(A recap of my China adventures from Sunday, August 27th…)
It seemed like the very patient housekeeping staff at our hotel were consistently kept waiting for us to get up and out of our room, but on this, out last full day in Shanghai, LinLyn and I were actually ready to eat about an hour before our planned place of eating was even open for business—the ”best brunch in the world” at the Shanghai Westin Hotel. It would have cost us about $40 CAD each, so we were quite happy to have the free buffet at our hotel. No champagne or lobster, just honest eggs and some fresh-baked bread.
Our first stop of the day was literally across the street at the Shanghai Urban Planning Centre. I had read in my handy Time Out guide that the building featured a huge scale model of the city as it would look in 2010 for the World Expo, and we were maybe just a little disappointed with what greeted us in the lobby. Little did we know that the real deal was just above our heads on the second and third floors.
Also upstairs was an installation where we were treated to a 360-degree computer generated fly-though of the entire city. You know how a baby reacts with surprise and delight to a bright and shiny new rattle when they see it for the first time? This experience was kind of like a giant rattle, for adults. China in the ‘00s feels a lot like America would have in the ‘50s, and even with concerns about pollution, human rights and the like it’s kind of hard not getting caught up in the utopia that is Shanghai’s very near future!
We eventually left the air-conditioned comfort of the Urban Planning Centre in search of the square in People’s Square. You can see it from space, in the Google Maps fly-through that I previously posted, or if you’re really lazy, at the top of this post. People’s Square is in actual fact a lot bigger than it looks from space, and in the forty-plus degree heat it was a bugger to find… But I did it.
What my photos and Google Earth won’t show you is that underneath People’s Square is a labyrinth of underground shops, known to locals as “D-Mall”. We tried to find the way back to our hotel through there but got lost so many times we finally gave up the air-con and headed back into the sweltering heat to navigate by surface streets. As a reward I treated myself to a Dairy Queen pineapple shake—an idea which must have been planted in my head from the previous day.
By this time it was mid-afternoon, and LinLyn and I split up for the first time since we had arrived—her to buy a pair of shoes at Raffles and me to score some more dummy mobiles at Cybermart. Both of our side-trips were a bust, although LinLyn still managed to find some footwear to spend money on, even if they weren’t the shoes she wanted.
Sadly, the last day of our trip ended in a pickpocket attempt, and it wasn’t East Asians but South Asians who were responsible.
Here’s how it went down: I was trying to take LinLyn on foot to a souvenir joint known (somewhat ironically) as “The Friendship Store”. It was supposed to be on The Bund, but the further we walked south towards the address the funkier our surroundings got. While crossing a darkened pedestrian overpass I suddenly felt my messenger bag move ever so slightly of its own accord. I whirled around instantly to see this kid of maybe fourteen behind me, quickly jerking his guilty arm upwards behind his head, like he was combing with his hair, but without a comb. As he continued past me on his way I whacked him hard as I could on his back—much like what had happened to me last summer when I learned the phrase mi camera es roteras in Peru. He turned around and I accused him (in English) of what he was obviously guilty of. Either he was really bad at playing dumb or was honestly hearing the words “You”, “try”, “pickpocket” and “me” for the very first time, because that’s all he repeated back to me as he slowly retreated to join his fellow urchins. I soon regretted not snatching the side bag the kid was carrying on his shoulder, as I could have been a hero for reuniting my fellow tourists with whatever ill-gotten goods were inside that thing. As it happened we just turned around and went back to our hotel, as there was a distinct lack of friendship in the air in that particular corner of town…