Thursday, 13 May 2010

Shanghai - Day 1 - Putuo District

Cool and cloudy with a hint of rain

overcast 22 °C
To do research on what to pack, Atta talked to her colleagues, who just came back from Shanghai told her, "Hot like hell!". This is coming from a Singaporean, not Inuit. So we should pack light. Not so fast. After checking on 5-day weather forecast on Shanghai, I'm getting more confused than ever. The stats are all over the place. In fact when I look at the temperature for Wednesday, which isn't a forecast at all, I got a reading ranging from 17 to 29 °C!!! The info came from Google, BBC, and some weather websites. Who can you trust? I assume these are all reputable sites.

I decided to trust the people who actually have been there and pack more on summer clothes and than autumn gears. As things would have it, the weather in Shanghai is cloudy and cool now that I'm on the ground level of Shanghai. It felt like nice and cool of 20 °C.

We stay in Modena, the Fraser's boutique hotel. It was about an hour of taxi from the airport (Shanghai cab driver drives fast. Ours anyway). Shanghainese drives madly on the road, but not as crazy as those in the countries south of the border like Thailand and Vietnam. The cheap thrilled rider cost less than 200 Yuan (40 Aussie bucks) without any insurance. The protective plastic casing that wrapped around the cabbie made me homesick. This is the first time since I left Sydney that I see this plastic bubble in a cab, and I've been to many countries since then. Funny enough, all are Asia countries. Does it mean that the highway robberies in Sydney is as bad as in China, and worse than the rest of Asian countries that I've been to? I wonder. Can't say I'm too thrilled with Sydney's crime rate, though.

Some cabs have GPS devices sit on top of their dashboards. Next to it are printers, which are standard fixtures as much as the meters. After you paid the cab fare, the printer will print out a receipt, and a voice from the machine tells you how much money they receive from you, and how much change you're going to get (I can't remember what language it speaks. Most likely in Chinese. Maybe they can choose English as well). Keeping the receipt is a good idea apart from claiming expenses from your company, or keep it as a record to remember the cab fare, but very handy if you forgot and left something on your cab. This receipt will facilitate the search. In short, Shanghai taxi is not bad, and very affordable. Catching one, however, isn't easy, which suggests its popularity.

Speaking of transportation, it's good to see that bicycles haven't entirely disappeared from this Bicycle Kingdom that China was once called. In fact, it looks like there're as many bicycles (probably more) as there're cars on the roads, except that they take up a lot less space. On broader streets in Shanghai, there's usually a single small lane reserve for motor bikes and bicycles. On my first day here, there was some getting use to in watching out the traffic in the right direction as China drives on the right side of the road, while in Singapore and Australia, both being a former British colonies, drive on the wrong side of the road. On a few times, I was almost run over by bicycles because the traffic in the small lane is quite chaotic. Sometimes when I saw a group of bicycles coming from one direction that took up the whole lane, your brain make you only look in that direction, and forgot that the traffic is 2 directional. Unfortunately, I don't think it's health or environmental issues that they ride bikes, but poverty. But Chinese government is encouraging their citizens to adopt this direction as China like to see that they're answering the call of the Green Movement. Of course, whether they can pull it off is one thing, but they're very serious about it, and have done a lot work in this regards. Only time will tell. But I'm an naive optimist, so I say yes.

The hotel locates in the Putuo district of Shanghai in Puxi. The district is at the NW corner of Shanghai just outside the ring road. It isn't close to any touristy destinations and very much a small local suburb with some large stores across from the hotel selling furniture, and home decos, and all kinda construction contractors shopfronts. In fact, when we showed the cab driver the address, he took us to Renaissance Hotel, which locates opposite from us. It's an new area being developed, or else, Renaissance Hotel (and our hotel) wouldn't be there. Even the Sydney (Surryhills) based MOB Fitness chain locates right next to Modena. At the moment there's nothing much there except for some restaurants, the furniture stores that anticipated to sell a lots of furniture as the area is being developed.

As soon as we drop our bags, we went to one of the local 'corner' restaurant - small, spartan, but clean. We ordered from the large menu on the wall. Atta ordered her favourite - pork dumplings, and a pork rib noodle. Meat dumplings are Shanghai local speciality and Atta is in the right place. Mine cost ¥8, and hers cost ¥7. Way cheaper than hawker centre back in Singapore.

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