Day 23: Adios, Qingdao; Ni hao, Shanghai

We wake up surprisingly refreshed after yesterday’s, well, depravity. Given our recent penchant for studying all day to prepare for the bar, I think I drank more beer yesterday than in the previous three months combined. But we stayed up late enough and ate enough delicious, delicious Ali Baba chuanr that we weren’t spinning when we went to bed. So there is no hangover to ruin our sublime hotel buffet.

We take a taxi to the Qingdao airport for a flight to Shanghai and notice an amazing security sign: “Please check in your wine and knives before proceeding.” (Awww maaaaaaaan!!  *pleading eyes*  My wine AND my knives??!)

The Shanghai airport lies outside of the city, but you get to take a maglev train, so it’s totally worth it.  A maglev is a train that floats above the rails an a magical electromagnetic cushion.  I don’t know how it stays stable, or how it doesn’t scream off of the track during turns.  I suppose the magnets on the train and on the rails pulse with opposing forces, propelling it forward.  It takes about one minute to achieve a top speed of three hundred kilometers per hour (about two hundred miles per hour, I think?).  It is really smooth and impressive – like riding a train underwater into the future.

We have decided to slum it at a backpacker’s hostel while we’re here (Captain’s Hostel) so I think the days of flower petals in the toilet are over.  We have a dorm room with three sets of bunk beds, and we enter to find exactly what I’ve come to expect from a hostel: clothes and towels draped over surfaces to dry out, empty wine bottles scattered on a table, a person or two sleeping away the daylight.  We meet an incredibly awkward girl who is staying in the room (or maybe living there?  It was hard to understand her).  She mumbles very quietly and then laughs at inappropriate times.  Something about her makes me imagine one of us waking up in the middle of the night to see her standing in the middle of the room watching us sleep and eating her own hair.  Or something.  She’s creepy, is the point.

We go to the old Shanghai district – the tourist area with temples and koi ponds and what is left of the classic architecture.  There are a ton of people here.

the old and the new

Old and New

Shanghai is famous for its dumplings, specifically because they have a little spoonful of a soupy broth-surprise inside.  Sam takes us to a famous dumpling restaurant and we sample a bunch of different types.  There is an orgasmic curry dumpling that leaves us no choice but to order seconds.  And Sam says we have to try the crab roe dumpling, which I am fine with until I see it.

Your typical dumpling is about the size of a golf ball, but the crab roe monstrosity was the size of an orange, and had a straw sticking out of it.  There is something horrifying to me about just sucking up some liquid that you can’t see.  And then, when it tastes like someone heated up the water from the bottom of a fishing boat and served it to me like a delicacy in a fancy dumpling, well, I am reminded of the huge cultural divide.  We each try it and splutter.  Sam describes it as “aquarium water.”  I eat another curry morsel sent down by the angels themselves to get that fish-market taste out of my mouth and happily decide to never take a gulp out of an unknown seafood dumpling again.

Shanghai’s main draw for me is to walk along the Bund, a pathway along the river where you look at the unique skyline.  The way the river curves through the city reminds me of Prague a little bit.  As we walk to the river to find the beautiful riverwalk with trees and benches and beautiful beauty and my god, the beauty, the only thing we find is closed-off construction zones.  Dust and cranes, hanging in the air.  They are redoing the entire Bund for the World Expo next year.  When they finish it is going to be incredible.

the bund (under construction)

Can’t See the Bund

They do like their flag here.

The closest we get to the water is crossing over a bridge by a marina/reservoir thing a few blocks away from the river.  But there is still a pretty nice view of the metropolis from the bridge.  The Oriental Pearl Tower is such a singular, bulbous, space needle of a building that it makes the skyline really interesting.  And behind that you can see the colossal World Financial Center building with its bizarre “window” that makes it look like a huge bottle opener standing on its end.  All combines to make a really cool sight, whether seen directly from the river or no.

View from the bridge.

Oriental Pearl Tower

world financial center and jin mao tower

World Financial Center behind the Jin Mao Tower.

world financial center and jin mao tower

Same Same

We cross the river to see about going up into a tall building to watch the sun set.  We approach the Oriental Pearl Tower and the absurdly high price (at least to my eyes) turned us at the door, but not before seeing our next installment of Butchered English On T-Shirts (And Some Other Places Too)!!! On a sign labeled “Notes for Entering the tower” we read the following: 1) The ragamuffin,drunken people and psychotics are forbidden to enter the Tower. . . . 3) Prohibit carrying tinder and exploder( banger,match,lighter ),restricted cutter(kitchen knife,scissors,fruit knife,sword and so on)and metal-made electric appliance. . . . 6) Prohibit carrying dangerous germs,pests and other baleful biology.

(You can’t bring a knife, scissors, fruit knife, OR sword??  They are strict!  Plus, “The ragamuffin” and “baleful biology” are effing priceless.)

We decide if we’re gonna spend a crap-ton of money then we should do it going to top of the tallest building in China, the second (or third?) tallest building in the world – The World Financial Center.  So we navigate the seeming miles of construction detours to the tower, pay the required fortune, and enter the space odyssey elevator with its walls of pulsing light.  At the last stop we are standing on the world’s highest observation platform, looking through small squares of plexiglass in the floor showing a vertigo-inducing drop to the street.

view from the world financial center

That’s me!  View from the World Financial Center.  Look how much higher than the Pearl Tower we are!

view from the world financial center

That’s not me.

We sit cross-legged in front of the windows, watch the setting sun turn the city orange, and wait for the lights on the Pearl Tower turn on.  When they do, it is very nice.  Very nice indeed.

Sitting on the Observation Deck

Night Falling

oriental pearl tower

Oriental Pearl Tower

It’s late and we’re hungry so we meet Sam’s friend at a mall for dinner, and then head back to the hostel to await the inevitable multiple murder blood bath to be committed by our quiet, psycho roommate.


2 Responses to “Day 23: Adios, Qingdao; Ni hao, Shanghai”

  1. June 9, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Oh, I’ve missed you! Why do you have to work?? 😉

    Your descriptions are amazing. YES, that building DOES look like a giant bottle opener! YES, the lights of the city are incredible! I can only IMAGINE the crab roe dumpling but, even with a photo, my thoguht would be, ‘Yep. Exactly as he described!’ 🙂

    • June 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

      why, oh why indeed. if only someone would just pay me to travel and then write silly stories about it. i’m gonna cut back on my days at the courthouse though, so i shouldn’t neglect as much as i did last week.

      what a failure that we didn’t take a picture of the bucket-o-fish dumpling. oh well…

      thanks tracy!

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