(A recap of our China adventures on Thursday, August 24th…)
No sleeping in today… In fact, I went ahead and had the free hotel breakfast while LinLyn slept in. Why? I guess I was a bit antsy to get to Cybermart, Shanghai’s big electronics mall. In a week of shopping for chick stuff this was my one big indulgence, and I didn’t want to waste a moment of it!
To get there we took the subway, this time without our heavy luggage. A uniquely Chinese custom is the somewhat bewildering act of queue-jumping. Hey, if someone really needs to get onto a crowded subway car before me I’m not going to stand in their way, but on this particular occasion someone decided to walk on my feet to position themselves in front of me. Justice was served, however, when the guy tried to muscle his way onto the car before passengers got off, and was clocked in the chest by an angry disembarker.
So back to Cybermart… Having a mall full of electronics is certainly convenient, but the selection, particular of mobile phones, couldn’t compare with Hong Kong, which has a mall of its own devoted solely to handsets. Since I couldn’t afford any of the handsets on display, I decided to inquire about some of the dummy display models for souvenirs. Once I was able to communicate what I wanted to the vendors a bidding war ensued. Here’s what I came away with:
At one point a small crowd gathered ‘round, thinking I was some kind of high roller buying the actual phones; to distract them, I whipped out my trusty hiptop. While the trademark flip certainly impressed, my fellow phone enthusiasts lost interest when I admitted the resolution of the hiptop’s built-in camera: “VGA”.
My gadget lust satiated, I found LinLyn happily writing post cards in a tucked away corner, and we proceeded together to the Dongtai Lu Antique Market. “Antique” is a bit of a misnomer—although there are some vintage items for sale, the market is much more well known for kitschy souvenir items like Chairman Mao watches, red army hats and the like. We braved the mid afternoon heat and humidity and did the bulk of our gift shopping in this four-block radius of stalls.
A word about the heat—during our entire stay there the outside temperature (with humidity) never really dropped below 40 degrees Celsius, even at night. Walking around the city was made a bit more bearable by the common practice of shops opening their doors wide open and blasting the sidewalk with full-throttle air conditioning, but if the global temperature keeps rising and China’s middle class keeps growing they’re going to have a major energy crisis on their hands, sooner rather than later!
Now back to the shopping… We cabbed our souvenirs back to the hotel then hopped back on the subway to Pudong, for a visit to the Super Brand Mall. It was in the men’s room here that I was reminded of another uniquely-Chinese custom—paying for toilet paper. It wasn’t until after I had made a survey of the facility that I found the small vending machine out in the hallway, and it must have been premium paper, because rather than flushing the stuff down there was a wastebasket for it in each stall. Despite all the ingredients for a hygiene disaster, the men’s room was pretty much spotless.
The rest of the mall, though big, was pretty ordinary… I found a nice coffee shop behind a Japanese department store, and some Senseo machines on the top floor, but after a Japanese dinner in the food court we were pretty much done for the night.