We made it out to Shanghai last night, with the full experience in play. We were taken to town by the shipping company agents. We took two cars because there were eight of us going into town. Our car was a micro van that smelled like motor oil, has no suspension at all and chugged along at a robust top speed of about 35 MPH. The driver was a mid-30’s guy who insisted on playing Chinese disco music at a mind-numbing volume, I think this is a Chinese way of entertaining us? The music was like Giorgio Moroder samples and they all sounded the same just with different singers and different words. At first it was amusing but after 45 minutes it was nauseating.
We were dropped off in the high rent district, across the river from the old Shanghai and what is known as The Bund. I would have preferred to be on the Bund as it is more relaxed and interesting but I was just along for the ride and the crew was fine with letting me tag along. Most of them had never been ashore in China so selfies and lots of picture taking went on. I was amused.
The crew brought a shopping list of things to get for the boat, all electronic related; some new PlayStation controllers, a few new games, some cables and interface connectors and miscellaneous cords and plugs. We wandered around and found a full blown electronic shopping mall and that is for lack of a better description. Basically 3 floors of stalls with tables randomly spread out on each floor. Each vendor specialized in something; laptops, desktops, phones, software, cables and connectors, kind of like an indoor swap meet on three floors and these were big floors. The shopping was hilarious, the French speaking English and the Chinese trying to understand the accents. The French like to bargain but they soon realized that the Chinese are expert negotiators and were going to prevail on each exchange.
A couple of the guys bought wireless Bluetooth headsets and phone cases, they were happy with the prices which were very low compared to back home.
While they checked off their list I snuck off to a convenience store and bought a big Coke and a Snickers bar. Success. My list was complete.
The area where we were in Shanghai is amazing. Big skyscrapers and every Western restaurant you could imagine and a Starbucks on seemingly every block. We walked and the guys took pictures. They decided they may want to go up in one of the observation towers so we began heading to the big buildings. I encouraged them to take a side street and they agreed. One of the guys wanted to buy some fruit so I found a fruit seller and it was game on. My limited Chinese came in very handy and we left with 10 large Fuji apples, some Lee Chi and some Japanese peaches.
We walked and talked and lots of picture taking was done. When we arrived at the big, 100 floor building with an observation floor the guys argued about going up or not going up. The cost put them in a “no” position. The cost was RMB $180, roughly $25 USD, that is a lot of money to ride a long elevator and look at the city. We moved along and they decided they wanted to go to the other, more famous observation tower, the one that is in just about every photo of Shanghai you see. This was built for the sole purpose of being an observation tower, unlike most others that are office buildings with a side business of an observation deck. The walk over was fun and we enjoyed the warm night.
When we arrived at the tourist trap known as the Observation tower, the guys were deflated that the price was the same as the first stop. $180RMB, they were quickly understanding how China worked. They went inside the gift shops and I went to the snack stand for a cold Coke and an ice cream bar. It was warm and the comfort of an ice cream bar and cold Coke reminded me of home. Of course, the swarms of people and the calamity of the whole place quickly dashed thoughts of home even though I wanted to think about it.
When the guys finished their shopping, we met up, it was just past 2100 and we were hungry. I would have liked some Chinese comfort food but just followed behind as they chatted in French about food. I was at first convinced they were going to go to a place like TGIFridays or Hooters or some other Western chain restaurant with a Chinese flair. They stopped at each and looked at the menu with no consensus about eating there. I think they were more curious than considering eating there. It was getting late and I told them that most restaurants close at 2200 so we should decide on something and eat.
After much debate and discussion, they decided on a Hot Pot restaurant. I am not a big fan of hot pot, basically a big broth bowl where you purchase vegetables and meats to put inside and cook while you drink beer. Hot pot food really only tastes likes something when you dip it in a sauce. The work of cooking your own food at a restaurant never really sat well with me anyway. I let them order and watched with amusement as they really had no idea what was coming. They tried to use chopsticks and that in itself was enough entertainment for the night out. It was ridiculous. The fumbling and cursing went on for about 10 minutes and so I went to the kitchen and brought back forks. They were all very pleased and then returned with new enthusiasm to the meal. I was picking and just eating easy things to chew, my mouth was bugging me and I really don’t like Hot Pot too much so I just ate a little. I did have another Coke though, so now I was overboard on the Coke for the night.
The restaurant had Wi-Fi and so I was excited to text Dianna and feel a little connected. I miss her and not talking on the phone is hard. We are emailing but it seems like the time lag is so long and a text is instant communication, almost like being connected. That made me happy and it was too short a session as the drivers were coming to return us to the ship. We closed down the restaurant at about 2245, they were glad to see us leave I think.
We needed to walk several blocks to meet our cars and when we did arrive at our rendezvous point the cars had not yet arrived. We stood in an alley and chatted about the evening. I was a bit surprised at how the guys were so relaxed and not a bit like the stereotypical sailor gone ashore stories you hear. They had no desire to be hell raisers or get drunk or chase girls or ask where the bars were. We had a totally tourist evening and they all had things to take back on board.
The cars arrived and despite my hope for an upgrade, we were assigned the same clunker that we came in. We wedged ourselves in and the music immediately began blaring. It was 2345 and no one was really in the mood for bad Chinese disco played loud enough to eradicate any other sound. We endured and laughed about it for it was going to make a lasting memory.
We stepped back on board the ship at 0030 and signed in. We returned our passports to the Chief Officer and they went back into the safe. Funny, we just drove right into the docks with a simple hand gesture and one gate. No customs, immigration, not even a cursory look at who was in the vehicles. China, it never surprises me.
I fell asleep instantly last night despite the banging and clanging of loading. They were loading containers below deck and they make big noise as they bang along the guide posts and into the belly of the ship. It was about 0100 and I was tired.
I awoke at 0630, I would have much rather stayed in bed than get up so early. The small dinner that had worn off in my stomach and the thought of missing an oatmeal morning pushed me out of the bunk and into the shower. I went down to breakfast at 0700 and was the only one in the mess room. While I was eating a couple of guys came in but none of them were members of our excursion last night. I ate oatmeal with honey, some baguette with butter and strawberry jam and washed it down with coffee. The juice was grapefruit and I hate that stuff so I skipped it.
We are due to depart around 1400 hours today. We will make the next run up to Pusan, South Korea and that will be about a 50-hour run. I will not go ashore in Korea; our time is short there and I don’t want to spend any more money off the ship until I get to Seattle.
I will go down to lunch in about 10 minutes, I plan to eat and then take a nap. I think taking a nap is such a luxury, during all those years of working you forget about taking a nap, it never enters your mind actually. I have not had a paying job now for over 3 years and taking a nap has fit into my life quite nicely. I don’t do it regularly but just knowing the option exists somehow makes me feel retired, or unemployed depending on my mood.
I will write again later. Maybe not today. I want to be out of deck when we exit Shanghai and get out into some open water. I am hoping in the next day or two to see blue water. All I have seen to this point is dirty green water and the more prevalent brown muddy water.
So just an update on the food scene; lunch was a roasted chicken breast with peas and carrots as a side. Very American.
Dinner was a mixed salad, cod in a beautiful lemon caper sauce, saffron rice and cheese with fruit. I had couple glasses of wine with the cheese, the French do know cheese. It is so dang good. I think after this trip I may just be eating more cheese and fruit after dinner.
We are well under way to Pusan. The company store will open tomorrow. I can get 24 cans of coke for $12. I have a mini fridge in my cabin. If they have some chocolate bars I am going to buy some of those also. The entire crew is awaiting the store opening, they can get beer, liquor, chocolates, sodas and tobacco. The prices are super low and the store has been closed for a week so everyone is ready for sure. I look forward to it.