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Published: March 17th 2007
Mouse with Human ear
I wasn't kidding about this.
Earlier this week, we decided to take a 2 day stop to Shanghai. It is only 1 hour away. We have been fortunate enough to befriend a wealthy student of ours, Paul. We helped him pass an English certification course so that he could travel and study in Australia. He is very generous. His father owns a tea company, and apparently he owns a foreign currency trading company. He is 22. His father is very influential, and his uncle is the head of police in Suzhou. He said if we ever get into trouble, let him know, and he can get us out of trouble.
Anyways, his father's partner let us ride with him in a car early on Wednesday morning. Very convenient. We arrived in Shanghai and went right to the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology. It was quite expensive, around $8 per person. The exhibits were tacky, but it was a good cultural experience.
They had an exhibit about sexual reproduction, about Shanghai scientists using stem cells to genetically alter a mouse in such a way that the mouse could grow a human ear on its back (pretty freaky looking), about different types of rocks in
China, about how the world was once Pangea, a super continent. Actually, Tokyo is getting .02 meters per year closer to China. The Japanese and Chinese don't have the best relationship. I wonder how it will be if they are eventually conjoined.
We took a kiddy ride on a health wagon (a strawberry shaped cart). The ride took us through through a person as if we were food, and yes, we were pooped out at the end. funny.
After wasting 5 hours at the Science and Technology Museum--which Paul thought was very interesting--we headed towards the waterway that divides Shanghai. After walking up the stairs from the metro, the only thing the stuck out was the Pearl Tower. It is a futuristic, pink and gray colored TV tower--interesting color choice. It stands around 1500 feet, which makes it th 3rd tallest building in China I believe.
Though the tower looks more like a tourist attraction that the Shanghainese have erected in order to flex their economic muscle, it does actually have offices. Tourists, however, can ride up all the way to the top ball, or pearl. It is expensive, around $12, so we decided not too.
The famous mouse.
Who needs an ear?
We ate lunch at a hot pot restaurant. They are really fun and delicious. You order spicy or regular broth, and then order bean curd, noodles, sauces, veggies, and meats to dump in and cook. Sort of like fondue. The food cooks very quickly, so we had to shovel the food down. It is frowned upon if you don't finish your food, though Chinese people all seem to order too much food for their foreign visitors.
After lunch Paul showed us around the streets. I have never been to New York, but I imagine that downtown Shanghai has the feeling of NYC. People are very trendy, their are lots of skyscrapers. Due to the complexities and regulations of US financial businesses/transactions, I have read that Shanghai is a front runner for overtaking NYC as the financial capital of the world. It seemed that the crowd downtown was oozing with wealth. The Shanghai Composite surged 120% last year. Many people were selling their living quarters in order to invest more in the stock market. The prices were getting further and further inflated until eventually the "professionals" took their hefty profits. Their was a massive sell-off which made the index drop
9% in 1 day (sometime in February). Anyways, this type of news is interesting to my wondering Financial mind. The stock market is very volatile here. Liquidity is an issue, and their is no short selling permitted. Financial moguls and broker dealers are lobbying for this to change.
More about downtown. Their were many upscale stores, like Dior, Armani, CK, basically a bunch of Italian peoples names who sell expensive clothing. Paul was very interested in these stores--we were not. He said that he bought CK's Eternity cologne, which was popular in the US how many years ago? It wasn't cheap either, around $70. CK also had their cologne that was famous when were were in middle school. The stuff can be worn by man or woman. Everyone ages 20-30 should remember this.
Well, we can buy expensive clothing back home. And we can buy Eternity or other musky cologne at the local Gordmans. We can't, however, buy knock-offs.
We read about a street in Shanghai that was dedicated to providing China with sub-par knock offs. We asked Paul to take us there. When we arrived, we were greeted with proprietors trying to lure us into their
store. They surprisingly know some English. Here is a sequence, "Hello, Hello, come and take a look, very cheap, nice skirt, watch, DVD, very nice." I was impressed by their attempts in English. We weren't impressed with their products.
They sold everything. Brand name jackets, shoes, Rolexes, DVDs. The quality was not good, and at times, very confusing. I tried on a pair of shoes. On the side of the shoes, they had a nike emblem, but on the tongue, they had an adidas emblem. What were they? Nike or Adidas? Who knows!! Very confusing and funny. A lot of the times they don't even try to make a replica of, say, a North Face jacket. They simply find a cheap jacket, and sew on or print North Face labels. I can't imagine these companies being too happy about the knock off streets. This is where the lower to middle class people shopped. The upper class stuck to their Dior shops. We could tell Paul was a little uncomfortable in the knock-off street. It was exhausting having all these people heckle us.It was worse for Paul, because they see him with us, so they know he speaks Chinese and
English. They can speak in their native tongues and expect him to translate. He wasn't having it. I guess we can call it another "cultural experience. "
At night time, we took a boat tour a famous part of Shanghai. I don't know a lot about the rich history in Shanghai, but it goes a little like this: European countries were interested in opium trade in the 1800s with China. Shanghai was a popular port city for this trade. One day, China decided to ban opium trade, and they seized thousands of boxes of opium. This made the Europeans angry, so somehow they got the Chinese to lease them prominent land along the bund (embankment). After the land was leased, the English and French used their architectural techniques to build important buildings, like consulates, embassies, banks, and homes for the aristocratic folk. During the cultural revolution or civil wars in the 1900s, I believe that the Communists decided to seize this lucrative area.
The buildings are incredible. They feel out of place, and could easily fit in along the Seine or Thames in Europe. It was fun to see the different types of architecture. The British Empire was
so big at times that even today you can see remnants of their imperialistic past all around the globe. Now, the U.K is about the size of Ohio. Hmm.
Advertising is incredibly advanced along the river banks. Their aren't billboards or large signs. Some of the buildings are designed in such a way that they can act as a television screen, lighting up in colorful words and pictures. We can't imagine the costs of advertising in such a way. The television-screened buildings were humongous. Many times the size of the Jumbotron at Memorial Stadium.
It made for an interesting boat ride. I have taken river cruises in Lake Michigan to see the Chicago skyline. At the time, this was voted as the most beautiful nighttime view from water in the US. The Shanghai view was equally or even more impressive.
It was a quick trip, but very indulging. There are so many things to see in Shanghai. The Shanghai Art Museum is the NYC Museum of Modern Art in the east (so I've heard). We will surely travel again many times to Shanghai.
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