Day 8. Shanghai-Zhangjiagang. Sat 27th Oct.

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A very cruisy Saturday in Shanghai. No solar meetings again - it was the weekend! Sorry this is more of a travel-journal day than anything solar related. Feel free to skip!

I got up late (8am) and decided to get as genuinely lost in Shanghai as possible and just take the city as it came. I headed into the endless alleyway networks once again. What I found was a very typical Asian city with gigantic high-tech reminders of modernization such as multi-lane freeways coming out of tunnels and overhead high-speed rail lines with lush green parks underneath. What has obviously happened is a very deliberate repossession of corridors of the city to make up the modern overhead, on-ground and underground transport network, and then taken the opportunity to inject green slices everywhere. The upheaval is huge, but the result appears to be well balanced.

I saw some activity ahead in what looked like a Saturday market. It was in fact a huge computer market selling anything and everything from old dot-matrix printers for US$0.50c each to the most amazing looking big-brand slim-line laptops I've ever seen (at Western prices). I spent hours there, and (carefully) bought some things for both myself and souvenirs.

Oh and as usual I was not hassled by one person. In fact quite the opposite - being ignored was more of an issue among more pushy local customers! But it was really not bad.

Lunchtime was another sprawling and bustling on-street food area with great food with hordes of others while teenage boys played basketball (very well) in a nearby public court.

After lunch I went back to the hotel and checked out. The hotel was far too easy to find as I had its name on my card and asked a few very helpful people for directions. And what "very helpful" actually means is that almost anyone was willing to literally walk the whole way back and expect nothing but a smile. But I wanted a better challenge so after checkout left my luggage at the hotel and went off again with no information of where or what the hotel was. It was much better that way and I did get hopelessly lost with only two pages of Lonely Planet Chinese phrases to communicate the very NON-English speaking areas I was in. After lots of laughing, lots of walking, and lots of backtracking I realized that time actually WAS starting to run out. I needed to be at the Shanghai International Airport at 8pm to meet Mike, Ann, and our Zhangjiagang contingent - and had to find my hotel first to get my luggage before figuring out how to get to the airport. It was a good challenge but I made it with about an hour to spare.

While taking the subway out to the airport I thought back on my perfect day "Lost" in an endless and amazing city on the other side of the World. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Saturday in Shanghai.

Our group met without any problems at the airport. It was good to see Mike and Ann, but I was a little sad to have lost my total independence. The Zhangjiagang party really was that. A driver, a navigator and a translator. We boarded the black Buick people-mover and headed off for the two hour drive to Zhangjiagang. After two hours the DRIVER was hopelessly lost (maybe THAT's what I need to do!) Mike was constantly getting phone calls from Qian-Bo (Bo) from Zhangjiagang to see if we were okay, and his response was that we would be late and were fine - and that she should go home to her family. She wouldn't.

We arrived another 90 minutes later. Bo had conceded and gone home, but her boss Miss Lee was there waiting for us instead at 11.30pm. It was really nice but quite unnecessary - but that was really just an introduction to life as a guest of the Zhangjiagang government.

After our long welcomes we went to our rooms. Our hotel was the most expensive I'd ever been in let alone stayed in. Mine was more of a designer apartment - but more of a conservative business style rather than modern. Oh and yes I had a king-size bed to sleep in for the first time in my life. As I shook my head in smiling disbelief I realized that China had blown me away yet again.

Bed at 12.30am.


Day 9. Zhangjiagang. Sunday 28th Oct. >>