SHANGHAI: Day 142, Monday April 28 2014

“I haven’t seen blue sky in days…” my sister Karen complained as we walked out to check out “The Bund” which is supposed to be the number one thing to do in Shanghai

“Are you kidding, the air is so clear here!” I said looking up, “You can see all the way to the tops of the buildings,” and Shanghai was not short on tall buildings.

Karen’s eyes grew wide, “This is clear?”

A wistful mutter, “I saw blue sky once,” my brother John added to the conversation. He’d already been in China for a week.

Karen and, John had already been waiting in the lobby when we got up that morning. After exchanging hugs eating breakfast and filling each other in on our travel stories, we had headed out for some sight seeing before our flight later that evening. The Bund was really just a bunch of tall buildings surrounded by some sort of canal or river with a constant flow of tour boats, rafts, and barges. I guess it looks pretty cool lit up at night.

Walked from there to the Bazar, surrounded in impressive looking Chinese buildings, many waterways filled with fat and deformed coy fish, and an arch walking bridge over top. Passed by the numerous souvenir shops selling the usual cheep Chinese odds and ends, but stopped at Starbucks for Nate to pick up some liquid energy. Starbucks coffee is a big treat here, as we’re often stuck drinking instant.

Peoples square, which was our next destination, had once been an old horse race track. You’d never know as now it is just a park filled with trees and plants (though it does have a small strip of running track through it). Got a mini workout in as we discovered an awesome fitness area filled with the outdoor workout equipment that is available all over China and decided to stop and play on it.

Picked up lunch from an underground shopping centre we found ourselves in by accident when we were trying to find a museum exhibit John wanted to see. Karen had thought that somehow it would lead to the museum, and when we entered we discovered that there were old pictures of Shanghai on one side, which Karen pointed them out and said “Look there’s your exhibit!” Turned out the museum was closed on Mondays, so no display was seen, but the mall did have 10 RMB cold noodles (which K approved of, who hasn’t had the greatest experience with Chinese food) and a blue (although cracked) sky painted to the ceiling, which is more then Shanghai can provide (Karen and John were horrified by our comments of “wow the air is so clear here! You can see the tops of the buildings”).

Tour guide John kept us well provided with facts of the sights we visited, with use of the book he’d gotten as a gift from our grandparents. After the failed museum attempt we found some park benches to park our bottoms on and eat our meal. We still had a couple of hours before leaving for our flight, so we decided to check out some bars we’d walked passed earlier. The prices didn’t agree with us so we ended up heading back to the hostel, perhaps better to stay away from the “Hoegardens” anyways (beer advertised as “we have Hoegarden”.)

Took a detour to find a bookstore for something for me to read, and lucked out on the way. Ran into a street vendor selling printed books for 20 RMB, a rare find! I bought “The Black Swan”, which I originally thought was the novel made into a movie but turned out to be something ironically discussing the philosophy of random chance. Enough of a coincidence that I decided to read it anyways. It was a bootleg- printed copy of the book, but was in pretty good shape. I once bought a similar bootleg book and ended up finding a chunk of animal farm mistakenly stuck in the middle of the story!

“No money looky looky!” We were on our way back to the hostel and Nate was being harassed by a pushy shoe polish man who was chasing after his scuffed up boots. “No money looky looky,” he kept insisting.

“Bu yao!” (don’t want) Nate kept telling him, but the sales man persisted, scooting up ahead of us and squirting a giant white blob of polish goop on one of Nate’s boots.

“Don’t want no money looky looky!” I told the man, dragging Nate away, who was staring forlornly down at his white blotched footwear.

The persistent little bugger scooted ahead of us again saying “Sorry, sorry, I wipe it off.” and put his kit down on the ground beckoning Nate to put his shoe up. Next thing you know there’s a full polish going on and more white gunk being generously applied, followed by black gunk. Nate stood frozen in shock, not knowing what to do. When the man finished Nate had barley taken his foot back when “No money looky looky” turned into “Cheepa cheepa!” and a black splotch of gunk was squelched onto the other boot.

“No cheepa cheepa, just walk away Nate,” I insisted to Nate and his black shoe gunk. He did look rather miss match with one scruffy shoe and one clean shiny one. When we got back to the hostel he was able to rub the black goop into the other boot and more or less even them out. I must say it looks quite good!

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Took the Maglev train to the airport: a hover train that goes 431 km/h. As K put it in her e-mail it felt like we were about to take off! Flight was 30 min. delayed but otherwise uneventful (though John and Karen were concerned that they heard some unhealthy noises during take-off and landing). Got served dinner even though it was only a hour and a half flight! Check in at the hostel was much better then last night. It was described as a mansion, but it’s more like a block in an apartment building, had a beautiful rooftop garden though.

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