Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shanghai: The Beginning (3/23-27/2011)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Finally after all the preparation, the waiting, and the packing, we were off. Bruce L managed to fit all our luggage (10 bags!) into his car, and drove us to the Jacksonville airport. Because we were flying Business Class (thank you, BASF!), we could check three bags each (3 large suitcases from Goodwill, a garment bag, and 2 stuffed carry-on bags) without a fee. Kent was left to carry on a duffel bag and his briefcase, and I had a large tote and my CPAP machine.
Left the house at 6:00 am; first flight left at 8:30 am. One and a half hours to Atlanta. A 12:30 pm flight from Atlanta to Narita/Tokyo in Japan. This flight took 14-1/2 hours, following the sun all the way. We had three meals, saw three movies, slept...

Thursday, March 24, 2011
A 3-hour layover in Tokyo turned into 4 hours. Then the 3-hour flight to Shanghai. So a total of 19 hours in the air.
This was the newer Business Class seating on the flight to Shanghai, what they call cradle seats. The seats extend flat and your head sinks back into the rounded plastic headrest:
Arrived shortly before 10:00 pm local time which was still 10:00 am in FL. You pass through Immigration one at a time. Kent was up first, and the immigration officer looked very puzzled. He showed Kent the passport, which was mine! We had to exchange passports across two lines of people!
Damon, our relocation agent, met us with a sign as we exited customs. He speaks English very well, especially for someone who has never been abroad. A driver with a van loaded our luggage and took us for the 45-minute drive into Shanghai. We are staying for one month at the Fraser Residence, which is both a hotel and residence. The bellhop unloaded all that luggage into our room and left with a nod. No tipping in China!
Door-to-door the trip took 29-1/2 hours.

Friday, March 25
We were in room 2006, on the 20th floor. However, since there are no floors numbered 4, 13, or 14 (4 is an unlucky number in Chinese), we were not actually that high! View from our room:
Our balcony looking at an office building:
Kent's boss, Colin (from Australia), met us at 10:00 am to show us around. First a couple blocks to a shopping mall called Times Square that contained upscale shops like Armani, Gucci, Versace, etc. But this is where we would do our grocery shopping, in the basement at City Shop. They carry some imports, like $10 boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats and $10 bottles of V8. But I can get 3 chicken breasts for $2.
As we walked along the crowded sidewalks, we were introduced to the dangers of being a pedestrian, the lowest in the moving vehicle hierarchy. We needed to be aware of buses turning at red lights without stopping, cars going through red lights, but more so of the motor scooters and motorized bicycles (more dangerous because they are battery operated and thus silent) that additionally go the wrong way on streets and travel on sidewalks!
Our next stop was the office. Harbour Ring Plaza is just a few blocks from the residence on the other side of the elevated highway, with a pedestrian overpass that takes you right into the building:
Met Kent's colleagues (from Scotland, England, India, China) and the top guy (German).
Continued our walk a few more blocks to the pedestrian shopping street of Nanjing Road.
There is the little train going up and down the pedestrian street, but also motor scooters and bicycles. Also, watch out for that cross traffic!
On a weekend, the street is even busier:
Early on a weekday, there is music and dancing:
Horse and carriage?
At the far end of the pedestrian section, you can see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the iconic landmark of Shanghai:
On our way back to the Residence, we looked east on the overpass for a first glimpse of the new district, Pudong, with its very tall buildings, the tallest in China.
We noticed plantings everywhere, and they were all plants familiar from home:
Here we have pittosporum, loropetulam, hawthorn and boxwood; also ligustrum, photinia, nandina, and sago palms. We've seen cherry trees, podocarpus, azaleas, and crape myrtles. Color is provided by pansies.
Back at the Residence, the camellias and tulip or saucer magnolias were in bloom:
We were to meet Damon at 2:00 for lunch and to go apartment-hunting, but due to a mix-up, he arrived closer to 3:00. We were hungry, so he took us to Ajisen Ramen, a Japanese noodle place. In Japan, you go to Chinese noodle places!
We visited three different serviced-apartments in the area around Kent's office building. The fourth was the Fraser Residence itself. Damon was to take us out again on Sunday, this time to see four serviced apartments, which were a Metro commute from the office. Each place was grander than the last.  Xuhui Gardens would have been like living at the emperor's palace with manicured grounds and ornately decorated buildings, and extra amenities like heated floors! It was here that the apartment agent offered us water. We were given steaming cups of hot water! Apparently cold drinks are considered unhealthy. They offered lukewarm water as an alternative...
After lunch at Yonghe King, a Chinese fast food place, Damon took us for a little sightseeing, with a stop at People's Park behind the Shanghai Museum. There was a large fountain (the largest public fountain in Shanghai) that was not functioning at the moment. Apparently there are music and lights with the fountain show, and the base is a map of Shanghai:
Kent's office building sits at one edge of the park.
Starbucks are everywhere, here at the edge of People's Park:
People's Park Metro station entrance:
George Clooney at one corner of People's Park:
Damon then took us to an artificial lake in Taipingqiao Park. An artificial lake as a tourist sight? Well, this one is the largest in Shanghai and is built over a parking garage. A serene spot in a hectic city:
Back at the Residence...
Living room:
The desk is also the dining table:
The appliance over the microwave is a dish dryer/sanitizer:
Indoor lounge on the 6th floor:
Outdoor lounge as seen from our room:

Saturday, March 26
This morning we saw something on the Times Square building:
Window washers rappelling from the top of a 30-story building!
A cup o' noodles comes with a folding fork!
These are the building light displays we can see from the Fraser Residence:

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