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Published: April 6th 2016
My first night's sleep went reasonably well considering all of the warnings I received regarding the jetlag, but people are also basic and don't know how to help themselves adjust. I woke up a couple of times in the middle of the night but fell right back asleep, and by 6am I felt relatively well-rested. Due to the crazy commuting situation for the millions of people in the city, our offices don't open until 10am and people work a later shift as a result. That being said I had a solid 4 hours to get some work done, hit the hotel gym, get ready, and do breakfast before meeting Monica to walk over to the office. The breakfast area was legit - everything from sushi and kimchi to eggs benedict and western-style pastries were available. I stuck to my Chinese roots and had an assortment of dumpling and buns both savory and sweet, some smoked mackerel, and some dragonfruit.
At 10 to 9 Monica met me in the lobby and we walked the 5 of 10 minutes through Pudong to the office. Much to my surprise there was a Gloria Jean's Coffee at the base of our building! While the
chain seems to be pretty much dead in the U.S. I'm looking forward to reliving the days of walking through Woodfield as a kid with my iced coffee. Anyway, the Shanghai office is like a mini-Boston HQ and is designed for around 16 people. The windows look out onto the vast cityscape, including the Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center, so that most certainly beats the Boston view of basically the Seaport Hotel and the Convention Center. For the first couple of hours I got situated and started my training sessions with the two new hires, but before I know it it was time for lunch.
The office building includes a shopping mall, and our lunch reservations was at a Cantonese-style restaurant called Charme on the 3rd floor. We were escorted to the back into a private room, which was nice, especially since apparently you can still smoke in Chinese restaurants. Jesscy took the wheel when it came to ordering, and pretty soon plate after plate of shared dishes started to come out. Probably the most noteworthy was bullfrog fried in a somewhat spicy batter - legit. Other fun things included fried squid, soup with corn and chicken
feet, ground lamb served with green onion in pancakes, and shrimp-stuffed chicken drumsticks. For dessert came a box-shaped sweet bread filled with vanilla ice cream. Everything was great!
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing additional training and I didn't leave the office until maybe 7:30. The team had plans to get drinks and invited me, so we soon headed over across the river back to Puxi for a rooftop bar in the Bund. The 27 Bund Building, where the bar was located, is currently known as the House of Roosevelt and contains an upscale restaurant, wine cellar, and members-only club. In the past it was apparently the headquarters of a British opium selling company, Japanese Navy intelligence, and the Shanghai Foreign Trade Commission. The rooftop bar, Sky Bar, was spectacular to say the least and offered incredible views of the entire Bund as well as the Pudong Skyline. I probably have 300 of the same picture because I couldn't stop snapping away. The 6 of us ordered a set package that included 12 Tsingtao Beers, 6 shots (doubt there was any alcohol in them unfortunately) and some snacks to nibble on. It was a little on the
chilly side, but given the impending rain the rest of the week it could have been the last time for a view of the city on a clear night. Around 9:30 we called it a night and I retreated back across the river to the hotel. After some more work, a call with my boss, and some room service sushi I called it a night around 11.
Wednesday morning I was up bright-eyed and busy-tailed at 5am and started working on training presentations before hitting the gym and getting ready for my second full day. I was legitimately starving after being awake for 4 hours without food so I really went to town on the buffet. Pickled duck breast, smoked salmon, fish and pork meatballs, bean curd with mushrooms, fried pork wonton, BBQ pork pastry, pickled vegetables, a fried egg, and a vegetable-filled bun about cover everything I ate. Feeling thin as ever! The cucumber juice I washed it all down with I'm sure cleansed me of all the fat and calories.
Unfortunately it was indeed monsoon-like outside, so after attempting to start the 10 minute walk to the office and soaking my shoes I decided to take
a stab at ordering a Chinese uber. I needed help from the hotel staff to input my destination since it wasn't coming up, but the experience was pretty painless and I made it out dry and alive. The next obstacle was getting the building staff to let me up into the building since despite my business card with the company's Shanghai address and office number they still didn't quite grasp that I just wanted to be let upstairs. After all of that I was only around 15 minutes late. The morning flew by and around 1 we headed out into the surrounding area to find a place for lunch. We ended up at a hole in the wall, the name of which no one could tell me because apparently the Chinese character was too obscure/complex for anyone to know. Pretty hard to wrap your head around if you don't use a character-based writing system. I had my coworkers order for me since the menu was entirely in Chinese characters, and for a mere 26 RMB ($4) I had a giant bowl of noodle soup with a fried pork cutlet and hard-boiled egg and 6 sizeable xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). There was
apparently some confusion as to who ordered what, so the first 10 minutes was basically me sitting there awkwardly while the waitstaff yelled at each other in Chinese and kept bringing and taking away various dishes. Slightly awkward, but the food was outstanding and dirt cheap.
I wish I could have napped after that meal, but the next 4 hours or so were spent getting the new hires up to speed on application processing and watching the storm descend upon the city again. By 7 I was out of there and hoped to do a little exploration in the Pudong area after dropping off my bag, and by exploration I meant finding food and maybe doing some shopping. The rain had pretty much subsided by this point so I decided to walk the 25 or so minutes to the Lujiazui area where all of the major skycrapers are located. Walking alone at night in such a giant city where I was basically as good at communicating as an illiterate deaf-mute was a bit intimidating, but it needed to happen. With such gigantic landmarks always overhead I would at least always have a point of reference if I got lost,
and google maps seemed to work okay as well. My destination was actually a Chinese department store, Shanghai Tang at the base of the Shangri-La hotel, and I hoped to find some fun housewares and other stuff to bring back home. Well, stupid me didn't actually write down the name of where I wanted to go, so once I got to the area I was a deer in headlights and didn't know where to go. Luckily when I went back and looked online I'd see that while what they had was beautiful, I wasn't in the market for $150 (USD) espresso cups with Chinese dragons on them or $600 silver-plated chopsticks.
My hour and a half stroll through Pudong was otherwise great. Seeing the giant buildings up close was spectacular, and at the base of each one was almost always a high-end hotel or shopping complex, so I was by no means wandering in the middle of nowhere. At one point I passed by an alley of street food vendors, but cleanliness-wise it seemed like a reasonable idea not to take the risk - not that I'd be able to actually communicate what I wanted or figure out how
much anything cost. I would eventually circle back toward where my office is, and around there I mustered up the courage to, via an elaborate system of pointing and gesturing, order some type of Taiwanese-style bubble tea at Gong Cha. I wasn't sure what I was ordering, but I ended up with an iced black tea with whipped cream, cookie crumble, and a couple of types of jellies at the bottom. Not too bad. My other attempts at getting food otherwise failed - I wasn't interested in sitting down anywhere, and everywhere else I was too anxious to figure out what anything was, how much it cost, and whether or not I could get it to go. Oh well, I suck! Note to self: learn Chinese.
I ended up back at the hotel by 9, since I have my weekly team meeting at 9am Boston time and needed to touch base with the team. Looking forward to another full day and hopefully an evening of exploring the street food scene with the team tomorrow!
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