Monday, October 11, 2010

First days in China

After staying up all Friday, taking a plane 16 hours and watching 5 movies we arrived in China. Our first experience on the outside was hundreds of Chinese on both sides of an aisle holding signs and looking for arrivals. It looked more like paparazzi or a disco dance line with tons of people on both sides. It seemed like we could never get out but we jumped through and met Ali, the other foreigner that would be taking us in. He drove us to his house in the French Concession and I got to see the dreary but large skyline with massive apartments that never seemed to end. The drivers were another thing completely. People don't use brakes here, but instead sound their horn and swerve around you in a flash. The smells in the air ranged from trash, smoke or other random pollutants. However, the houses and freeways looked very similar to Europe. Driving through Pudong, Shanghai was like driving through a polluted Ireland for the first time. After passing the houses, we were in the city and we only saw massive apartments and skyscrapers lining the sky. We saw the famous skyline of the pearl tower and the world fair buildings of the China pavilion and the Japanese purple silkworm.

Tired from no sleep, we kept going and went to the prettier streets of the French Concession. The streets are lined with trees like they would be in France, but with no French people and instead hoards of Chinese on bikes and scooters. They filled the streets more than the cars most of the time. Whole families were on one scooter, or loads of baggage, trees and other randomness were carried somehow on the small motor bikes.

We reached the apartment, which was comfy and modern. We then headed out to the unique alley a short way from the apartment. Each place was as big as a closet but unique and cute anyway. There were multiple stories that didn't make sense at some times, like a closet size dining table at a restaurant 3 stories up? A teddy bear place that sold food too, but other nice clothing and art stores that we will visit again.

We ate inside a mall that had true Shanghaiese food. We basically ordered everything on the menu that was vegetarian, which was a lot. I have never had anything like any of these dishes. We ate an amazing mixed mushroom and brown sauce that was to die for, bite sized rolls with spinach, rice balls in sugar water (surprisingly good), sweet gluten, sticky rice, cold bean curd with a sauce, lotus root and spinach (very good too), fried yam and taro, and red bean rice for desert. The place was packed full of families with round tables. The service was great and the food was unique to us and really tasty. The only bad thing was they were out of cai bao (veggie bao tsu) and I had a craving for them! The search was on.

We then headed out to a coffee place and then off to a cigar bar. We drank Moscow Mule's in gold tin cups (ginger ale, vodka and lime). The place was nice, quaint and dark. The waiters wore tuxedos and the place was mainly foreigners. We met tons of different parties here, some visiting from abroad as we were. Germans, Hong Kongnese, Americans, Japanese and a Swiss. Most were going to the Expo and they all had a different take on the place.

After a long night of drinking and socializing, we headed home and knocked out. We woke up hours later to go to the fair! The tickets were in a far off hotel looking place that was completely preposterous. 70 million people go to this fair, and they put this building in the completely opposite area, in a room that was about 300 square feet, on the 26th floor, with a person who deals with tons of foreigners and doesn't speak any English. Nonetheless, we grabbed our 7 day pass ticket with Haibao on the front (of course) and headed out. I spotted cai bao on the street and grabbed two for 100 yuan (.50 cents each). They were awesome and the people watched us shove them in our mouths excitedly.

We went through tons of subways and finally reached the fair (take line 9 to line 13 for the best way in there and avoid any ferry or other transportation that takes you past the river). The place was huge! I couldn't believe that I was seeing the pavilions in person when I saw them online for so many months. Out of the 400K people there, we were just about the only foreigners there. I would spot a person once in a while, but it was packed full of Chinese everywhere. They stared and filmed me once I think, but I think there were many rural people that have never been out of their village before this. The Chinese pavilion was spectacular, huge, red and perfect hanging in the sky above us. The upside down looking building rose high above every other building in grandeur and people took pictures all around it. We found out they were doing a reservation to get to the top portion that sells out in 10 minutes so we need to get a plan to get that now.

We saw bottom of the Chinese pavilion that was huge and amazing at first, but turned out to be not so cool and we headed out. We checked out the Sri Lanka pavilion next door and met the real Sri Lankans that were working inside. We ate at a vegetarian buffet next to that pavilion called Godly. It was pretty good and had all you can eat cai bao!

Next, we headed to the Japanese pavilion (purple silkworm) that is a "living breathing organism" building that moves and sucks in rain water and spits it back out to cool itself. After a 3 hour wait in the stinkiest line I have ever been in, shoved next to 8 billion loud, smelly Chinese looking at me and having their children poop in trash can (wtf?) we got in. Old ladies elbowed me to get to the front and they even needed the military to be crowd control.

The Japanese pavilion was amazing with two different robots, a pink one that talked about saving energy and a white one that played the violin. They had the most advanced technologies in the green industry and boasted their efforts of saving the planet and this endangered bird.

We finally got home and passed out again, and are ready for another day.