Shanghai Sights

Trip Start Aug 20, 2004
Trip End Aug 28, 2005

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Today we moved to another friends house, Ron, who is Chinese but from Canada and there was also another Chinese guy from Canada named Greg who was staying at Ron's pseudo-guesthouse. Anyway, the girls were doing there own thing today so Ron, Greg, and I went to walk around downtown. Ron is a very nice, and obviously hospitable, guy who's lived in Shanghai for a little over a year now and does computer work...his place is actually his uncles place, but his uncle only uses it for like two weeks a year. Greg is a friend of Rons friend, a grad student in British Columbia studying biomechanics, and this is his first trip to China. So we walked around the downtown area and Ron showed us a few interesting places like this rebuilt downtown area which mixed old and new styles of architecture; the electronics market; and a nice park where you can just lie around in the grass, take nice walks, or practice your Tai Ji! Later we wound up at Xiangyang market, Shanghais most well-known market, where you can buy practically anything you want for pennies such as clothes, DVDs, antiques, and even golf clubs. The prices are unbelievable - the best example being golf clubs. I went into this little golf shop and met an ex-professional golfer and we started chatting. I asked him about the quality and he told me about how he had this nice set of Ping clubs that he had bought for around $1100 US before he had ever been to China. On his first visit here, he came across this shop and saw his exact clubs and wondered about the knock-off quality, so almost as a goof he bought the same set determined to try them out and see the exact difference. He tried them out side by side and said there was absolutely no difference at all! The Ping set from the US was $1100; the "copy" set from China was $120!! He said he does all his shopping now in China because he can fly over here round trip, have about a week vacation, get the same thing he was going to buy in the States (plus a weeks vacation) for the price he would have to pay in America for the clubs! And it's absolutely true - if you wanted an updated wardrobe and were going to spend about $1000 you could definitely fly here round trip, have a weeks vacation, and get the exact same things you would have bought in the US for about the exact same total price! Now, I know people will say "but it's not authentic". Actually, if you know what to look for it is authentic, just not sanctioned. What happens is the company places an order for a million, let's say, shoes...the Chinese factory pops out the million order and then runs a 250,000 order on top of it for local distribution - producing the same exact product which you can buy for 1/10th the price. Now, some people will say that its wrong to buy these things or that its "unfair" to the company. Pardon my French, but screw that! Read up on how much products are marked up in the US or talk with someone whose job was exported abroad because some company wanted to increase its profit margin by paying a foreign factory worker $2 a day instead of paying an American factory worker $5 an hour! Not to even mention, specifically, clothing or shoe manufacturers famous for running sweat shops or illegal child labor. Haha, sorry for the tangent, but that's just the way things are in China and no matter how much money big companies try to bribe Chinese officials it won't be changing anytime soon. Anyway, we looked around awhile and met up with the girls for dinner and had a nice evening together.

The next day was Gregs last day and everyone else was working or going to school so Greg and I went to the Shanghai Museum with a plan to go back to the market for some last day shopping. The museum is beautiful, designed to look like a historic serving vessel (see photos) and set in the middle of the People's Park with a great downtown backdrop. The museum covered China's history from prehistoric to contemporary and we spent a few hours there. While in the museum I called the SK embassy to see if my visa would be processed quickly and when it would be available and they tell me it can be finished early but first I had to write a note explaining why I wanted the visa faster and also why I didn't apply sooner! I felt like a fifth grader and the school secretary was asking where my sick note from my Mom was! So I scribble out some BS and eventually find a fax machine and it'll be ready tomorrow. After the museum, we headed back to the market for some more browsing and's funny because everyone expects Greg to be able to speak Chinese but he cant speak a lick of Chinese and they're surprised as hell when I chime in with Chinese asking the price! I mean, they all speak a bit of English anyway, but you'll pay a higher price if you don't speak Chinese or aren't with someone who can. I buy some name brand boxer briefs for $1.25 a pair and Greg gets some good deals on clothes and gifts for friends. Later we met up with Ron, his girlfriend, and Kham and her sisters for a final dinner at a great little hot pot restaurant and then browsed a DVD shop near Ron's place where Greg buys like 50 DVDs for $50 - $1 a disk and they're a good quality too! The following day Greg flew out and I picked up my visa and then flew out myself headed for South Korea for a little work and a little travel.
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