Thursday, June 5, 2008

China Day 06: The Good, The Bad, The Bus and the Bund

Once we deplaned in Shanghai's domestic terminal we slogged a considerable distance to where we would board our bus, whereupon we discovered that all Chinese tourist buses are not created equal. This is an icky, gross bus. The seats are extremely narrow (and I'm kind of wide), and the rows are set so close together that my knees grind into the cargo net on the back of the seat in front of me. It also smells of smoke and its windows are so greasy that it is very hard to take pictures through them.

Oh well.

While we were still arranging ourselves, Tom the Shanghai guide arrived with our KFC Chicken Burgers. We headed straight into Shanghai because we have tickets to an acrobatic show at the Lyceum Theater.

Shanghai is a really modern city, full of high-rises. I loved the ones with "dragon holes" in them. Due to the aforementioned smeary bus windows I got sort of bad pictures,
- here's a link to a better one on somebody else's blog. Scroll down almost to the bottom. These odd construction features are necessary to secure good luck for your building.

You see, this is necessary because you are trying to position your building where there is good feng shui. If you have a site with good feng shui, it is probably already on a dragon's path, since that is where they travel. If you block a dragon's path, you will not prosper, so you leave a hole in your building to accommodate the passage of dragons through your buildings. Happy dragons=good luck!

Also, it turns out that dragons can fly through glass, so sometimes you just put in two facing glass walls.

Shanghai has also turned the humble overpass into an art form. At one point downtown we spiraled through a lovely multi-level swirl, accented with garden plantings and colored lighting. Darn those smeary bus windows!

We now developed a new problem: we were making such good progress through the city that we were going to be too early for the show. Fred and Tom decided to take us to the Bund to kill a half hour, even though we are scheduled to go there tomorrow, presumably for a longer period of time.

The Bund is a spot on the banks of the Huangpu River (which runs through Shanghai) where the Western banking buildings and public buildings are located. I'm not going to write an essay on the history of Shanghai, but it is the city where colonial rule of China was centered, and it was divided into "concessions" held by various foreign nations (the French, the Dutch, the British, the Russians, the Americans, and on and on). All the old-fashioned, traditional Western-style buildings:
are right across the river from Pudong, with perhaps the most modern and architecturally interesting (read "weird") buildings in downtown Shanghai.
Quite the contrast!

In some ways, though, this side trip was not a very good idea. You have a busful of tired, cranky people who have just been rushed through a fast-food dinner, and who have come directly from the airport so they have all their MONEY on them in money belts and such. Then you take them to a place where the second they step off the bus they are mobbed by vendors and you tell them to watch out for pickpockets. *!?!* I ask you!

Actually if I had more confidence there are things I wanted to buy from the vendors. One guy had these funny semi-mechanical toy mice I thought my friend's cats would like. Another guy had a gel toy that you throw on the ground and it lands *splat* in a flat sheet, then "picks itself up" again. A third vendor had miniature Chinese "Centipede kites" - the kind where you have a bunch of little kites strung together as a stack. Another had fans. I think I am going to try to get these tomorrow, plus the mice. I just don't feel comfortable digging out my money belt in this environment.

We spent a little time wandering the waterfront and taking pictures of ourselves
but it wasn't very pleasant - the river here is quite polluted and it doesn't smell very nice. We did see an interesting thing, though:
A floating billboard! We were fascinated - we watched it for at least ten minutes.

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