August 31 - September 2                    Beijing

Our travels in Japan closed with a two-hour train ride to Osaka, where we boarded a 747 for a 2 1/2 hour flight to Shanghai China.  All kidding aside, we have now spent 24 hours in this country, and are a little daunted by the difference in the cultures.  To start with, the languages are totally different.  Japanese seems easy compared to the dialect of Chinese that they speak here, so we are relying on the old trick of SPEAKING ENGLISH LOUDLY WITH AN ACCENT!
View from our hotel window
China seems to be much more like the US in its pace and aggressive feel.  Shanghai is a vast sprawling city, with superhighways, honking buses and taxis, huge department stores, and tons of skyscrapers.  It feels a lot like New York City, except that we can't read the road signs. Although, unlike Boston, they actually have road signs.

The BundWe have never seen so much construction in our life.  Literally dozens of new office towers are being built with in view of our hotel window, and all over the city are construction pits where the foundations are being poured for some more towers.  Like trees rising from a mossy forest floor, the towers jut upwards, surrounded by low-rise tile roofed buildings.  Shanghai seems to be a dark city with the exception of Nan Jing Road, a retail street, that remains brightly lit into the night, and the Bund, a street running along the river, with huge office buildings from the colonial period before the revolution.  They are currently government offices, and are quite impressive, particularly at night, when they are lit with neon and spotlights and looking quite dramatic.

Nan Jing RoadThe Chinese of Shanghai seem to agree with what Chris has always believed -- traffic signals should be optional.  Pedestrians completely ignore the lights, as do the bicycle riders (lots of bikes in this town).  The moped and motorcycle riders have their own set of rules.  The car and bus drivers take a different approach.  If there is a police officer on duty, i.e. standing on his pedestal in the middle of the intersection directing traffic, then they will stop for the light, reluctantly.  Otherwise, the lights are pointedly ignored.  The result is an interesting game of chicken.  Chris is tempted to play along until his beautiful wife suggests that the consequences of losing are somewhat greater here than they are in the States.

While walking up Nan Jing Road, we wandered into a massive department store.  It was kind of a Chinese version of an old Sears.  The thing was 8 stories high, with a dramatic atrium rising the entire way to a skylight roof.  We walked around, checked out the stuff, and Beth was even tempted by a nice looking wool pants suit for $60 US (it was on sale from $80 US). Yu Yuan Tea HouseShe was talked into trying on the top by a persuasive saleswoman, and ultimately decided against it, but not before she had drawn considerable attention from the throngs shopping around us.  It seems that some of the local women had seen this American woman checking out a suit, and assumed it was the latest style for the US.

In the old Chinese section, Yu Yuan, is a famous tea house, visited by several presidents and many other people in its 400 year history.  Richard Nixon had tea there on one of his trips to China, and the Chinese were looking forward to Bill Clinton doing the same.  As it turns out, Clinton was unable to make it.  This is perhaps because the only way to get to the tea house is over a bridge with 9 turns to prevent evil spirits from making it over the canal.  Evil spirits can apparently only travel in straight lines.  Most Americans would understand why Clinton might be unable to get over the bridge, but we are having a difficult time deciding how the heck Nixon made it over....

Chris, Chin, Hue and BethToday, as we were sitting in the hotel trying to decide in which tourist restaurant to eat dinner, we got a phone call from a friend of Sheila and Pat, named Hue.  He and his friend Chin wanted to take us out for dinner, and show us around the city.  They picked us up a 7:00 PM, and we went to this great Shanghainese restaurant, literally in the middle of a construction site. Hue ordered and we had a great selection of Shanghainese dishes.  Beth even ate the jellyfish dish!  (Or did a good job of pretending.)  The food was great, and we had a great time talking about living in China, and the US, what the economy was doing, and all about doing business in Shanghai.  Up until that point, we had been somewhat intimidated by Shanghai, but Hue and Chin put us completely at ease in this very foreign city.  Thanks guys!             Beijing      Asia Home      HOME