Monday, July 25, 2011

The Bund

During the day, I've got to say uninspiring, but I hear 7am is when you see little old ladies coming out to practise taichi. But the real attraction of the Bund is when darkness ensues; the neon lights from across the river and passing boats light up the sky. It's a sight that could not be replicated anywhere else, and just over 10 years ago was made up of farms and rice fields. Major banks line the streets overlooking the promenade and river while thousands of people mill around taking in the views. Only a small drinks vendor and photograph station are permitted on the kilometres of platform, while police keep the peace, preventing people from standing on seats or skylarking of any kind.

Where's Wally?

Down in front!

Sitting on the steps, you can waste a day observing your surroundings. Guys lift their shirts exposing rotund bellies seeking some refuge from the humidity, while portable outdoor airconditioners add about as much benefit as dropping an iceblock into a volcano. A newly married couple take wedding photos whilst essentially playing chicken with maurading buses, as the photographer barks instructions. A model poses amongst a non-plussed crowd while a whipped man cleans up damp steps with a tissue for his harem of ladies to sit so as not to ruin some pristine white pants.

Speaking to some locals, its not a place visited frequently and is more for tourists - although there seemed to be an inordinate amount of black hair amongst the crowd. When getting to/from the area, it felt like 5 football matches had just completed with an endless stream of people walked in both directions, occupying a car lane on each side.

The only time pedestrians have right of way - but it doesn't stop the honking...

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Job Opportunities

It's been an awakening of the senses living in Shanghai the past week and a bit. From the hit in the face of unbearable humidity at 830 in the morning, to the streams of people navigating the subway, at times it's difficult to switch off and just relax. One thing I've learnt is to throw away any thoughts of personal space, but getting in the swing of things almost resulted in me 'hip and shouldering' an old lady while exiting the train. Yes, there's no notion of: everyone out before everyone in when trains are involved.

Currently I've managed to spend a measly 45 yuan on train fares for about an hour's journey each day - roughly $7AUD - which is the equivalent of a day's travel back home. Yes, I understand the differentials of the costs of living and wages, but somewhere along the lines Melbourne missed the memo about spending on basic infrastructure. I'd be happy to be paying more if I'd seen improvement... enough of a rant. One curious procedure remaining since Expo 2010 is the placement of xray machines at every station prior to swiping your card (which, by the way works a charm). I've seen many monitor operators dozing off, while a polite attendant gives the 'here is your seat madam/sir' gesture to those with large bags. On the first day being naive and stupid, I popped my bag through the machine, as the operator with 'homer simpson' glasses (eyeballs painted on the outside while he/she sleeps) gave no more than a cursory glance at the screen. More often than not, unless the attendant stands in your way, you can ignore them, or alternatively follow closely behind a larger man to obscure their view. The train system is easy to navigate, with the common design of colours and numbers (which I've seen in almost all the Asian countries I've travelled to) to let you know where to go. Seats are at a premium, and if a few are on offer, there's a race for it, (no kidding!) not unlike Kramer in an early episode of Seinfeld.
Looking at this photo now, I think the security lady is looking directly at me. I'm surprised I wasn't taken down! While the guy on the left politely says: 'You shall not pass!' - ok maybe not that, but his left hand gestures you to put you bag through the machine

One has to keep their wits about them on the streets, as the traffic lights are more 'traffic light suggestions' and more than once I've almost had my ugly mug plastered across the front of a bus. Fortunately my apartment is close to a supermarket, and the thought of being an importer/exporter has crossed my mind. Heck, I think it's cheaper for me to bathe in Asahi at just over $1AUD for 640ml.
Just to prove I wasn't bluffing
What's a price comparison without the obligitory banana? (Note: ~6.5:$1AUD)

Anyway, I'm off to bed, like this guy on Taikang Rd. Ahh nothing like a Sunday afternoon nap while the world passes you by.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

The Idiot Has Landed

It's one of those 'fate' moments which just happens, but makes you think about the world we live in. A number of chance events and something that couldn't be replicated again in a thousand tries occurred on the way to Shanghai from Melbourne.

I was informed about a 4 hour delay - well, these things happen, I'll request an aisle seat I thought (no online check-in), ok, strike 2 out of 2 for that airline as I got a nice surprise as I stepped on the plane I had the dreaded window seat. I digress. The 'fate' moment occurred as I polished off a couple of fast food items courtesy of a $14 voucher from the airline. I had a full four hours to kill, but at that moment, mixed in with wandering the airport, I decided to proceed through customs. As I approached the gate, I noticed a work colleague who was travelling to NZ. What are the chances??? In anycase, it was a good way to kill a couple more hours and an excuse to down a few morning lagers. Thanks for the last Australian Asahi beers Panel!

On to the plane, a 'professor type' passenger managed to snag what I thought should have been my aisle seat. Commandeering the armrest and then some for the whole flight didn't improve my opinion of the man and coupled with constant sniffing, (I counted once every 20 seconds) I was on the brink of calling him a Tibetan supporter who hates Mao. Needless to say I chuckled as the second meal was reduced to 'Fish only' and he argued with the air hostesses to look for a chicken meal, only to be told none existed. Harsh, but it wasn't for an allergy as he reluctantly nibbled on the provided meal - didn't this guy realise a few years ago this was a communist country?

Having had many warnings about taxis, coupled with my apparent lack of 'street smarts' (which I'll argue!) I was wary about the airport in Shanghai. Going through customs, the criteria for x-raying baggage was whomever was stupid enough to make eye contact with them, (I'll revise that street smart argument) while locals bustled past with their porn magazines strapped to their chests. I thought to myself all the pointers, ignore those people who ask if you need a taxi and go straight to the rank, just the rank I repeated to myself. Well, thanks to the 4 hour delay, at midnight all the shifty brothers were asleep, and the taxi rank consisted of 1 person - the man who walkie talkie'd to the awaiting cabs! The next tough job was explaining my destination, however this turned out to be easily interpreted by the taxi rank man to the taxi driver and we were off!

Going 130km/hr through overpasses and freeways certainly awakened the senses, as did seeing skid marks going from one side of the freeway to the other, that led to a crashed lamborghini with deployed airbags, as the driver sheepishly walked towards the awaiting tow truck. Thankfully the apartment was still open as an earlier phone call from Melbourne was greeted with a plethora of 'yes' answers to all my questions which planted a few doubts.

I plonked my bags in the room around 1am, turned on the computer, sending an email to let people know I was coming in to work later that day...

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