Jun. 2nd, 2014

michiexile: (ModelHouse)
So today I had a 10h layover in Shanghai on my way from Vancouver to Fukuoka. Perfect for using the 72h transit visa option to get out of the airport and do some touristing.

Since I don't have internet on my phone, and even if I did would've needed a VPN setup to penetrate The Great Firewall, no tweets were written while on foot - so instead I had to record them some other way. The other way turned out to be pen and paper, and so here: my day trip to Shanghai.

Took me 4h to shower and exit airport.
See, first I arrive at before 5am. So it turns out that we have to wait about 1h before the personnel that can security check any transit passengers even show up. I belong in this group since I wanted to hit the showers in the frequent flyer lounges.
Once inside, it takes until 8am before they bother open the lounge that has the showers.
8.30am or so, I'm showered and ready to take on the world. Only: this is a departure terminal. There is no way out of here that people will actually let me take. (I tried; security personnel directed me back inside kindly but firmly)
The solution turned out to be to wait until about 9am when the Information Desk got manned and someone could (eventually) walk me through a locked door back out to the arrival sluice so I could hit customs and border control.

Maglev in 430km/h smooth and fun
The Shanghai Airport Shuttle train is a maglev demonstration track. It was a really nice ride. More tweets about this one as I go back to the airport.

Keypads on ATMs inverted; almost locked my card.
So much of entering PIN codes is muscle memory by now, so that when the 123- and 789-rows suddenly change places, I get thrown off and confused. I finally figured out why my card kept getting rejected, and got some CNY out.

Security scans EVERYWHERE!
Everywhere you go, there's a scanner for your bags. Subways, trains, even some parks. Far more often than I'd've expected.

TV in metro shows surveillance footage of car crashes.
TV in frequent flyer lounge shows a TV-crew provoking cobras with sticks, frogs, and cameras.

I'm sure both of these have a good reason… to me these were both inscrutable shows.

The only caucasians in this packed metro car are me, a cartoon figure for some information display, and the Wrangler ad models.
Mind you, this car was PLASTERED with these Wrangler ads, and Every Single One of the many many many dangling hand holds sported the cartoon blonde/blue-eyed girl.

Renminbi? Yuan? What's up with that?
I can not quite figure out what the chinese currency is actually named, and what that other name is supposed to be all about.

Walked out in the rain in People's Park. Immeditely got marked for the Tea Ceremony scam I had read about on WikiTravel before going.
A very nice young man with his also nice cousin approached me and first asked me to take their photo. In the subsequent chat, they talked at length about how tricky it'd be to navigate the streets where noone could speak any english, and had several suggestions for special exhibitions, shows and events to go to. The plans I had already made were dismissed as too much walking, too strange areas, and nobody'd speak with me there. Much better to aim for the tourist traps with them...
According to WikiTravel, going with them would have landed me an interesting experience, but I'd then be on the hook for the full payment - which could range up to CNY 1k according to the descriptions I read.
I thanked them, and set off in my own direction.

People's Park was filled with umbrellas that had laminated signs on them. I couldn't read, but they contained numbers that led me to believe they described vanished or lost relatives: 175cm, 1982, 76kg, stuff like that...
They were mostly my age too. Between maybe 1978 and 1985 almost all I saw.

Walked out of People's Park onto Jiangyin Road. Every other door sold turtles. The rest of them sold rocks, aquaria, fishes, corals, and other related stuff. I had a Taiwanese pancake in a tiny hole-in-the-wall.
It really is odd how intensely these little shops and vendors cluster here; one street with only turtles. Another with only cicadas in tiny wicker baskets. Yet another with only crayfish vendors. Market microclimates taken to the extreme.

Found a dumpling shack. Order xiao long bao. Hilarity ensued.
This was one of these tiled hole-in-the-walls that mainly cater to the local workers. Three old ladies in kitchen costumes burst out laughing when I asked for these soup dumplings that are supposed to be extra good in Shanghai. Then I broke a chair while sitting there.

Things in this country REALLY are not made to my size.
From the 12h airplane ride from Vancouver (neck support even at full extension barely graces the bottom of my head) to the metro where my head kept banging into the pole that the handholds were hanging from, to me crushing a chair by just sitting, to my always being at least a head taller than everyone… I'm a bloody giant here.

MC drivers are utterly insane: no interest in traffic signals.
More than once, I've had to jump back onto the curb because an MC driver figured that merely me having a green light and him having a red light wouldn't keep him from getting where he needed to go…

Unable all day to find sheng jian bao. Oh well.
These are the pan-fried version of the soup dumplings from above. Still filled with broth and meat, these are panfried with a rising dumpling dough. Supposed to be amazing, and as opposed to xiao long bao, can't usually be found abroad. But I couldn't find any in Shanghai either, so they'll have to wait.

Found a gorgeous cute Taoist temple. Peaceful.
This was the <> Taoist temple, housed in remnants of the old city walls from Shanghai's venerable Old Town. Very sweet.

Found the Old Town tourist trap temple complex.
In the Shanghai Old Town, a huge old and famous temple has grown into a bustling cluster of city blocks all built in the same, ornate temple shape and crammed full with a large and loud market selling trinkets, pirate copied fashion, food, souvenirs and art all together. The temple has admissions in one corner, and an old well-kept garden in another. I skipped both.

Bought art. Felt validated. Caught in downpour.
Diving out from the suddenly much much stronger rain into a random shop, I found the entire shop was dedicated to art by a local artist whose preferred medium was “Fountain Pen Painting” — basically following in the same aesthetic footsteps of the classic chinese brush and ink art, but with fountain pen instead of brush. The results are textured, compelling cityscapes built from layers and layers of apparently haphazard lines that coalesce into the scenes they paint.
This is not THAT far from where my own current sketching/drawing hobby draws me. I tend towards a similar style of almost tremor-driven scrawls and lines building the shapes I draw.

Decided against the Science and Technology museum at last moment. My schedule was just too tight.
As it was, I would have had about 30m — if I was speedy — to look through the museum. Didn't seem fair to anyone, so I went for dinner instead.

Dumplings for dinner at the Maglev station.
For dinner, I did my last brave attempt at finding sheng jain bao. It failed. I almost went for Kuala Lumpur cuisine; but nothing on that menu was sufficiently inspiring. So I had dumplings. They claimed these included xiao long bao, but I couldn't quite see it…

Too much rain to ever stop and draw. Hauled around too much art supplies all day for nothing.
I also got quite wet in turns, but I don't mind me getting wet nearly as much as I'd've minded my artwork getting smudged and blotched by (unwanted) rain interference.

Surprise! McDonalds actually makes decent macarons.
Sure, the box had a steep gradient from very stale to very fresh, but the fresh macarons from McCafe really hit the mark when it comes to quality macarons.


Maglev might be setting a new record for how fast I have travelled. Key issue: does maglev count as ground transport (new record!) or as flying (not a new record)???
If maglev counts as ground transport, these trips in 430km/h certainly tops my previous personal speed records.
If it counts as extremely low altitude flying, however, I'm in much less luck: airtrips routinely jump up to at least 550km/h

Curves in 300 km/h: wheeeeeeeeeee!!
Don't need no amusement park! Just need to go on the airport shuttle train!

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