Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's a Dinosaur!

It's been many years since I've visited the local zoo in Melbourne and I haven't gone to the Werribee open range zoo either, so whether this ranks high or low in the zoo rankings I cannot say, but last week I ventured out to the Shanghai Wildlife Zoo.

The Monday being a public holiday (thankfully occurrences of public holidays here is not desolate in the second half like back home, with a 5 day weekend approaching!) I travelled by train and bus (thankfully with a local) out to a 153 hectare zoo wandering around for about 5 hours. In such a large area, we were able to walk around freely, even with the multitude of people milling around. The usual suspects in terms of animals were present, most in large enclosures and even some were permissible to feed. Thank goodness for the SLR, as I was able to get some good snaps of a giraffe with a tongue Gene Simmons would be envious of. Finally, lugging around the camera paid some dividends!

Impressive reach

You can't visit a Chinese zoo without seeing panda, and I was thankful to get a glimpse of 3. Thinking that there was to be a line 10-15 deep reminiscent of the subway, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to navigate my way around and get a few snaps. Yes, they were about as active as one of those people you see on "Amazing Medical Stories" who are 200kgs, but they're just so damn cute you feel like going up and patting them.

This was as active as the lovable panda got!

With around 2 hours to go before closing, we noticed on the map that there was an area only accessible by vehicle. Seeing some large passenger buses we thought that they were ferrying locals to the zoo from other places, however upon closer inspection, there were 2 bus lines to visit another area of the zoo: Regular passenger buses, and another which carried around 40 people, which one of the staff mentioned: "Is much better than the other ones". Not knowing what to expect, we paid, lined up and waited. Important: This bus was a cage with wheels with outward facing seats and no windows. A much better choice! However, for those thinking of going, the left side of the bus has a much better view! Without much knowledge of what we'd be seeing, the bus took off.

Not unlike a scene from Jurassic Park, a manned gate opened where the vehicle drives into a holding area. Once inside, the gate behind closes, and the one in front opens, complete with signs about electrified fences and warnings for broken down vehicles. (I could hear Jeff Goldblum's delivering a on-liner) Inside, zebras, buffalo, and gazelles roamed freely, while other areas (through separate gates) housed bears, tigers, lions and cheetahs. Unfortunately with the bars being so close together, getting a clean photo was difficult, however seeing a tiger up close and personal was a great experience. The vehicle is allocated one 'free' chicken, which is dropped from a chute and gobbled up in a flash. 60 yuan would allow for another chicken, and a tiger was teased before the chicken was granted an extended 10-15 minutes before the next bus circuit.

Happy to see this rare animal

When are they going to drop one of those pesky humuns through the chute?

Finally, we ventured to a seal show which was enjoyable albeit short, however it was included in the cost of the ticket, so I can't complain. What was noticeable however was the extreme amount of excrement offloaded during the performance which perhaps could be put down to nerves from the performers. In any case it was a good show despite the fact that the water looked like it hadn't been changed in a few years.

Let's hope the tap water is better quality

Impressive vertical leap

To finish off the night, some dumplings and tsingtao (Chinese beer) replenished the energy reserves. I've got to say some of the places in Melbourne have some pretty good dumplings when compared to the ones here... I'm impressed.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I'm Too Old For This Sh!t

The line from the Lethal Weapon series - a favourite from my childhood - seemed to best describe my thoughts when I went out on Friday night. Experiencing the Shanghai nightlife, we went out to eat some Sichuan food with a group from work. With more chilies than a bowl of rice, there were even some murmurs from the locals that it was hot, while anyone who knows me understands that I can take to spicy food about as well as a dwarf competes in a tall man contest. Thankfully I was able to nibble my way through enough to line the stomach with some protection before a full night of alcohol, and we managed a very 'Australian' custom by drinking the restaurant out of cold beers.

A small group of us ventured on to a popular nightspot called M2, which drew some raised eyebrows from some of those we told. Needless to say, my name and cool places are not synonymous and I was having second thoughts on the t-shirt and jeans I decided to don. The main difference between asian and western countries in terms of clubs as far as I can gather (from around the 6 I've been to in my life), is that occupying space requires a certain amount of dough, which I found out this morning cost me to the tune of 2100 RMB ~ $320 AUD - heck that was just MY share! What this got you was a small table, a couple of bottles of whisky, a fruit platter, and a guy who transfers the whisky from the bottle to a jug. Obviously this business model tends to work better than Australia where patrons can nurse their $10 drinks for a couple of hours. With fashionistas, complete with a so-called hip-hop singer the pre-requisite 'tosser' sunglasses (gimmie a break - indoors at night??) complete with western dancers and  it was quite an experience. I can't recall the last time I went to a night club, and I don't even know if I can call it that, but there was loud music, a bunch of people dancing, and a strange dice game being played where the loser downs some of the expensive nectar that costs me more than half my flight here! It was an enjoyable experience as it's not something I'd go out to do, while it was good to see what happens with young folks these days!

We went onto another club where my guess is that the other half of my plane fare is about to sting me as this was a slightly larger table, there were more drinks and the music was louder. Geez, I don't know how people do this week in and out. This was different again, with fancy dancers strutting their stuff at regular intervals, showing patrons how it's meant to be done. Rest assured I didn't dare attempt to dance and was quite happy to guard the expensive space we had secured.

Thankfully all these spots are a stones throw from my apartment and I was able to stumble home at 4am. I hadn't had that much to drink, however I did manage to press the wrong floor and try my card in someone else's door a few times - luckily I didn't start banging on the door. While the incorrect floor I did get off had the hallmarks of a patron who didn't make it to his/her room - spew all over the elevator exit which I somehow managed to avoid. Microwaving some frozen fries and having a shower, I was knocked out in no time.

Needless to say not much else happened on the weekend. I'm too old for this sh!t...

Oh, just to put a dampener on all this cool clubbing underground scene talk, my iPad is back up and running, resetting and deleting the whole thing seemed to work, and now it's just a matter of re-syncing 7gigs of data again!

***edit: Thankfully I've now been informed the amount for the club was a *total* amount rather than each! Much more palatable and easy on the wallet!****

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