the fabric market to meet some Coquitlam friends (Ron Grender and Mary Thomas) and do some more clothes ordering. Terry got a jacket, a pair of jeans and two shirts for $150, I got 2 pairs of slacks for $73 and we bought a duvet cover, bed skirt and two pillowcases for a total of $120. Grand total $343 – they will all be ready when we return in two weeks for Elton John.
From there we were off to Ikea to mingle with 13 million Chinese (well, it seems like there were 13,000,000). You know how Ikea sets up their store so everyone goes in one direction? Well, like all Chinese traffic, that rule doesn’t apply. 6,500,000 start at one end and the other 6,500,00 start at the other and try to get past each other. Amazingly though, it seems to work, no one gets upset or pushes and you eventually get where you are going. We bought two more end tables, and lugged them home. Other than the woman on the subway who has a damaged leg and broken hand (well, hurt but not broken) it was a snap.
Saturday night we went to Simply Thai for another fabulous meal with a great bunch of people. Thanks guys. I found it quite warm in the restaurant, so this must have been a fashion statement, right?
Sunday morning was breakfast at Starbucks, buying soy milk at City Shop and then off to Yu Yuan Gardens shopping area.
Now how to describe Yu Yuan Gardens shopping area? First, I would estimate that it takes up about 6 square city blocks. Next I would say that each building’s floor area is the size of the old New West Woodward’s main floor. Some of the buildings have one floor, some two and the odd one three. Next each stall/store is no more than 15 x 25 feet and they are arranged like the Showmart during the PNE, but there isn’t the feeling of space since they are only 8-10 foot ceilings. Each store basically sells one item. Got the picture? Now what do they sell? Well as Terry said, it is almost like if it is made in China you can get it here. We saw combs, key chains, placemats, incense, gloves, hairclips, insoles, sleeve covers, men’s underwear, sim cards, Christmas baubles, stuffed animals, recorders (the kind you played in school), lipstick, matchbox toys, purses – one entire floor of a building was all shops each with hundreds/thousands of purses, suitcases, red Chinese Good Luck charms, plastic glasses, fabric toilet seat covers, slippers, etc., etc. Now when I say each shop only sold one type of item, that doesn’t mean you could only get, say combs, in one shop. Oh no, there were tens of shops which sold combs or whatever. How they ever make a living, let alone sell everything they have is beyond me. And where does it all go??? (Ed. note: If these photos seem random, it is either because that was the way the shops were or because the author, despite trying his hardest couldn’t get them to cooperate.)