Everybody I know travels to China repeatedly it seems, but I haven’t for a decade or more, and that was Hong Kong, so herewith the Shanghai-newbie experience.

Unfortunately, it’s a long way from Vancouver; a 12-hour flight.

Fortunately, I have lots of upgrade certificates.

Unfortunately, biz class filled up weeks ago.

Fortunately (depending on your viewpoint) there was a connection problem and I got the second-last upgrade.

Unfortunately, it was an old Air Canada Boeing with the horrid seats that cut off circulation to points below your thigh within minutes.

Fortunately, I know how to work around this with pillows and so on.

Unfortunately, I had an aisle seat and I like to look out the window.

Fortunately, there was an empty window singleton. Huh? I thought biz class was full?

Unfortunately, the three empty seats in biz class were that way because essential systems, like lean-back, or fail-to-randomly-lean back, were broken. Also about half the seats’ video systems were malfunctioning. One assumes the engines and so on were in better shape.

Fortunately, I had a sympathetic neighbor and that helped pass some of the time.

Unfortunately, a bunch of jumbos landed simultaneously and I found myself in an endless hallway with a countably-infinite number of people surging toward immigration.

Fortunately, they had a countably-infinite number of immigration stations and I was through in under five. For a one-party state, arrival processing is kind of cursory.

Unfortunately, there were line-ups at all the bank machines.

Fortunately, things in Shanghai, while expensive by Chinese standards, are still pretty reasonable.

Unfortunately, to realize this, you have to deal with the fact that a Canadian dollar is worth 7.77RMB more or less.

Fortunately, Shanghai airport is sanely and efficiently laid out and I was in the taxi line in no time.

Unfortunately, so were several hundred other people.

Fortunately, there were several hundred taxis pouring in to get us.

Unfortunately, my taxi was a klunky old Volkswagen.

Fortunately, it had gleaming immaculate white cloth covering the back seat.

Unfortunately, that cloth completely covered the seat-belts, which couldn’t be reached.

Fortunately, the driver didn’t turn on the TV monitor in the back of the passenger seat.

Unfortunately the driver was a complete fucking madman, gleefully dicing with death.

Fortunately, he was a pretty good driver and a plurality (not a majority) of the other drivers stayed more or less in their lanes most of the time, so I arrived alive, and the fare was only 139RMB (divide that by 7.77 in your head, I’m sure you can do it).

Unfortunately, the sky was grey and lowering and the scenery between the airport and downtown mostly pretty unprepossessing.

Fortunately, the Shanghai Shangri-la is a lovely hotel, with competent staff. The quarter must be going great, Sun normally doesn’t patronize this kind of place.

Unfortunately, my room’s windows are filthy. On the other hand I’m only on the 8th floor and the view would be kind of grim if I could see it.

Fortunately, this is one of the swankiest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the controls for the curtains.

Fortunately, I have a few colleagues also rolling in tonight.

Unfortunately, I can’t find them, and I’m hungry, so I go downstairs to the sushi bar. For a guy from Vancouver, this is almost as egregious as going to McDonald’s in Paris.

Fortunately, the sushi is excellent.

Unfortunately, it’s expensive even after dividing by 7.77.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Skrocki (Oct 22 2007, at 06:59)

Hilarious. Hope you'll post some photos.

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From: John Cowan (Oct 22 2007, at 07:36)

Never set foot there, don't intend to, thanks.

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From: Andrew Kobayashi (Oct 22 2007, at 14:25)

Your analogy about sushi leads me to one of my own.

In the way that pizza many years ago ceased to be Italian food, sushi has undergone a "pizzafication" and ceased to be Japanese food.

Hope you get a chance to try xiao long bao.

Vancouver (at least Richmond) seems to be having a mini Shanghai cuisine boom. Perhaps the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumpling) is the next big food trend.

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From: J (Oct 22 2007, at 15:11)

I'm *hopeless* at mental arithmetic, but:

139/7.77 = 140/7 = 20

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From: Matthew Laird (Oct 22 2007, at 16:48)

Driving anywhere in China is a white knuckle experience, it's why on my last visit I came up with my 4 rules for driving in China:

- Drive as if you're the only car on the road. Driving in China is a giant game of chicken, never give in. If you ever feel the urge to hit the brake, hit the accelerator instead, braking is for the weak and timid.

- Never signal, signalling only lets other cars know where you plan to go and therefore cut you off

- If a gap in traffic is small enough to make it through, go for it. Cars are smaller than you think.

- Signs, lights, and other control devices (except for armed cops) are just a suggestion

And I actually tried driving late one night on our last trip to visit the other half's folks, you definitely have to remain fully alert at all times. It's better then a driving video game. :)

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From: Adrian (Oct 22 2007, at 18:32)

Next time you need to get from Shanghai airport to the city, forget the taxi and go for the maglev train. Woohoo, 40RMB with the discount for showing your airticket and then 450km/hr straight into the centre of the city.

Roads and "rules" in china are kind of interesting. Its all a giant game of rock/paper/scissors. Truck beats car beats motorbike, but motorbike can outmaneuver truck and car. 5 billion people on foot who all want to own a bicycle, once they own a bicycle they all want to own a motorbike, once they own a bicycle they all want to own a car, throw into the mix a million taxis busses and trucks and no viable way of enforcing any road rules.

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From: Dan Davies Brackett (Oct 23 2007, at 11:43)

The most accurate description I've heard of the difference between NorAm/European traffic rules and the rules elsewhere in the world is this:

The former are like Token Ring, where packets (cars) are deterministically and reliably assigned absolute priority over the wire (road) according to arcane, but ultimately understandable, rules. The latter are like Ethernet, where you just try the wire - and if it's busy, back off as little as you can possibly get away with and then try again. In the end, it's more efficient - but you do have to deal with the possibility of collision and ad-hoc rules for conflict resolution.

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From: icyjumbo (Oct 26 2007, at 17:49)

I like numbers like 7.77, as they are always multiples of 1/9. This one is 70 x 1/9. So, in my head, 139/7.77 is 139/(70/9), which is almost exactly 18.

As a side note, I like the difference of squares trick in multiplication, too: e.g. 24*26 = 25^2-1^2 = 624 :-)

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October 22, 2007
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