Category Archives: Shanghai

These blogs describe our visits to Shanghai.

Terry’s Asian Birthday

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Surprise! For all I knew, Geoff and I were flying to Hong Kong for an extended weekend to celebrate my big 60th birthday. We were to leave from school at around noon with the school driver to take us to Hongqiao airport, bag all packed, sans nightie, sans passport. The first surprise came when Geoff allowed me to get into the car, then said, “I have a surprise for you. I am not going with you.” What? I was not feeling great about this new development but okay, trust me, he says. He handed me a packet of envelopes with instructions on the top about when to open the first one.   He closed the door, waved good-bye and the adventure began.

Second surprise: I was not going to Hongqiao Airport. I figured it out as we drove past the exit and on. I sent him a text. “This feels very weird.” And then: “Do I have a passport?” “No,” he texts back. A few minutes later, he texts, “Trust me.” Okay.

At 2:00 pm, I opened the first envelope and read the instructions. Printed underneath some pictures that detailed where I was supposed to wait in Pudong Airport. Yes, that’s right, in Pudong.   The pictures placed me in front of the International Arrivals gate no later than 2:30. Brilliantly, I deduced that I was meeting someone from Vancouver, flight arriving at 2:35.   But who would it be? As it turned out, I had an hour to wait. Each time people came through, I stared at faces. After the first 40 minutes, I began to think that strangers were people I knew.

I began to consider who it might be: Probably a girl friend, since I gravely miss my girlfriends here. Could it be Ria? No, she’s been to China and has newly moved to Pentiction. What about Karen? Doubtful. She has not expressed any interest and was concerned about the WCs. Nancy? No, her husband has some medical issues at the moment. Lynne? She was just here so no way. What about Jan? Most likely. She is my oldest friend. On the other hand, maybe it would be my brother and his wife or my aunt and uncle. But why would Geoff not be with me? No it had to be a girlfriend, most likely Jan.

Surprise number three: “Terry, Watt,” I hear from behind me and turn. There are 5 of my best friends! NO WAY! I roared and then stood still in total shock. It took me a moment to unfurl the “Welcome to Shanghai” banner Geoff had made for me, then walk to them and hug and shriek at each of them. Surprise doesn’t begin to cut it—shock is much closer. I was gobsmacked entirely.

Geoff had hired a driver and a 6 seat van to take us all to the hotel. “All aboard!” Mr. Janca (Ed. note: Okay, let me straighten out some people here. I am sure you have all travelled via air and when you get off the plane there are drivers holding up signs with the names of arriving passengers on them.  In the effort to keep Terry from knowing what was going on, I  could hardly have the name “Watt, Therrien, Rollins, MacPhail, Cregg-Guinan or Waldie” being held up could I? So, I took a letter from each the ladies names in alphabetical order: Jan, kAren, lyNne, nanCy, riA. Thus Janca. I explained this in my instructions to the visitors, but they all continue to call the driver Mr. Janca – these are the women their husbands are dealing with, folks) was awesome and did what he was told, quite happily. Geoff had thoughtfully installed 6 champagne glasses and 2 ice cold bottles of champers, which we immediately cracked open and drank. By the time we got to the hotel, everyone was over the jet lag and I was whirling like a top. First stop, the 12th floor to check in. Sorry, no passport. Now I know that this is not to be trifled with in China. The hotel MUST make a copy of your passport and visa and have it on file, repeat customers included. It took a few calls but eventually Geoff was able to send the copies to Peter the manager and he was satisfied. The hot h’ors d’oevres arrived within a few minutes of being installed in the room, along with flowers, ice buckets and ice. On the bar were a dozen bottles of white wine and 6 large beer were cooling in the fridge! Let the games begin!

After several drinks and appies, I opened the envelope. Included were subway cards, a train ticket home, a certificate for foot massages for all, a new charge card for me with which to purchase 2 dinners at places already reserved, a whack-o-cash and an itinerary for some of the activities. Geoff had thought of everything! (Ed. note: I fall on bended knees to beg the forgiveness of any of the 5 husbands – any husband really, involved in this.  I just had too much time on my hands.)

Our Grand Tour of China

(Ed. note: This week’s Jiaxing Express is a Guest Post by Martin and Lynne, who are visiting us as part of their Grand Tour of China.)

(Ed. note: Last June we ran Contest #2 for travel stories. The original winner has not yet given any indication of their desire to collect their prize so we have decided to arbitrarily give the First Place Prize to Lynne Cregg-Guinan whose story of her panties going around and around on the airport carousel provided us with gales of laughter. Congratulations Lynne and since you are here you can collect it.)

It’s Wednesday and we are off on our Oriental Odyssey. Delivered in short order to YVR, we go straight up to China Eastern Airlines check-in (12 desks open – take note Air Canada!). Two minutes later, we are heading to Security. Wednesday morning seems to be a good travelling time, because that was smooth sailing too. Duty free in hand, a twenty minute wait at the gate, and we are called. Everybody is on in less than 10 minutes (again, please note Air Canada!). A brand new plane, reasonable leg-space, individual entertainment screens, two drinks and three meals, some dubious English in the inflight magazine; twelve hours passes relatively quickly. On arrival at Shanghai Pudong, we haven’t the seat belts off when everybody is moving – never been off a plane so quick! Twenty minutes on the walkways (a BIG airport!), straight through Customs and into Baggage Claim. The good run we are having continues when our luggage is Piece Number One and Piece Number Three on the carousel. What luck! What ease! What could possibly go wrong at this stage?

Out we go to be met by a sea of dark hair, where a tall white guy with grey hair should be sticking out like a sore thumb – right? Nooo – no sign of Geoff (Terry is to join us the next day). Where could he be? Did we really agree to meet at Pudong? Or the hotel? Had he been arrested for some nefarious deed (such as the Jiaxing Express?)? Did we tell him the wrong date? The guy is always on time for Chrissakes!

Thirty minutes of shoe watching later, all is relief as Geoff appears, looking a little flushed. Much back slapping and hugging, followed by a raised eyebrow. “OK”, he says, “I went to the wrong terminal! No one ever arrives into this terminal (nobody but the Cregg-Guinans that is)”.

Where the hell are they?

Where the hell are they?

(Ed. note: Hey isn’t there SOME responsibility on the travellers to let the meeting party the terminal they are arriving at?  When I arrived at Terminal 2, there was no listing of the Cregg-Guinan’s flight on the arrivals board but what the heck – TIC. Anyway, after an hour of waiting I finally asked someone and they informed me that the China Eastern Flight had landed at Terminal 1 and I took off like either the tortois or the hare – you figure which one.)

On to Shanghai by taxi – they only go faster here by blowing the horn louder! Lane changes are accomplished by getting two feet ahead of the guy beside you and yanking the steering wheel. Arriving safely, we check into a lovely room with a shower you could fit twelve in. A quick rinse followed by a beautiful meal in a place called, appropriately, Lynn’s.

(Ed. note: L and M were a little shocked to open the closet door and see this.)

In case of attack...

In case of attack…

Next day, up early for a huge breakfast, including Wonton soup, bacon and sausage, yogurt and copious amounts of coffee and pastries. Then to the Rip Off Mall – er, Replica Mall. Instead of waiting for G&T’s friend Links, Geoff and Martin go to the Secret Secret Room, where we are soon bedecked in new watches. All is happiness until we meet Links, whose facial expression when we tell her the prices we paid is something to behold. C’est la vie. (“No comment” – Lynne) (Ed. note: Links’ comment: “Don’t buy anything here without talking to me first! I am mad at you!”). Upstairs then to the glasses shop where Lynne orders one pair of Chanel long distance glasses with transition lenses and a pair of prescription sunglasses. Cost around $220 each. Gorgeous though. They will be ready for pick up on Saturday if we wish to.

An afternoon spent exploring, followed by a trip to the South Bund Soft Material Spinning Market, where Lynne orders two pairs of wool pants, a pair of summer capris and a skirt – to be ready 48 hours later. This is greatly facilitated by the fact that she has brought the originals that she really likes for them to copy. Then back to the hotel to meet Terry. More hugging and kissing, followed by large amounts of wine, and a great meal in a restaurant called Lapis Thai. By now we have this pedestrian thing down pat – crosswalks mean nothing, nor do one way streets.

On Day Three, take the ingredients of Day Two and repeat. Over to Pudong, only to see all the tall buildings we wanted to see disappear into the clouds.

Left - Shanghai World Financial Centre 101 floors; Right, Shanghai Tower 121 floors when completed this year.

Left – Shanghai World Financial Centre 101 floors; Right, Shanghai Tower 121 floors when completed this year.

Nature kicks in, and we head to the Financial Centre Building (it looks like a bottle opener), where we all sample the Pudong Pudenda Purifier – a device that warms the seat and cleans you front and back when you are finished!

I never bben so clean!

I never been so clean!

Left: The newlyweds @ 13 years; Right: the newlyweds @34 years

Left: The newlyweds @ 13 years; Right: the newlyweds @34 years

After all those beer, here’s the toilet at TGIFriday’s:

When you sit down you are a height to really enjoy the STRONGLY scented balls in the urinal.

When you sit down you are a height to REALLY enjoy the STRONGLY scented balls in the urinal.

So, off to the Tacky Tourist Tunnel under the river, where, to compensate for the innate properties of tunnels – that there are no views – they have installed a Whistler style rail gondola, and enough crazy lighting to obviate the need for LSD on any given day. (not recommended for people prone to seizures!! ). Then, along the Bund with about one million Chinese on weekend family outings.

Lynne and Terry at the flower wall on the Bund

Lynne and Terry at the flower wall on the Bund

(Ed. note: For dinner it was off to Lost Heaven. Now those of you who have lived in Shanghai know how wonderful this restaurant WAS. The last two times we have been there have been very disappointing. The food has been bland, and the service too “more wine, sir” pushy. It was such that Terry and Geoff will not soon return and Lynne and Martin said if they lived in Shanghai they too would avoid it Perhaps they are resting on their laurels. Lapis Thai, on the other hand was fantastic!)

On Sunday, we walked to through the French Quarter and Peoples’ Square. The latter is quite remarkable due to the Sunday activity there. Parents of grown children write out the credentials of their offspring on a piece of paper with a contact # and sometimes a photo and pin it on either an overturned umbrella or on a wall behind them. Other parents and singles prowl through and read all the papers and write down the contact info of those interesting to them. Lots of apparent matchmakers are present too. Must see if this would work in Blue Mountain Park when we get home!

Shopping

After an excellent lunch of dumplings and other delicacies Geoff and Lynne go and collect the clothing (all fit perfectly). Terry and Martin do a bit of grocery shopping to take back with us. We then say goodbye to Shanghai and head to Jiaxing on a bullet train. The railway station in Shanghai is something to behold and is the size of an airport terminal and very new.

However, we have no idea what this means – seen by Lynne on the wall in the women’s water closet.

Yes, it does say "Troubleshooting in"

Yes, it does say “Troubleshooting in”

By happy happenstance, we have to buy business class tickets, which puts us in a carriage that is as close to flying first class as you can get while actually on the ground!

Aaahhh, comfortable seats after long days of walking.

Aaahhh, comfortable seats after long days of walking.

And here we sit, blogging while our hosts are at work. A few days here, then off to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army and to dust the Emperor’s Tomb (the first emperor). We are there for three days, whence G&T will return home, and we go on to Beijing, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Stay posted!

The Shoe Blog

Geoff spotted these while Lynne and Martin were looking all over FreshMart Grocery store for Chinese beer – to no avail. They had to settle for German Pilsner.

Very cute - and the shoes are great too! LOL

Very cute – and the shoes are great too! LOL

“You are beautiful, I love you”, “You are so thin”

Well, we have spent a couple of days in Shanghai. Terry had her 5 year medical thingy to deal with. While we were there we experienced our usual TIC moments. These are in no particular order.

1. We are in the doctor’s office today, which is quite the place. The “practice” has four or five suites around Shanghai and caters to expats. It is always an experience to visit. Today there was a young fellow who had injured his leg and was on crutches. He came out from his appointment with the doctor to the receptionist. The conversation with her went like this:

  • Young fellow: “When can I get in to see the specialist?”
  • Receptionist: “Well, she is all booked up for the next three or four days.”
  • Young fellow: “Well then, when is the first time I can get in to see her?”
  • Receptionist: “Tomorrow morning at 10:30”

2. While Terry was at the doctor’s offices, I had a couple of hours to kill so, as usual, I just wandered the streets. Also, as usual, I got quite a few looks – how is my outfit unusual? My question is why no one looked at the fellow on the right, which, really, is at least a little unusual for downtown Shanghai.

Terry thinks the guy on the right is doing the Sons of Anarchy thing.

Terry thinks the guy on the left is doing the Sons of Anarchy thing.

3. These people were preparing lunches for the workers in the area – but they were not pleased to have their photos taken.

The left side is the kitchen and the right side is the area where the dishes are prepared for delivery.

The left side is the kitchen and the right side is the area where the dishes are prepared for delivery.

4. This fellow, apparently made some kind of illegal left turn and was stopped, in the crosswalk, by the police officer. The police officer then told him to get out of the car – leaving it in the crosswalk, and to come across the street where he could write him the ticket. Who needs a crosswalk, anyway.

"Just leave it here."

“Just leave it here.”

5. One thing about Shanghai is that there are very few one way streets – but this is one of them. Although, it seems that the scooters don’t really care – and trust me, they are going the wrong way on a one way street.

One way, shmone way.

One way, shmone way.

6. Our friend, Links of the bamboo underwear, has a brother, Chen, who is our prescription eye-glass source.  I got Geoff to take this shot of the back room of his shop, which is really just one of several “secret” back rooms where one is invited as a special customer.  I took a secret shot to try to capture his height, which didn’t really do it.  Geoff bluntly asked him to stand and he was more than happy to oblige.  I dubbed him “The Gnome” for obvious reasons.

Terry and her Gnome

I’m thinking his hair and my chin–it’s a match!

7.  And now for the title of this blog.  These are a few things that one does not hear in Vancouver:  an elderly woman on the subway was staring at me.  As I was getting off, I helped her move her baby stroller which she was using to carry her bags, and she said, “You’re beautiful–I love you!”  Okay.  Interesting.  Out on the sidewalk,  a group of 4 young people asked me if I would take their picture, which is often the beginning of a con.  But the one fellow handed me his phone so I snapped a picture and headed on my way.  One of the girls called,” Hey, you’re thin! Where are you from?” as if a thin woman was unheard of in China.  In fact, the vast majority of people in China are thin.  Could it be that I was Caucasian and thin?  I’m still thinking about this weird comment. Personal boundaries are scarce here, hence the loud talking, the staring, the comments, the pyjamas on the street.    TIC!

The Shoe Blog

These are somewhat typical of many Chinese women’s shoes. They are dead flat, no arch support, thin soles but as Terry says “Ugly as hell”.

They are beige, so they work with any outfit!

They are beige, so they work with any outfit!

Rolling Stones in Shanghai

(Ed. note: In the midst of the unpacking of the wine last week, I got a text from Shelley asking if it had been delivered. I told her yes and to look for the blog that afternoon. Later I got this email from her:

“Earlier today when I received the confirmation from you that you received the wine and you noted I could read about it in your blog, my colleague (Chinese) said “ Ah, I think he will mention the packaging.  It can be difficult.”

Thanks for the information!

You were our first delivery so far outside of Shanghai…perhaps we should get company branded hammers and send them out with the deliveries!  (Ed note 2: YES!!) 

Do you have a fireplace?  You could use the wood to keep warm… you did mention it was cold!” End Ed. notes)

Now, on to The Rolling Stones! Well the Stones have come and gone. We told you we would provide a review of a bunch or 70 year olds jumping around. But before we get to the concert, one of the great things in China is that you get drivers to take you places so that you can drink wine and have appies on the drive in to Shanghai to dinner before the concert – which is exactly what we did.  (Ed. note: Thanks to Tim and Sherrie!) When we got to the arena, we discovered that we had perfect seats. My seat was on the aisle and the aisle was in the exact centre of the stage – and we were in row 11. They couldn’t have been any better.

We figure we were about 50 yards from the top of the "tongue' where Mick, Keith and Ronnie were frequently performing from.

We figure we were about 50 yards from the top of the “tongue’ where Mick, Keith and Ronnie were frequently performing.

The crowd was quite interesting. Apparently the Stones are multi-generational and multi-cultural.  Having said that, it is pretty clear that there were not many others there at my age. Some observations:

  1. our generation of Chinese did not grow up with the same interest in rock music that we did (Ed. note: Related to Mao’s influence, perhaps?)
  2. there are not a lot of expats (Ed. note: the audience was likely 70% non-Asian) of senior years living in Shanghai.  Terry disagrees, saying there are lots of older male ex-pats in Shanghai, just not many female ex-pats, and perhaps not so many of either at the concert.
  3. younger concert goers in 2014 – Asian and Non-Asian – feel the need to frequently leave the arena to get something else, effectively missing – oh, I don’t know, but maybe 30% of the concert. Maybe that is because they can only get one glass of wine at a time, beer sales are cut off at about 5 minutes before the concert begins and marijuana is not available – at least there was certainly no familiar and comforting fragrance in the air.
  4. however, even I had to leave briefly (missed all of Ruby Tuesday) to get something to drink. I bought a large juice – 30 yuan but all I had was a 50 yuan note. The guy was very flustered because, I guess, they were closing the till and he couldn’t give the correct change, so he gave me 15 yuan – and a bag of potato chips. Go figure.
  5. You would think, that after 50+ years Jagger would know the names of the band. He introduced Charlie Watts as Charlie Wood – Richards had to correct him.

Now, have you ever been to a rock concert that started on time? Well neither have we. The Stones came on at 8:30 – exactly 30 minutes late and left at 10:35 . 19 classics later but with no intermission. I am pretty sure that I could not have moved as much or as “gyrationally” as Jagger did last night. It was really an amazing concert – even if they didn’t do Brown Sugar (Ed. note: See below) or Wild Horses. Were they rocking? Well, we never sat from the opening note and even I was dancing – well, dancing as much as I can dance. Terry, Sherrie and Tim were really going at it though – as were the other 15 000 or so at the sold out Mercedes Benz Arena.

Set List

  1. Street Fighting Man  (by request) (Ed. note: Apparently the last time they were in China they sang Honky Tonky Woman and Brown Sugar – which they have since been banned from singing here)
  2. Miss You  (followed by band introductions)
  3. Slipping Away  (with Mick Taylor) (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  4. Happy  (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  5. Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor) a fabulous 10 minute duet with Jagger on the harmonica
  6. Encore:
  7. You Can’t Always Get What You Want  (with the Dulwich International Singers) – must have been an an amazing thing for these twenty twenty-something singers to be on the stage with them.
  8. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – an emotional and energy draining 15 minutes

Terry’s view:  I read an interview with Keith Richards in my March Timeout Shanghai. When asked if there were reluctance from the rest of the band to tour, he said, “We only do this when there’s an obvious desire or need.  Mick’ll call me and say, ‘Isn’t it about time we did something?’ and I’ll say, “I’ve been waiting for this call, how does Charlie feel?’…I actually do wait for Mick Jagger to say, ‘I feel like rocking’ and then it’s, ‘Okay mate, I’m right behind ya’ and that’s the way we do it, y’know?”

Watching the show, it was clear how much the band counts on Jagger to show the way.  Thanks to the giant screens that allow patrons to see any show much better than the first time I saw the Stones back in the last century, we were able to watch the band members follow Jagger around the stage with their eyes, waiting for him to cue them.  Once, it seemed like they lost the rhythm as Jagger did his thing, but were able to pick it up again a some seconds later. A funny moment came when he and his female vocalist met at the front of the ‘tongue.’  She was obviously not understanding his subtle direction to cross behind him and change positions, so he did a chest bounce off her bountiful bosom, giving her the smallest of smiles, before pulling her past him.  The surprise on her face was real but she didn’t miss a beat and the two just kept on singing and dancing.

What a great show!  Our seats really were terrific, as Geoff said, and it was so much fun dancing and singing to the oldies.  ‘Satisfaction’ was a blast, with everyone stabbing their fingers in the air along with Mick. He might be older but he’s still got the moves like Jagger!

It took me 50 minutes in line to get these puppies!

It took me 50 minutes in line to get these puppies!

The Shoe Blog

Well, as I have mentioned , the shoe photos are few and far between these days. Instead, I have a little video of something I observed today at the office. This is one of those things you just know is going to happen in China but you don’t know when.

For the first 20 minutes she just used the table – but eventually she used the plastic bag. They chew the sugar cane and then get rid of the pulp…TIC

Eat Yer Ya-Yas Out

rolling stones

Abu Dhabi Review

“Since those Hyde Park (Ed. note: July 2013) gigs both Mick and Keith have both turned 70 – can they really keep it up for another run?

On the basis of opening night at Yas Island’s du Arena – it’s a resounding yes. The Rolling Stones played an incredible two-hour set, brimming with bluster, groove, spirit, hits, history – and most surprisingly – enthusiasm.” (Ed. note: Read the complete review.)

19 Songs = 2 Hours

19 Songs = 2 Hours

Find Section 222

Find Section 222

Tim, Sherrie, Terry, Geoff

Tim, Sherrie, Terry, Geoff

Watch for OUR review on March 13, 2014

Allright, already…

I am getting the impression that you all would have been on the Chinese guy’s side…

Anyway, prior to the Sunday debacle, we spent Saturday evening enjoying the sights and sounds of Nanjing Road East and the Bund. These entertainers seem to just spontaneously start up. Here you go… (Ed. note: The video was taken on my phone, over the heads of the audience(s). Please forgive the shakiness and occasional blurriness.)

A man and his zither

A man and his zither

Historic Laszlo Hudec-designed Art Deco cinema in People’s Square

Known to foreigners as ‘the best cinema of the Far East’, the Grand Cinema was frequented by Shanghai’s glitterati in its 1930s heyday. A Laszlo Hudec work, it was completed in 1933 and was the height of technological innovation – each seat had a translation system installed so that the Chinese audience could enjoy the foreign-language films through individual earpieces.

The Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre

Another Art Deco building

Another Art Deco Building – Plaza 353

The Chinese love their neon

The Neon Lights

The Neon Lights

Ala New York’s Times Square

Some incredible scenes were shown on this "sign"

Some incredible scenes were shown on this “sign”

The Swatch Art peace Hotel on the Bund

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel on the Bund

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Another well lit building, next door to the Swatch Art Peace Hotel

Across the street from the above two stands Chairman Mao watching over all his children

Chairman Mao by night

Chairman Mao by night

And across the Huangpu River from Mao is Pudong – not an area he would have likely approved of.

Pudong at night

Pudong at night

And finally, before anyone else goes there, a Horse’s Ass.
Horse's Ass

The Shoe Blog

This was a matched set – the shoes and the pants. You can just see some sparkles up near her knees – but her entire pants were sparkles.

Her boyfriend's drab shoes enhanced hers all the more

Her boyfriend’s drab shoes enhanced hers all the more

Chinese Road Rage, Up Close and Personal

Our friend Lawrence, who was here last year as a principal of a BC Off-shore school in Shanghai, refused to ride in taxis and buses because of the erratic–sometimes insane–driving we had witnessed.  Lawrence’s insistence on safety-first led to a few funny sidebars, like the time we saw him and Helen about a block away from Lost Heaven where we were all meeting for dinner, but didn’t see them at the table for close to half an hour later.  He had taken a wrong turn and ended up circling several blocks before he found his way.  Better this than getting in to a cab with a mad man.

We have been in cabs when it certainly felt dangerous but last Sunday on our way from Shanghai to the train station in Hongciao, the danger we felt came from a driver in a new Camry.  Our cabbie did nothing unusual, as far as we could tell.  He did what we have seen cabbies and other Chinese drivers do a hundred times:  they merge by driving into the other lane.  They always make sure their front tires are about even with the other car’s front bumper, then pull in.  In every case up to this point, the other drive backs off to let the newcomer in.  It was so common as to seem like a rule to us.  No need to shoulder check, wait for space, signal; just gradually pull over into the next lane in front of the current driver who is supposed to back off and make space for you.  We have commented many times at the seeming lack of road rage that these maneuvers cause. But, apparently, it is not a rule.  This particular driver took umbrage with our driver and gave chase.  He stayed with us for about 10 minutes, pulling alongside then cutting the cabbie off so he had to brake or be driven into the cement abutment on the outside edge of the elevated highway.  Yes, that is correct–elevated highway.  Personally, I have no desire to die in a car accident and I especially do not wish to go out crammed into a cement abutment, suspended or worse over cars below.  On Sunday, it seemed a strong probability.  When he wasn’t trying to cut us off, he kept beside us, trapping us behind another moving vehicle.  Sometimes he would pull away into the far lane.  When our driver tried to get out, he would swerve back at us.  Cars in three lanes were honking at him but it made no difference.   Sadly, our car lacked enough power to make a getaway.  Each time our driver tried for the opening, I was hopeful we would lose him, but he just didn’t have the juice to get ahead of a new Camry.   When we turned off the main road to enter the station, the Camry slowed down and followed, but now he was biding his time, just waiting for our car to stop.  I knew we were in trouble when Geoff said to me, “It’s not our driver he has to worry about.  It’s me.”

As soon as our cab stopped, the Camry pulled in front of us, stopped and the driver jumped out and ran to our cab.  He yanked open the front door.  Before he could pull our driver out, Geoff jumped out of the back seat and flew into his face.  Meanwhile, our cabbie handed me the change and got the hell out of Dodge! Wise man!  The scene that transpired was not pretty but at least no blood was shed.  A loud verbal exchange–English to Chinese, Chinese to English–and much pushing and pulling followed, all of which caught the attention of on-lookers, some of whom gave the Chinese guy the thumbs up.  Geoff was unaware but I found it quite worrisome.  Can you say ‘outnumbered?’  The driver wouldn’t let us move on and began to behave just like he was still behind the wheel, standing in front of Geoff and trying to cut him off.   The yelling eventually caught the attention of a  policeman who made the three of us stop.

Try to imagine the scene:  Hongqiao is huge, about the size of 3 football fields.  It is a major hub, with about 20 fast-train tracks and hundreds of people arriving and leaving every hour.  Almost all of them are Chinese and almost none of them understand English.  So here’s a short, stalky Chinese guy into it with this tall white guy, both parties yelling  about the injustices that have been done to them to a Chinese cop who doesn’t understand English, in a sea of Chinese, none of whom look prone to siding with the foreigners.  Am I worried?  Oh yeah.  But one of us has to remain calm.

I ask for an English-speaking cop and finally, out comes a female police officer.  I try to tell our story but the whole time, the other driver is raving.  Geoff isn’t exactly quiet either.  The officer says we all have to go inside, into the police office.  Okay but the little guy keeps up the rant the whole way, which does nothing to calm Geoff down.  We still have to put our bags on the scanner so we can enter the building, then  as we pick them up, a woman who apparently witnessed the physical nature of the scene outside, began yelling, “This is China!  This is China!” drawing more angry crowds.  “How ironic,” I thought, as the tune to Alice’s Restaurant began running through my head,  “That’s what we say!  TIC!”  The cop stopped to listen to this woman and others, all witnesses on behalf of the mad driver.  Finally, I say to the policewoman in a low but firm voice, “Can we get out of here?  Take us into the office.  This isn’t safe.” Thankfully. she agreed.

Long story short, we weren’t arrested and neither was the driver of the Camry.  We were told that the police would review video of the roadway and if the driver and the cabbie were at fault, they would be in trouble and have to pay fines.  No one wanted to have an international incident, I’m sure.  Geoff had to apologize to the driver, which he did, and admitted he was wrong.  Much to my surprise, the driver was trying to stop Geoff from leaving because he had broken the guy’s cell phone.  I guess I missed that part.  Geoff gave him some money and we all left peaceably, but I was nervous until I saw that there were no crowds holding pitch forks in the grand hall.  We managed to quickly buy our tickets and board a train to Jiaxing within the hour.  Good gawd, what an end to an otherwise fun weekend.  Mercifully, all’s well that end’s well but the subway is looking a lot better.  Lawrence, I see your point!

Shanghai Lights

(Ed. note: Lots of great stories and photos to share over the next couple of blogs!)

We were in Shanghai for the weekend. I should have known – Friday the 13th. Started off with the usual crazed taxi cab ride to the train station. It seems Jiaxing has two types of cabbies – crazed and “we’ll get there when we get there”. This was followed by the usual crush of people pushing to get on to the train – even though the seats are reserved, there seems to be a real need to push ahead of anyone in a line. The fellow who tried, unsuccessfully, to get ahead of Terry was successful in getting ahead of me. Sadly, I think he may have some bruises on the back of his legs, since I was unable to control the suitcase I was carrying due to the jostling I was receiving from behind. (Ed note:  Terry is much kinder than I am.)

We were commenting the other day how, on the Jiaxing buses, people only get on through the front door and off through the back – they never try to get off through the front. On the train there is an announcement at every stop to please get on through the rear door of each car and off through the front door. People always have large packages, suitcases etc. so it only makes sense. However, there are always people who get on at the front and then have to fight their way down the 24 – 30″ wide aisle against the tide of people (including us) coming the other way. It was not my finest hour as I was not in a “cooperative, step to the side and let someone get by” mood.

The taxi setup at the train is very cool. They have a long (200 yards or so) walking lane about 30″ wide with railings on each side all the down. This puts everyone into a single line, first-come basis to get a cab. Very civilized. Fortunately, there were no incidents, other than a guy who dropped two 40 pound sacks of rice over the rail at the 75 yard mark and then had to walk back to the 200 yard mark to get into the lane.  It was a safe bet that no one in the taxi lane was going to cart off his rice, although that might have been interesting!

Friday night we met the boys at Mekong River for a very nice Vietnamese dinner (Thanks to Harvey and Cinec Canada). After dinner,  we waited for a cab and when one stopped to let someone out, we jumped in. We told him where we wanted to go and he waved his hand and shook his head no. We told him again, same reaction. Remember my mood on the train? Well, it had changed to a “I’m not getting out and the longer you sit here, the less time you have to make money tonight” mood. Finally after about 5 minutes he reached over, flicked on his meter and away we went – and in a very direct route, too! Victory was ours.

Saturday morning Terry was off to a Pro-D event and I was on my own – sometimes a dangerous thing in Shanghai. Not this weekend, though. I was very well behaved. Sat at Starbucks, marked some assignments and then went back to the hotel to meet a woman who was delivering some food we ordered from one of the vendors at the Farmer’s Market at the Ritz Carlton. Imagine free delivery to your hotel for $40 worth of food.

Terry got back around three and we were off to wander. First, we wandered through the new Jing’An Kerry Centre. The anchor tenant is the Shangri-La Hotel. One of the shops was offering champagne and Ferrero Roche chocolates as you entered. Kate Spade has a store. Get the idea? Boss is coming. Pick up the latest Valentino design. Now this is right across the street from Reel Centre where you can get Stella McCartney or Alexander MacQueen, Gucci, Coach etc. etc. I guess someone is buying, but there wasn’t anyone carrying any bags when we were there and if you couldn’t have fired a shotgun without hitting anyone, you could have fired a cannon. This is from their website:

Sadly, we don't fit the criteria

Sadly, we don’t fit the criteria

From there we were off to Nanjing Road to see the Christmas sights and lights. Just before  dark, we had dinner at the Sichuan restaurant where Barb, Michael and I ate in the spring. It wasn’t as hot as that time, but there were flavours and heat we hadn’t experienced before.  Black pepper pods still on the twig numbs the entire mouth, including the tongue.  After dinner we wandered down to the Bund to get some night photos of Pudong (Ed. note: Future blog)

I know you are tired of hearing about the “approaches” on Nanjing, but these two were priceless.

  1. Terry is about 20 feet to my right taking some photos and I see two attractive women approaching and one peels off to come toward me. “Hi – where are you from?” I keep walking. “Hey, where are you going?” she says. I say “To meet my wife and point to Terry” She looks at Terry, gives me a big smile, nods her head and off she goes.
  2. We stopped to watch some street performers (Ed. note: See next blog for video) and Terry has moved down, again the mad photographer at work. A guy comes up to me, shows me the ever present cards of beautiful women. “You want sex massage? You come with me – 1 minute away” “No thanks,” I say. “No, you come, we go” “No thanks” “Why not – why you no want sex massage” “I am waiting for my wife” “Where – where wife?”  Just then, Terry has left the crowd and is walking toward us – 10 feet away “There’s my wife” and just like that he says “You want shopping – bags, watches?” Very funny – very quick.

From there it was back to the hotel. On the way we saw many Christmas displays. The first one, however, is from two weeks ago when we were in during the day. Hope you enjoy them.

These are the skinniest Santas anywhere.

These are the skinniest Santas anywhere.

The Longines Tree at the end of the pedestrian mall would have been even better if all the ights on it were actually lit.

The Longines Tree at the end of the pedestrian mall would have been even better if all the lights on it were actually lit.  Lots of smokers in China.

Ciros' Centre

Ciros’ Plaza (Terry’s Ed note:  I share their love of neon!)

Ciro's Tree - tried to photoshop out the iPhone but what the hell.

Ciro’s Tree – tried to photoshop out the iPhone ad across the street but what the heck.

Outside a mall of music stores.

Outside a mall of music stores.

Westlake Centre has a Year of the Horse (2014) theme going. There were about 15 of these painted horses. Remind you of bears or whales?

Westgate Centre has a Year of the Horse (2014) theme going. There were about 15 of these painted horses. Remind you of bears or whales?

More of Westgate's theme

More of Westgate’s theme

The understated Gucci store

The understated Gucci store (outside the 5th floor)

The Westlake Centre's outside tree.

The Plaza 66’s outside tree.

The Westgate Centre's Inside tree.

The Plaza 66’s inside tree.

Outside the new Jing'an Kerry Centre

Outside the new Jing’an Kerry Centre

The Reel Centre Gingko Tree

The Reel Centre Gingko Christmas Tree – Shangri-La Hotel in the background at the top

Jing'An Centre Tree

Jing’An Centre Tree; nice juxtaposition to the Buddhist temple lions.

Jing'An Centre Decorated Wall

Jing’An Centre Decorated Wall

They are not trying to be subtle!! Bling Bling Holidays

Why rest on subtlety?  Bling Bling Holidays

This year’s winner, however is Bulgari.

The Billboard across the street

The Bulgari Billboard across the street

The Snake during the day

The Snake during the day (Ed note:  Terry was studying this display and said, “This should be a necklace,” looked around and there was the billboard across the street.  Bulgari has  a whole line of snake things–necklace, bracelet, rings.  A bit too much for me but definitely statement jewelry.  Next year is year of the horse.  Hmmmm.)

And finally,

The Snake at night

The Bulgari Snake at night.   What a fabulous display!  This is exquisite.  Last year they had 2 Mini automobiles suspended on this same pole.

Never a Dull Moment – or – TIC*

More on our weekend…

A Rope Tow is a Rope Tow

When we go into Shanghai, we take the highway. We came across this bus being towed along at 70 kph- I sure as heck hope they don’t have to stop suddenly.

Look carefully now - that's a long cloth strap such as is used to strap down materials on flatbed trucks

Look carefully now – that’s a long cloth strap such as is used to strap down materials on flatbed trucks

Is that Polish or Polish?

After Terry’s cleansing experience we headed off down Nanjing Lu to do our shopping. First up were a couple of older (Ed. note: It’s never possible to give an accurate age estimation – somewhere between 50 and 80, I’m guessing) gentlemen wanting to shine our shoes. Weakly I submit and 45 seconds and 20RMB later I have shiny new shoes (Ed. note: A great deal – last year I got to pay 100rmb!). The second gentleman wants to shine Terry’s – shine her suede boots. She generously allowed him to wipe them with some kind of cloth and a little liquid. He too wanted 20RMB, but she steadfastly refused – giving him only 10 since there was no polish involved.

You Want Sex Massage?

A block later Terry wanders in to a store to get water – I wait on the sidewalk and get offered a sex massage – it is 11:15 in the morning for God’s sake. Now, admittedly, the photos of the beautiful girls on the business cards he was offering  made it enticing, but with the price of 200rmb for a full hour I wondered if the girls in the photos were actually the girls plying their trade. Plus, if they were one and the same, I am confident that at my age an hour was not an appropriate amount of time.

Is that Polish or Polish? (Part 2)

Once I got rid of him, the fellow who had polished wiped Terry’s boots showed up again – with a different partner. The new guy wanted desperately to polish my shoes – guess he figured the first guy had done a pretty crummy job. Anyway, I kept saying no and trying to back away so he couldn’t put any of the cream on he was trying to apply. I finally lost and he got some on and then wanted 10RMB to take it off. This guy is half my size. I didn’t pay anything. Then both of them spend five minutes (Ed. note: Terry couldn’t find the water, I guess) demanding to know how much I paid the first guy. It was as if they believed they were getting ripped off by him. Hmmm.

Shanghai Tower

While waiting (still) I noticed the still under construction Shanghai Tower (on the right). Now for most of you this isn’t a big deal, but for those who have been/lived here in the past year, take a look at the two. The tower on the left is the  Shanghai World Financial Center, also known as the Bottle Opener. We showed photos of it a year ago. The floor over the opening is Floor 100. You figure how tall the Shanghai Tower is (Ed. note: Upon its completion in 2014, the building will stand approximately 632 metres (2,073 ft) high and will have 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 m2 (4,090,000 sq ft).)  There is no perspective issue here – they are literally across the street from one another.

The Shanghai Tower will be the second highest building in the world when it is finished behind the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

The Shanghai Tower will be the second highest building in the world when it is finished behind the Burj Kalifa in Dubai.

My Bike is Valuable, Damn It!

Hey, it may be coverd in rust and the seat is all taped up, but I need it to get to where I’m going.

Look carefully at the front tire - it is locked!

Look carefully at the front tire – it is locked!

You aren't getting my bike!

You aren’t getting my bike!

We have always felt very safe no matter where we have been in China, but I guess the theft of of old, decrepit rusty bikes is rampant…

Parking, Parking 50 cents…

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived 2 blocks from the PNE and one summer Bobby Wick and I decided to offer parking on some unused land across McGill Street from the racetrack. We made very little money, but it was another example of trying to get people to pay for parking when they don’t want to. 

In China – forget it. People just park where they want – here, there are two rows of five cars parked  – hope the guys on the inside don’t want to get out any time soon.

Parking at the market

Parking at the market (Ed. note: See Terry with her purple backpack and the water she finally got)

(Ed. note: The fellow below lives in our building and has decided to start parking here every night. I do hope that is his wife’s silver car he is blocking. I admit that this doesn’t actually fit in to our weekend, but it is another example of parking in China).

Sorry for the blurriness - I was laughing as I took it.

Sorry for the blurriness – I was laughing as I took it.

A study in familial elegance

A study in familial elegance

On Sunday I was waiting for Terry as she did some  shopping (more Doc Marten shoes) (Ed. note: sensing a theme of how I spend most of my time “with” Terry?). I watched these two very elegant ladies chat away for about 15 minutes, thinking how typical it is of Chinese mothers and daughters to spend Sundays together. Apparently they were both enjoying the conversation since there were lots of smiles. All of a sudden the younger woman takes a 100rmb note out of purse and gives it to her. The woman thanks her and continues chatting away. The younger woman now tries to wander away, taking out he phone and chatting. The other follows. Finally a husband and real daughter show up and the younger woman leaves with them – clearly relieved. I don’t know what the older one’s “story” was, but she sure worked the younger one.

Terry’s a Bad Ass and Hey – I’m Hungry

Last year when Bruce and Kim were living in Shanghai, Kim was at first a little, let us say, tremulous in getting from one side of the street to the other. I seem to recall that that lasted until mid October, until she became a self-proclaimed Bad Ass and walked when she wanted to! (Ed. note: You go girl – still a bad ass?) Well Terry has now become a Bad Ass in a different aspect of Chinese daily life – lining up. We have described in some detail the Chinese penchant for just going to the front of the line and butting in. Yesterday at the train station, she not only pulled two men back from trying to butt in on one side of the line, she directed ME to stop the guy on the other side if he tried it! (Ed. note: He was in fact, just waiting for his girlfriend to buy the tickets)

On our way home in the taxi I spotted this woman on the back of the scooter eating her lunch – with chopsticks. What more can I say?

At least it wasn't soup

At least it wasn’t soup

Minor Observations and Irritants

I keep meaning to mention these and always forget – until today. One of the most frustrating things we have come across here is the kitchen sink. If the bottom isn’t actually sloped away from the drain, it is no more than dead flat. When you try to rinse out any little bits of things they just float around the outside and don’t want to swirl down the drain. A seemingly insignificant thing but frustrating none the less.

Also, for a population that wants to protect every square inch of their skin from the harmful effects of the sun, in both summer and winter, why is it they RARELY wear sunglasses – no matter how brilliant the sun may be?

Finally, we have noticed WAAAAYYYYY more caucasians in both Jiaxing and Shanghai lately. Watch out China we are taking over!

The Shoe Blog

Here are two for you.

Look carefully at the soles

Look carefully at the soles

More White and Black

More White and Black

The ones on the left are the new style in Shanghai. You take a very elegant boot designed for fashion and put a 1/2″ hiking sole on it. The boot below is from Starbucks one day – quilted white plastic. Very fetching.

* TIC – This is China

Terry Visits the… uh… “Dentist”

In  to Shanghai this weekend to pick up some prescription glasses (like we don’t have enough) and a few new pairs of Jimmy’s cords for Geoff, but first, a trip to the dentist for Terry.

(Ed. note: Sadly, no pictures to accompany the following.) We go to Parkway Health for any medical concerns–a good company with most doctors trained in the west and fully fluent in English, so of course I had no compunction about seeing a dentist there.  Geoff booked me an appointment on-line.  I had had my annual check-up in July and was pretty definite about only wanting a cleaning.  So here’s how it went, once I was in the chair.

What is the problem with your teeth today?

No problem, I just want them cleaned.

Just cleaned, okay, okay.  You don’t want me to take an ex-ray?

No, I had that done 4 months ago.  Just clean.

Okay, okay.  First I take a picture, then after cleaning, I will show you.

Sounds good.

There may be some bleeding and some pain.

What?!

Not to worry, it will go away in a day or so. In order to clean the best, I have to touch the tooth below the gum.

With what?

What?

What will you touch my teeth with, water? laser?  metal tool?

Maybe water.

My teeth are pretty sensitive.  Please be careful.

Okay okay, don’t worry.  We will start with water.  Bleeding will stop after a little while.  First, we put these goggles on you.  Second, we put a mask over your face because of water splashing.

Okay (I guess.  I’m already sweating and sitting in the direct sunlight isn’t helping.  The mask turns out to be paper with a giant mouth cut out.  It’s probably a good thing that I can’t see what it is he is doing.)

He begins to use the high powered water jet.  Within 5 or so seconds, he blasts a nerve and I involuntarily jerk. After several more times, he stops and asks the assistant for topical anesthetic.  He applies it and starts again.  A few more jerks.  He stops and switches to the metal tool, the thought of which in itself is ominous but in his hands, develops a certain macabre tone.  The topical helps, although he has to reapply a few more times and I manage to get through it.

When they take the paper mask off, it’s a bit sodden on the upper edges around my forehead.  The goggles have not only steamed up but the water has actually started condensing and there are a few rivulets down the lenses.  Now the up-sell starts.

You have a cavity.

First they crank the chair so far up that my body is in about a 45 degree angle and I can no longer make out what is on the computer screen.  I tell him I can’t see the images.

Yes, perhaps you can’t see because I take these pictures with this plastic sleeve over the camera.  If I take it off, you would see better.  But if you look here (you’re kidding, right?) you will see you have a cavity.  You want me to take an ex-ray?

No.  No thank you.  (If you think I would let you do anything more to my teeth at any time, now or in the future, you have another think coming!)

Okay okay.

Phew!  I have lived through it and am a pound or two lighter from all the sweating but okay, okay, I can get out of there.  But first the bill.

Consultation:  450RMB/73.26 US dollars.  Remember how it went?  What is your problem?  No problem, just clean.  End of consultation.

Charge for procedure: 700RMB/$113.96.  Now, it seems to me that when I had a full check-up, ex-rays and cleaning in July, it cost me $178, and that included flossing, polishing and fluoride treatment.  He was reassuring in the end, however, when he told me my teeth cleaned up nicely.

Seriously, I think he was a rookie but, no matter.  That will be the last time I sit in a dentist chair in China!