Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Other Side - Day 7

As I mentioned in the previous posts of this series, I am writing a mini-series on my trip to China. Each day was so jam-packed with activities that I decided it would be best for readers as well as myself to split the days up into posts for better digestion of information. On our last episode, we explored a tea plantation and then felt the stark contrast between suburban/rural China and the soaring towers of Shanghai at night.

Our final day of the trip was simply packed with incredible things to do. Whereas yesterday had been quite rainy and dark, today was a glorious day that allowed us to hit so many things at once.

We started our day with a drive over to the Maglev train, which, according to Wikipedia, is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world. The top operational commercial speed of this train is 431 km/h (268 mph), making it the world's fastest train in regular commercial service since its opening in April 2004.

The train is used mostly for tourists coming into the city from the Shanghai airport, so we actually rode it to the airport and then back to the station we had come from. But oh, what an experience. When we passed the train on the other track, also going at its top speed, it was only a blip, less than a second. It was so surreal, the train moved so smoothly because it wasn't touching anything. We were moving so quickly that the buildings that we passed seemed somehow smaller than they actually were.

A cool building we passed by.

So many bikes and motorcycles parked outside the station!

The following is a video of the train passing its sibling at top speed (431 km/h). You can get a feel for the speed of the train (which isn't sped up because you can hear people talking in the background!), and how everyone gets really excited when it goes by.

After that, the next stop was the 'Fake Market', basically where all the made-in-China stuff can be bought for cheap. There were two hilarious things to know about this market:
  1. It's only unofficially called the fake market. If you ask any shopkeeper, they will tell you that their wares are 100% authentic. Do not believe them.
  2. The market is underground, below the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, what is basically the Shanghai version of the Ontario Science Centre. How bizarre!
The entrance.

The flowers that lined the entrance weren't fake as far as I could tell!

I think this is a logo for the air conditioner system. I just thought it was funny.

I had been looking for a pair of fake Yeezys during this entire trip (as the diligent readers will remember), and I was confident that I would find a pair here. Lo and behold, I saw them in the first shop I looked in. It was also interesting to note that while the market probably held more than 500 storefronts, there were only about eight or ten different kinds of stores. When I didn't like the price of the shoes in one store, I went to another and found the same shoe. With some ~expert haggling~, I got the price of the shoes down from $80 CAD to $25 CAD. Master. And when they didn't have my size in the store, the shopkeeper had to eventually go to what I presume was another store and get them there. So it really didn't matter in the end.

So so so so many fake shoes.

A vending machine that squeezes fresh orange juice.

You can have clothing tailored to fit you while you wait. It was all extremely cheap.

Fake Fjallraven Kanken bags!

Fake(?) fishing rods and lures!

Fake sports jerseys, including Joffrey Lupul's jersey right on the sign. It's like I'm in Chinatown in Toronto!

Fake Uniqlo jacket!

I also purchased a fake Nikon camera bag and a fake pair of Tom Ford glasses. They offered to put my prescription in the glasses while I waited, but I felt that I had pushed my fake luck far enough for the day. I later had the prescription put in in Markham, where the optician complimented me on my fake purchase. She had never seen anyone else with the same glasses as me, and neither have I! Not even on the Tom Ford website! So I do wonder if the manufacturer of these fake glasses took it upon themselves to innovate and create a real design (for the fake market). I may never know.

As I reflect now, I should have bought a fake Nikon battery charger for my camera (that was taken away by the Chinese air patrol without my knowing). Lord knows the ones on eBay come from China, the same as the real ones that come with the camera itself. Ah well.

Once we figured out the pattern of eight or ten different kinds of stores (fake shoe store, fake silk scarf store, fake sports jersey store, fake purse store, fake toy store...), we decided to do a bit of exploring in the courtyard between the market and the science museum. There were buskers and merchants and artists. It was quite lovely to see the peddlers blowing huge bubbles and flying kites for the wonder of the children, and I saw what I thought was the biggest durian I had ever seen in my life (but turned out to be a jackfruit).

I'm so strong!

A man making sugar art.

We also found, to our delight, the most delicious street food in China. It had been following us around the country, and this was our first opportunity to have it. It's basically these tiny crabapples, but candy. Candy crab apples. They have weird pit-seeds in them, and come on a stick like a kebab. I think my mother chickened out in the end because she is allergic to some fruit and didn't want to ruin the last day of the trip. Ah well. They were tasty pants.

As I ventured up a staircase, I found the MOST wonderful thing on the trip. Well, that's probably not true. But this was wondrous for sure. A man was painting portraits of people. That's not the wonderful part. He had all sorts of portraits on display, and I regarded them. You should too:

The Caucasian people are all caricatured! So is this how Asian people see Caucasian people? Hilarious!! As I said, wonderful.

After that excitement, we excitedly boarded the bus and showed off our purchases to each other. Everyone wanted to know who got the best deal (I think it was me). To this day, I still get compliments on these glasses, but there are fake Yeezys all over Toronto now! Ah well, I was first.

The next stop was lunch on a floating restaurant! How's that for a meal? The food was surprisingly not as terribly bland as the other meals. I think this was the meal when we finally got some seafood.

After lunch, we were set to go to the top of one of Shanghai's highest skyscrapers: The Jin Mao Tower. The Jin Mao, the Shanghai Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center that I mentioned in the last post all make up the trio of the three tallest towers in Shanghai. And, to make things extra special, not every trip gets to do this. We were awarded this experience as a replacement for the boat ride the night before, which was pretty cool and definitely better than nothing.

Crane machines while waiting in line to go on the elevator up to the viewing deck.

The tower has, like...a mascot in the shape of the tower? Rather confusing.

A sort of wishing tree on the viewing deck.

The view down the center of the building to the ground floor. This chamber was encased in glass, god forbid you fall down that thing.

More cool architecture.

After the dazzling view of the tower, we were off to the Shanghai Museum, which had all sorts of cool Chinese artifacts. It reminded me of a smaller Royal Ontario Museum.

This was a pillow! Looks a bit uncomfortable, both for you and for the man holding up your head.

Another pillow. This one looks more complacent.

The doorknob on the entrance of the building.

The inside of the building itself was pretty cool.

Scary death masks.

The next stop on the tour was the extremely interesting Xintiandi district. Says Wikipedia: the district is composed of an area of reconstituted traditional mid-19th century shikumen ("stone gate") houses on narrow alleys, some adjoining houses which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping malls. Most of the cafes and restaurants feature both indoor and outdoor seating. Xintiandi has an active nightlife on weekdays as well as weekends, though romantic settings are more common than loud music and dance places. It is considered one of the first lifestyle centers in China. It is also the most expensive place to live in China, with some apartments costing more than Tokyo, New York and London. It is home to the Chinese elite and top executive expats.

And it was truly lovely to walk around and look in all the little shops. This is a place I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Shanghai, I wish we had some more time here.

More cool architecture.

Waiters taking a break before the restaurant opens. They saw me after I took the photo and giggled.

Gold banana? Why not?

Cool modern ice cream flavours.

And then I went to the real one in Munich only six months later!

If you're going to take a picture of me, I'll take one of you!

A nice weird effect of the light at night, shot from a moving bus.

Up next was another look at the similarities between Shanghai and New York, the wonder and excitement of Nan Jing Road. Kind of a mix of Freemont Street in Las Vegas and the Champs Elysees in Paris, this was a true sensory overload. There were glaring street signs everywhere (though not as much neon Chinese characters as I would have liked), and people crowding the street, not watching where they were walking because everyone was craning their neck upward to look around and take everything in. And, so you don't have to crane your neck, here's a 360 degree video of the street.

We bought some white rabbit candies because Eric had mentioned that they were a specialty; though I realized that I had had them before at some point. Ah, that's Toronto for you. We had just enough time to look around a huge indoor mall and get a crepe (yum) before it was time to get back on the bus and on to the last event of the trip: the world-famous acrobatics show.

Outside the show, there were vendors selling all sorts of toys and keepsakes. I particularly enjoyed a little robotic army man who crawled along the ground:

The show was pretty impressive, but for all the clout that the acrobats carry, my mom and I agreed that it was no better than anything we'd seen of Cirque du Soleil. Still, nice to take in.

This video is a view of the lights at night in Shanghai, taken from the bus on our way back to the hotel.

After the show, our friends showed us the view from their hotel room. Really nice.

And that's it! We had an early flight the next day, so this brings the amazing China trip to a wrap. I seriously can't believe how much we packed into this day, and the week in general as well. Looking at it as a whole, it was cool to flow from extremely old and historic areas like the Great Wall in the first part of the trip, to the opposite end of the scale in the modern city of Shanghai. I would definitely recommend this trip, perhaps with an extension so you can really get a feel for the cities (instead of spending only a day or two in each place). But with our amazing tour guide Eric, I wouldn't change a thing about this trip. Thanks for following me to the end of the series :)

Everything I bought on the trip.

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