June 16th, Thursday
|Four of our lunch party beside the MixC mall ice rink|
|Me, Andy, Chris, Kimm, Yi and Bob, near the hotel|
The ride in the minivan hired from Hangzhou took just over two hours, a journey of about 200 km. Andy got the driver to stop half way so that he (Andy) could buy me a snack, one of those sticky rice pork dumplings of the Dragon Fest variety, actually quite tasty and a good idea, since we didn't get any other food till after 9 p.m.
|Motorway service station between Hangzhou and Shanghai|
High Quality Baroque FlooringThe landscape was mostly pylons in the soggy, flat fields that lay between the car dealerships and factories. I doubt that these fields will last much longer in this part of the world, but farm workers were still cultivating them in their straw hats, using ancient tools.
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We kept stopping at toll booths where there were webcams to keep track of who was going through, or speeding, left Zhejiang province at one and entered Shanghai, after which the roadsigns became slightly more readable (e.g. "Hardened Verge"). We passed a shocking truck load of pigs packed like sardines on two levels, as I was still nibbling my pork dumpling. Then the Shanghai South Railway Station appeared ahead, like an enormous flying saucer that had landed in the midst of the new developments. Andy was very pleased with the smooth flow of traffic as we reached the downtown area of Shanghai. "I never see this fast," he said. "It's miracle!" The major buildings loomed ahead and flashed in the dark; the more ordinary ones were lit up at the higher levels ("to dress up the city," explained Andy) with the lower levels unlit. And so we homed in on our destination.
Arriving at our hotel in Shanghai, each of the ladies was handed a pink rose. It felt like walking into the 1920s as one of the western or westernized upper class, a playboy or a flapper. Jazz recordings of those old days were playing in the corridors and in our bedroom, too.
Xian Qiang Fang, like the hotel, was vintage architecture and doubled as a Peking Opera theatre, complete with little boxes above us and curtains to the stage. Kimm's choice; she knows Shanghai. The dining area used to be a dance floor. With three more QNX people along, we saw a scene or two of the show, performed live by a man and a woman dressed very lavishly in the "Opera" garments, almost on a par with those worn by the bride and groom at our son's wedding, and singing or declaiming in that unique, highly artificial, whining manner that had caught our attention on the TV in Beijing. Chris thought the faces were masks but I think they were real faces got up to look like masks. We didn't have a clue what's going on, of course, but one of the gentlemen at our table told us that the female character was acting the part of an intoxicated concubine. The noise made by the accompanying instrumentalists (amplified erhus and drums) was absolutely ear-splitting and I was quite glad that we had taken our seats not long before the end of the act, because conversation between the nine of us round that supper table would have been impossible otherwise. But it came to an end as our first dishes were being brought out and we had another sumptuous umpteen-dish banquet served from the lazy Susan, as usual when people gather to eat in China. Eels yet again (we'd also had them for lunch) and one of those spiky fish with its mouth open, pieces of duck and what not. We did appreciate the sticks of green vegetable (asparagus?) but they tended to be too slippery to grasp in one's chopsticks without making a fool of oneself by chasing them all over the table.