The breakfast buffet in this hotel, Le Royal Meridien, is unfreakingbelievable. I started off with twice slices of toast, eggs Benedict with a hard-boiled, instead of soft-boiled egg, a slice of bacon and some coffee.
After some watermelon and fresh pineapple, I still wanted something sweet, and scouring over by the waffle and pancake stand, I saw beside the peanut butter, a bowl marked dulce de leche. I took two teaspoons of the sinfully delicious looking and tasting goo, and spread it on a croissant. OMFG.
On the way down to the lobby, the background music in the elevator sounded like a babbling brook. When I first heard it, I thought, "Oh no. My stomach is not making that noise." Discussing it once we all got in the lobby, every person who noticed that sound thought it was their stomach. How funny. I guess knowing you might have to use a "Chinese toilet" really makes you stay in tune with your body.
Today made three-for-three with regards to our "cultural days" in each city being overcast and rainy. What a bummer. It rained the entire day, more some times than others, and getting dark rather early because of it.
Our morning was spent at the Shanghai Museum. Here I am at the entrance:
The museum used to cost to get in, but now it's free. As you can see by the lines, it's quite the popular place:
Might I suggest, "Visitors 70 and over" instead? I'm just saying...
There was a good diversity of people visiting the museum todayfrom the aforementioned elders, to white people, to this black cowboy, who was a part of a group of very, very dark-skinned people presumably from somewhere in Africa:
I'm just going to shake my head with regards to the bathroom situation. This sign was on the back of the door to the stall in the men's room. And yes, this means toilet paper used for that. Men don't use toilet paper for the other thing. It's just hard to understand. And this was a "Western toilet," not a "Chinese toilet."
There were four floors of exhibit halls in the museum, and we were provided with recording devices in English, on which we punched a code shown at a particular piece to hear its history. Here I am listening to the background on these boats:
It's me again... this time communing with the coins:
Yep. Me again. Hanging out with the old guys:
A couple other of my favorite piecesa "belt tail piece with dragon design" made out of jade and a ceramic "Heavenly Guardian" statue:
On the bus ride from the Shanghai Museum to the silk rug factory that was next on our agenda, I read these headlines over the shoulder of Richard (of Richard and Nadine) in the paper that he was reading in the seat in front of me:
At the Shanghai General Silk Rug Factory, we started off with a tour of the factory during which our guide showed us how rugs are made from start to finish. And it all starts with the moth cocoons, from which the silk is derived:
Nothing up my sleeve... presto... silk!
Next, our guide explained a few things about a rug that a lady from Los Gatos, CA ordered a few months ago, on which the lady in this next picture is working:
This young lady has 6 years experience making rugs, and she's considered an expert. Even as an expert, and working eight ours per day, with 10 minutes break every hour to give her eyesight a break, she hooks only five rows of this rug per day. At that rate it will take her eighteen months to finish this 6 foot-by-8 foot rug.
The lady who ordered it is an older lady, in her seventies, and she said that she couldn't wait that long for a rug, so the factory said they would put another girl on it; that is, add a shift and have it done in nine monthsto which the lady agreed.
The guide asked our group what we thought a rug like that might cost. Someone said, "$10,000," and the guide said, "Sold! If you'd give that much." It's going for right at about $6,000.
Of course, the tour ended up in the retail showroom of the place, in which several people were hounded until they purchased a rug. I picked up one that caught my eye, and it was small, something like 3 feet-by-1 feet, and the price tag said 3300 yuan (about $532). "Specially for you, 20% off, so 2640 yuan (about $425). I don't think so...
As far as I noted, Kirsten, Debbie, and Jenny and Bob bought a rug. Kirsten and Jenny got these little squares, maybe 1-foot by 1-foot for $320, and Jenny and Bob got a bigger one, I'm guessing in the $1000-$2000 range.
I really liked this one with the pandas on it. This one probably cost two- or three-thousand dollars, if not more:
Right across the breezeway from the silk factory, we had lunch at Dim Sum Restaurant, which was very good. Chinese food. Lazy Susan. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
After lunch a couple of people stopped in on the second floor of the silk factory, where they were making cashmere items, mostly sweaters. There was a window through which you could see the workers making the items. They were all standing up at large, loom-like machines working away.
For a reason not understood by me, at least, in the hallway of this area, there were three goats (not alive) grazing in some grass (not real). I began to sing, "High on hill, was a lonely goat herd, yodel-odel-odel-odel-ey-eeh-ho..."
We made a quick stop at The Bund, which most people in our delegation had heard of, though I hadn't. That could be because I did zero reading about China before I came. Things that make you go, "Hmmmm."
I'm sure the view from this place would be phenomenal if it weren't as incredibly foggy as it was during the short fifteen minutes or so we were there. However, from this point, you can see across the water, what's called Pu Dong. Pu Dong is the financial center of Shanghai, which is the financial center of China. So, Pu Dong is to Shanghai what Manhattan is to New York City.
Pu Dong is also where we will be visiting the Hewlett-Packard office that we're visiting tomorrow afternoon as part of our professional day. HP is also the company our leader, Linda, works outin the United States, of course. Here's a picture of Pu Dong on the other side of the water:
Right on the corner near The Bund is the famous Peace Hotelalso a place of which I'd never heard.
A few other interesting buildings viewed from The Bund:
Our next stop was at Yu Garden, which was beautiful in the misty, and sometimes harder, rain. This used to be a private mansion, and the man built this garden for his mother and his family. However his mother didn't live long enough to see it finished. Here are some shots from within:
I really like that dragon's tail "slithering" along the top of the wall.
This tree was in one of the squares in the shopping bazaar we had about 45 minutes in after strolling through the garden:
I finished shopping in about ten minutes, and treated myself to a Dairy Queen (yes, our Dairy Queens!) small vanilla cone 5 yuanabout $.80. Cheap.
Dinner was on our own tonight, and I walked through a square near our hotel, during which I was three times offered sexonce with a massage, once without, and once by a woman who actually touched my stomach and said, "Mister, you lonely?"
I made my way to a Pizza Hut, where I used their 3-step menu-pointing procedure to order my dinner: (1) Put to either Pan Pizza, Think Crust Pizza, or Stuffed Crust Pizza. (2) Point to the size 9, 10, 11, or 12. (3) Point to the variety of pizza; I chose the one called "American Style," which had a picture of a well-populated pepperoni pizza.
"That'll be 15 minutes," she said.
It arrived in 10 minutes, and I guess most of the pepperoni population had moved to the suburbs. There were about three pieces on my 9-inch pizza. At any rate, it was freaking delicious, and I ate the whole thing, minus the crusts. I got a Pepsi Cola with it, and my total bill was 68 yuan (about $11.00).
A couple of things were interesting about this dining experience:
- When I ordered, she said, "That's it? Just pizza?" As I waited for my pizza to arrive, I watched the other tables, and all of them had at least two, and most three, other dishes that they bought in addition to their pizza. A lot of them were Chinese things that you'd never see on an American Pizza Hut table. They involved noddles and soups and shrimp... stuff like that.
- They put an itemized receipt in this little box that was affixed under each table to hold it. As each item was delivered to the table, they pulled the receipt out and marked a line through that item indicating that it has been served. My 12 yuan Pepsi got marked out right away, and when the pizza arrived, a line went through that 56 yuan item.
- I was unsure if they tip here, or if it's included in the price of the food. All of my food on this trip until now has been provided by People to People, except my outing to McDonald's the other night, where of course I didn't tip. I ended up leaving a tip here, something between 10% and 15%, just in case.
On the way back from dinner, I stopped into the Hershey's store, where I just couldn't bring myself to pay $10 for a package of six thin, plain, milk-chocolate Hershey bars.
Beyond the Hershey's store, but before my hotel, was a Starbucks. I stepped in, just to see if they had wireless access. Normally, I'd never pay for access, but if they did have it, it would have had to have been cheaper than what the hotel is charging, so I would have considered using it. I didn't see anyone with laptops in there.
There was another exit to the place, and in taking it, I found myself in a multi-level mall. I walked around just to see what kind of stores they had, and when I reached the third floor, I looked up from the escalators to see that there were seven stories in all. Excessive.
At the top of the escalator, where I had decided I would just turn around and head back down, there was a bookstore. I took a stroll through there. 98% of the books were in Chinese, but there were two bookshelves whose label said, "Imported Books," so I took a quick gander through them.
One of them was "The World is Flat," which had been mentioned in one of our professional meetings this trip, and which I'd heard of. There was also Covey's "8th Habit," and of all things, a book by coach Dean Smith, the former basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Strange.
I had planned to go to Eddy's tonight, but the weather was so nasty, and I'd heard someone say that it was going to be impossible to get a taxi tonight, presumably because everybody would be using them, so I decided to stay in.
I finished up another batch of post cards, for which the front desk charged me a dollar a stamp instead of the fifty-cents they were in Guilin. Rip off. I hate when hotels do that shit. And that's what this hotel is doing with Internet access, too. Not only is it not free, it's outrageous. It's 5.25 yuan for each minute for the first 20 minutes, and then it's 1 yuan an hour after that, up to 24 hours. So, it basically comes out to just under 20 bucks a day for access. Highway robbery.
After that I was going to start right in on my blog for today, but I decided to reward myself with a break and flipped on the TV. A movie was on that caught my attention for two reasons: (1) the main character on screen when I turned it on had just said that he was an obituary editor, and (2) the actor playing that character was Jude Law. Yummy.
As the movie went on, Julia Roberts came into it, and then it started seeming familiar to me. Within a few more minutes, I realized that I'd seen it before, but of course I couldn't remember the name of it, but I watched it to the end.
After that, I devised this blog entry, finishing at about 1:00AM. Tired.