March 31 - Down Day in Shanghai

My last days of training included 6 straight days with clients in Beijing and Shanghai. Whew! I took a well-deserved rest day today--including a great massage at the FeiNing Massage Center of Blind Person. I must admit that it was pretty painful as the blind masseur was reading the knots on my back like braille and unrelentlessly kneading them out as I squirmed. But I felt pretty good afterwards.

But Shanghai is a really interesting city. It is very un-China with a sparkling skyline of strange and wonderful buildings. And hardly any temples or Chinese monuments in sight. Comparing Shanghai to Beijing would be like comparing Tokyo to Kyoto. One is traditional--old buildings are everywhere, you can feel the history by walking down a street. The other city is full of new dreams and a fast and furious lifestyle.

I'm not sure which I prefer--I think the newer cities appeal to the kid in me that wants all the shiny new toys and is mesmerised by the dazzling bright neon--it's like a video game. And the jumble of choas creates its own excitment and an energy that is addictive.

But the older cities appeal to the traveler inside me. A peek into the past and a chance to be see something that I can't see anywhere else in the world. Walking the old streets is like looking at your grandfather and tracing all the wrinkles in his face. When he smiles you can see a lifetime of memories and you remember that there was life before all the shiny new toys.





April 1 - Good Good Study, Day Day Up

I went to a store called The Thing (266 Changle Rd) which sells really strange and interesting shirts. I especially liked a logo they had on one of the shirts that looks like the PUMA logo, but has a housecat jumping over instead, and has the word "MIAO". It's brilliant!

But I ended up buying another one with the phrase "Good Good Study, Day Day Up" written on it, which is a direct translation of a phrase that little kids in China learn in school "好好学习,天天向上". It's a famous phrase by Mao Zedong that means "If you study hard each day, you will improve".

So I got a good kick out of it. This is exactly how my parents brought me up. With the idea that if I study hard, I will have a better life. It didn't matter what I studied, just as long as I studied. Haha! To this day, I still think that my parents are not quite sure of what I studied in school.

But somehow, they were able to engrain that idea into my head like a good Chinese boy--even as I was being assimilated into the Western culture (whose saying would be more like "Good Good Study, Day Day Geek"). And still today, I enjoy learning new things.

I'm currently trying to learn Turkish--I even had a chance to practice it tonight. I went to an Uygher restaurant that kept pulling up the customers to dance along to some traditional Xinjiang music. It was great! I started throwing all the Turkish I knew at them, and they were pretty impressed with the few words I knew. They even had a myna bird that could say "merhaba" (hello in Turkish)--it was very cool.

So that's my learning objective for this year. Get better at Turkish and be able to have some conversations with Ayhan...or at least be able to eavesdrop on his conversations with his Turkish buddies! So I will just have to keep thinking this wise Chinese mantra:

好好学习,天天向上, 好好学习,天天向上, 好好学习,天天向上.


April 2 - Update on Bargaining

I updated my bargaining strategy with all the new things I've learned. You can see the details in my Beijing page.

The fakes market in Shanghai is definitely not as good as the one in Beijing. It is not very busy and they hide all the good stuff. The main Xiangyang market closed last year, and they broke into many new markets including the Yatai market inside the metro station Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. You could walk the sprawling complex and feel like you're the only customer--and still, the vendors barely blink when you walk by. Not very fun, and not very rewarding.

I ended up buying a neat abacus (ok, so I'm a geek) at the market at the Cang Bao Lou market in Yu Yuan in the old town. It was fun there with lots of people bargaining hard. Some other favourite stores were Keyroad Stationary on 205 Hubei Road where I bought tons of cute pens and notebooks (now why would any loving parent name their kid Ddung??) for gifts, and the fast growing Watson's chain that you will see throughout China.

I'm sure there are other places to shop in Shanghai, but I think I left my heart (and my wallet!) at the Silk Market and Wangfujing in Beijing.


April 4 - My Last Days in Asia

It's 7am, and I can hear the car horns starting. I don't think people in Shanghai need alarm clocks, they can just wake up when the honking starts. It's like clockwork. I'm really impressed that I didn't see a single incident of road rage the whole time I was here. They honk each other and cut each other off, but in the end, they're all pretty calm.

So I spent the last few days just doing the touristy things. Shaolongbao at Yuyuan Gardens, shopping along Nanjing Road, the observation deck on the 88th floor of the Jinmao Tower, hitting a few balls on the driving range, getting a massage every night like a Kobe cow, a walking tour through the French Concession, random walks through some local hutongs, checking out the Bund at night. It's nice being a tourist--no worries, just wandering.

But today, I take a 16 hour flight back to reality. It's about time to go home anyways. I miss my cat. I miss my routines. I miss my bf - I don't like playing Ladyhawke with Ayhan. And I have to do my taxes.