Shanghai 09

Written by Cliff on Saturday 31 January 2009 at 12:04 am

My friends often wonder what I do in Shanghai every now and then, isn’t that right? So. Apart from the fact that the Shanghai female race is superior, etc. (this is contested), I come here to enjoy food amongst the masses. So it was CNY, and I attended a banquet held just on the outskirts of the outskirts of Shanghai.

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The United Front

Written by Cliff on Thursday 16 October 2008 at 1:21 am
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a delegation to the united front


Written by Cliff on Tuesday 14 October 2008 at 12:59 pm
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we graciously study the party with full vigour

Monday Evening

Written by Cliff on Monday 13 October 2008 at 11:27 am
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a business meeting, 5 bottles black label. but on a monday?!

Looking Out

Written by Cliff on Monday 15 September 2008 at 11:35 pm
the lawn
looking out of my room onto the lawn

One Night in Shanghai

Written by Cliff on Sunday 14 September 2008 at 12:13 am
a cheese plate
cheese plate with a view (shanghai)

6 on the Bund

Written by Cliff on Saturday 25 August 2007 at 2:00 pm
Starter Sashimi Sushi and Soba Mains Cake and Fruit Desserts
food from six on the bund, lovely

Taking a seat on a PRC bus

Written by Cliff on Friday 24 August 2007 at 12:07 am

Empty seats are hard to find on public buses in Shanghai, especially during rush hour, when there it is hard even to stand. However, things are most interesting earlier in the morning when there are fewer people.

At around seven in the morning, when the only people milling on the bus are nice old grandmas and grandpas, one wouldn’t dare take a seat. Armed with walking sticks and mastery of tai-qi quan, they are formidable contenders for seats. Anyway, you’re supposed to give up your seat for them.

The spectacle begins before someone gets up to leave a seat. As that person gathers his bag, makes up her hair or adjusts his tie, the standing grandma will eye him or her through the corner of her eye. As the sitting person gets up, the grandma flies onto the seat in a split second and continues reading the paper as if nothing has happened. It is truly a sight to behold because… there is no one competing with her for the seat.

Using a PRC Public Pool

Written by Cliff on Sunday 19 August 2007 at 11:28 pm

Finding the pool is an experience in itself. Different people have different answers, which is quite stressful when you’re in your crocs carrying an unsightly plastic bag. Once you found the pool, you have to make sure it is open. For this particular pool, it is open from 6-7 in the morning and from 4.30 to 9.30 in the afternoon. If you’re lucky, its around seven in the evening. If you’re crazy, you’re looking at the sign at 5.30 in the morning.

First, you have to get a ticket – a very advanced Integrated Circuit (IC) card for ¥20 (for all ages). Afterwards, you must obtain a health pass for ¥5. How much you are ‘assessed’ depends on the time of day and most importantly, the health examiner’s mood. For some, she would just look at you in the eye and give you a stamp, valid for six months. For others, she would do the entire series of examinations, including the blood test and body fluid sample. I did not have the pleasure to have her company for so long a time. Normally, one would think there would be a turnstile to read the IC card. Instead, you have to give the card to the ‘reception’ and fork over the health card and another ¥40 as deposit, and in exchange, they give you a locker key.

They key has a very interesting design based on an elastic strap upon which the key itself is attached. If you’re too thin, or too fat, you will be unable to strap the key to yourself. The locker room is mildly unappetising. It is a dark and damp place where you have to be careful of splashes of water from the floor. Fortunately, there is no strange smell. When you are looking for your locker, you hope that it is not the one closest to the floor, where the rising damp might get it. The locker is split into two levels. The bottom one (I think) is for the shoes, and the upper compartment is (I think) for other dry items.

The bathroom is unfortunately placed in the narrow corridor leading to the showers. That means that you’ll need to pass by the bathrooms to get to the shower or get out. Disgusting either way. In Hong Kong, the bathrooms are between the pool and the showers, meaning that after you shower and exit, you are guaranteed to be clean. Also, there is a mandatory shower between the pool and bathroom to remove anything that might still be attached to you. Very nice. Not here.

Surprisingly, the showers here are very nice, with temperature control up to a blistering 34°C, with ample volume. After the shower (hopefully, you take it), you go into a footbath (still water unrefreshed for god-knows-how long) and head towards the pool. The 25m pool is horrendous: there are people swimming along both the width and length of the pool. As you can imagine, there is no way you can cross the pool without being slapped in the eye by flailing arms, or kicked in the stomach by people doing the breaststroke. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself to be the only person in the pool who can swim properly.

The first thing you will learn is to look both ways when swimming. There are no lanes in the pool. If you try to swim like you normally do, you’ll ram your head into someone elses’ or you will be slapped, kicked or otherwise wiped out. Unfortunately, the water is very murky, so looking both ways won’t save you from the inevitable black eye or stomach injury. After half an hour’s swim, you would probably have drunk enough water to make yourself sick, in which case, you may relieve yourself in the pool, like the others. I don’t need to say anymore now, do I, except: swimming is good for health. Swim more!

Lunch on a duck farm

Written by Cliff on Sunday 19 August 2007 at 2:07 pm

There comes a time when an important figure of the village wants to hold a banquet. He may have had a boy, he may be celebrating his son’s wedding, he may have purchased new factory equipment. But today, that important figure is celebrating the purchase of a new home, together with the acceptance of his son into a university, on a duck farm. Being a successful duck dealer, he held through the SARS crisis to become a virtual monopolist of duck and affiliated products, making [•] a month. Moreover, it explains why he has over 20 tables ready to celebrate these two significant events.

Knowing of the event is easy – just follow the crowd, but entering is another matter. Useful items include cigarettes, exotic fruits, spirits red packets, and of course, some knowledge of the host himself. The objects of the banquet (the son and the house) become auxiliary once the banquet is held. To enter, you either have to be a family member, a butcher, an egg seller, a pillow maker or a close friend. I chose to be an egg seller to pass through reception. Asked why I didn’t bring any eggs, I replied that I got my eggs here and there was no point to bring back what 老總 sold to me. Better to give them fruits “from Thailand” instead. “Oh, and here’s a cigarette too”. The ticket was a red plastic bag containing peanuts and, surprise, a pack of Double Happiness.

The banquet had already started when I came in and the air was thick with smoke. I sat down at one of the tables and revoked my egg-seller identity. I became another friend’s son, who is working in a Shanghai law firm. The table was heavy with fish, prawn, crayfish, smaller shrimp, sliced cucumbers, dumplings, and of course, duck and all sorts of related bits and pieces. I managed to hide my grimace when the double-broiled turtle was served and it was some time before I realised the tempura I was having was actually bits of toad. The taste of those was entirely acceptable even if the idea was not.

Although table manners may be disregarded at such formal banquets, there are some rules to be followed. For example, one must stand when the host comes around to down his drink (just follow suit). One must also fill others’ glasses before filling his own. To drink from his glass, or bowl as the case may be, one must address the entire table by holding his receptacle as if to drink and do a turn around the table; others will acknowledge and together, you can commence the ‘cheers’ procedure. Other than that, you may smoke, talk on your phone, cut your fingernails, spit and gurgle your drink.

Later, as the food began to disappear from the table, bowls and bottles made loud noises as they crashed against the floor. People began to laugh before they could finish their sentences and raucous laughter ensued, rattling the faux Versailles ceiling of the staff canteen. Learning that there was to be a continuation of the banquet in the evening, I took the opportunity to escape through the back door, where on both sides, the fish they used to feed the ducks were kept.

I am still trying to wash off that smell before I head off to dinner on the duck farm.

Duck farm banquet

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