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Jul. 30th, 2007 @ 03:43 am China Travelogue Part 1
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Over a year of slacking, and I'm finally inspired by murdercitydevil's entertaining Japan posts to finally put up some of my photos from China. Since it's been so long, I'm sure I've forgotten many of the amusing details, but best to get as much that I can still remember down.

My grandmother on my dad's side was turning 80 in 2006, so my family decided to travel to China to help celebrate her birthday(and to do some various site seeing along the day, since I hadn't been to China since 1987). The trip pretty much comprised of 4 parts, a few days in Shanghai, a cruise down the yellow river from Chongqing to Beijing, a few days touring around Beijing, and finally a few more days in Shanghai before heading back to the states. The exchange rate was about 7-8RMB to 1USD, though people's earnings and the general costs of things have similar numbers. So a standard salary in the US winds up being able to rockstar many Chinese establishments.

Pretty much immediately after we land and meet up with my grandmother at her new place(random pictures at her new and old place) we go off for dinner. So we *gasp* walk to a local restaurant. This restaurant, like most of the others that we went to in Shanghai had several very attractive young women in qipao(traditional chinese dress) being very friendly greeters. Apparently in China, human labor is so inexpensive that hiring people to do any random task is commonplace.

Instead of a menu, this restaurant literally had a room with the various dishes to peruse for making the selections. Lining one of the walls was a sectioned aquarium with dozens of different types of live seafood. As I was admiring the selection of delectable sea creatures, I saw a live snake in a cage, and I jokingly suggested that we get a snake for dinner. And thus my dad decided that we needed to have snake for dinner in addition to the rest of our entries. While we were waiting for our food to get cooked, we went over to the section where they had the wines and selected some Chinese branded wine vintage 1980 or something similarly old. There apparently is no actual guarantee that such a branding in China actually means anything, as this wine had none of the nuances that a well aged wine would have. Back to the snake, they actually removed the skin and served it as a second dish. As with many Chinese foods, the snake skin apparently has many recuperative properties. Flavorwise it was rather chewy and mostly flavorless, somewhat akin to jellyfish. The snake itself was split open, and the slices were served neatly lined on the platter. The meat was well spiced, while it was somewhat tough, it was quite tasty once you got past the hassle of picking the meat from the bones.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes and went to a hair salon, where for 50RMB(7USD or so) we could get a shampoo, cut, and a minimum of 45 minutes of massage. Cheap human labor at work again while were waited on by a whole slew of people attending to our every salon need. Talking to the stylists, with them asking constant questions about what I wanted, was very exhausting since my breadth of Chinese language didn't cover everyday topics like hairstyles. My brother fared worse, since his Chinese isn't as good as mine, and I think he pretty much said yes to whatever they asked him.

The next day, as we're in the taxicab getting to Xiangyang Road we came across this guy carrying a huge pole while riding a bike:

Riding the taxicabs in China is a harrowing experience - the lane markers are more suggestions than anything else. Somehow on a 4 lane road they manage to get 3 lanes of traffic going in both directions as necessary.

Xiangyang Road is the place where people can go and get all of their cheap counterfei... completely legitimate name brand goods. This area was very popular with tourists as there was a notable population of white folks wandering about. This place is also very well known for their extreme bargaining of prices. Since not everyone could speak Chinese, the various kiosk people would yell some random poorly pronounced English brand names, and when it came time to negotiate prices they'd pull out a calculator and punch in the prices and show them to the potential customers. Speaking of bad English, here's a decent example:
. Looking around for a bit, I saw all the favorite designer labels on the clothing there Unfortunately the labels were the only part that they held in common with the actual products from those brands.

We were warned before going there not to buy any of the bottled water from the people walking around(storefronts being ok mostly). Apparently people will rummage through the trash, find empty water bottles, fill em up with tap water and resell them. I saw a number of folks walking around selling these bottles, which obviously had their seals broken. There's something to be said for all of the regulation and branding games that we play here in the US, they really to protect the consumer.

Since I have an Omega watch, I thought it might be amusing to see how much(and how high quality) of a fake watch one could get while there. So I walked into one of the nicer looking kiosks, and after asking them about Omegas they brought out a case that had the same watch that I had. When asked how much, the response was 1500RMB(about $200 USD), to which I decided there was no way they'd be able to haggled down to a reasonable price, thanked them, and walked out. My mom, being the shrewd bargainer that she is stayed in there, and after a few minutes bought the watch for 200RMB($28 USD). That's almost 90% markup! Though later while my mom was bragging about it, my relatives told her that she could've probably gotten the watches for 150RMB or less. More pictures of Xiangyang Road

My grandmother's 80th birthday party was at a rather fancy restaurant(and as such we dressed up in suits which really impressed the 50ish friends and family that were there). Being that my brother and I hadn't been to China in many years, we were practically paraded around to see various relatives and friends. Inevitably these same people would hand my brother and I hongbao(red packets with money usually given to children), despite our best efforts to proclaim the fact that we're adults. But being unmarried, we're apparently both disqualified from adulthood. Ironically, with the exchange rate I probably make far more money than most of the people that gave me money. While I was dismayed to find that the only beer that was available was Budweiser Select, it turns out that it's somewhat palatable being brewed differently than regular American Budwiser. The food there far surpassed any Chinese food that I had here in the states. The most memorable dish(at least that I can remember a year later) was a whole roast piglet served to each of the 5 or so tables. The crisy skin was a golden brown colored and somewhat reminiscent of the skin off of Beijing duck, with the rest of the meat cooked to tender perfection. A close second was the restaurant's own take on the peach bun with a giant one surrounding lots of smaller ones:

Afterwards we went to Nanjing Road, which is one of Shanghai's busiest shopping areas filled with all kinds of stores and glitzy neon lights. Imagine a mall during Christmas time, and that's about many people there were wandering around, even late at night while we were there. Not really much to say about it, but I managed to get some nice photos:


Late night chopstick shop

Late night McDonalds

Animated building lights

Then we wandered over to the river front where we rode on the worst ride in the word. It's just a rail car that goes under the river and had lots of flashing neon lights of various arrangements to give anyone epileptic seizures. It wasn't a complete loss, since I managed to get some decent nighttime citiscape photos:

Oriental Pearl TV tower

Nice riverside cityscape picture

More nighttime Nanjing Rd pictures and full size versions.

Ugh, either Safari or Livejournal ate the first iteration of this post, so I've posted less than I'd originally written. I guess it's just more for the next installment
About this Entry
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Date:July 30th, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
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That last picture is really awesome. I tried resizing the giant version of it to fit my widescreen and test it as a wallpaper, but it just didn't work well once cropped.

I'm glad you decided to post these.
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Date:July 31st, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, that's my favorite of the first batch too.
Date:July 30th, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
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Shanghai looks insane, I can't believe nothing was going on. Just from looking at the handful of pictures I have to see this city sometime before I die.

Like we talked about briefly 2 weeks ago, I'm glad you're putting these up. I like reading about other peoples travels.
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Date:July 30th, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
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You should read my brother's ongoing blog, http://adevelopingmind.blogspot.com/. He's currently in HK and writing about his adventures there.
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Date:July 31st, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
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Shanghai and Beijing are somewhat similar to NYC and DC in the US. The former being a very trendy urban city with stuff always going on, and the latter being a political center. I think you'd definitely enjoy time in Shanghai.
Date:July 31st, 2007 05:52 am (UTC)
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Ah ha. Now I see why my mom has been back to China four times in the past three years.

I really want to go see China -- I've never seen it myself. The closest I've been, geographically speaking, is Japan.
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Date:July 31st, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
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The other part of it is that China's constantly changing. The government seems to make liberal use of eminent domain type laws to tear down and rebuild.