Friday, April 30, 2010

Little Blue Guy: Scenes from Shanghai

I'm a poet and didn't know it.

There is a little blue guy (and sometimes girl) all over the place in Shanghai. The World Expo Mascot, "Haibao" is dressed up and on the loose!

Haibao spotted in an office at Dawning Center

 At the Metro station, helping to count down the days to Expo

 In front of a Starbucks 

 Got pictures? Send them in!

-- Go little blue guy! Go!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Day in Shanghai

On a recent business trip to Shanghai, I had about half a day to see the city on my own. Not much time so I tried to make the most of it! The night before the team had gone down to the Bund and I was able to get this video. The hotel was all the way out in Hongqiao, so going back to the Bund seemed like a losing proposition.

From my hotel, I walked to the Metro Line No. 2. Long walk but through a pretty bustling area. Construction is rampant in Shanghai right now so good shoes were critical along with close attention to traffic. Unfortunately for me, Line 10 had just opened up and would have been a shorter walk for me. Check online for up-to-date maps for the Metro - things are changing quickly!

My first stop was People's Square. Exiting the Metro, I took exit 7 to the "pedestrian shopping area". Along the way - totally overwhelming the sheer multitude of shops! I didn't have alot of time, but I could have easily done all my shopping in the metro tunnels. When I came up into the open area, there was an underpass to the shopping area. Again - just clearly overwhelming. Nike had a store, Sephora had a store, there were huge Chinese department stores and little alleys with all sorts of shops and restaurants. This area is the East Nanjing Road pedestrian shopping area - in other words, the road is closed to cars which is a very good thing. Since I cannot really describe this area, a few pictures are going to have to suffice:

Since I wasn't really in the frame of mind for true shopping, I headed back to the Metro and hopped on Line 1 to Huangpi Rd South - part of the French Concession area. I had a walking map from my Lonely Planet Shanghai guide and was determined to walk the whole thing. Unfortunately, LP let me down on this one. Much of the walking tour was along busy streets with over-priced tourist shops and high-end namebrand stores. The one big gem out of this walk was the Xintiandi district. The pedestrian area has re-built shikumen and plenty of restaurants. I suspect it is a bit of a Western ex-pat area, clearly designed for tourism, but I still enjoyed it.

In the Xintiandi district, I stopped off for lunch at Aniseed and had some lovely tea and delicious Pho. Yum! Walking further along I came across the Shikumen Open House Museum - absolutely lovely! The entry fee was 20 RMB and some of the best money I spent while in Shanghai.

 Skikumen Open House Museum

Walking further along the walking map, I came to Fuxing park. Pleasant, but nothing spectacular. The acrid fumes of cars from the busy streets even penetrate the parks, taking a bit of the enjoyment out of them.

Finally, exhausted and annoyed I had done the walking trip instead of going to the Taikang Road Art Center, I headed back to my hotel. Time Out magazine is published for Shanghai, and while the website is not in English, I found a printed  version that called out my hotel's neighborhood as a pretty happenin' area. I was intrigued by the park I could see out my window - across the freeway - and decided to give it a try. The park was nice enough, but suffered the same thing problem as other parks in Shanghai due to the heavy exhaust fumes. To make it more interesting, a Metro station was being built in the park. Not kidding. Check out the irony in this sign:

 This sign says "Everyone has duty to protect green". Except the Metro lines...

Not 10 feet from this construction was a bamboo forest:
You can tell from the haze of these pictures how the quality of air is a major factor.

Up by Loushanguan Road were zillions of shops, restaurants and all sorts of diversions. I wish I'd had time to explore, but I had a plane to catch.

Happy Travels!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bund Reborn: Shanghai

Folks who were in Shanghai just a few months ago said the Bund wasn't even passable - roads were closed, sidewalks dug up - it was a mess. This video was shot two weeks before the opening of the World Expo and the whole area has been transformed. If you have photos of it before the re-make, please share!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Driving Rules 101: Shanghai (Observed)

Here are my observed rules of driving in Shanghai:

  1. Lines on the pavement are suggestions only. 
  2. Sidewalks are really speedbumps - they will get you were you are going but slow you down, so do avoid them. However, if your vehicle has two wheels, you may use the sidewalk without a performance decrease. 
  3. Drive directly at pedestrians at top speed. This gives them a jolt and the chance to appreciate life on this planet. 
  4. Use your horn - often. It clearly communicates exactly what you are thinking. 
Oddly enough, this seems to also map to the rules of driving in San Francisco....

United Airlines Online Chat Session (FAIL)

The name of the traveler has been changed to protect the innocence, but this is an actual chat session from a friend of mine:

A United representative will be with you in a moment.
You have been connected to Amira H.
Amira H: Welcome to Chat.
Amira H: How may I help you with your travel from Denver?
Customer: hi. i got this error when trying to change my seat
Customer: There was an error in processing your request. Please see the message below for instructions.
We are not able to reserve your seats at this time. Please try again later or reserve your seats at check-in.
Amira H: I am sorry for the trouble.
Amira H: May I have your confirmation number?
Customer: one sec - I have to see if I can find it
Customer: xxxxxx
Amira H: Sure.
Amira H: Could you verify the name of the passenger on the reservation?
Customer: Joe H. Smith
Amira H: Thank you.
Amira H: You will not be able change your seat, because it shows that you have already checked-in.
Customer: I am trying to change the seat for the return trip tomorrow morning. I've already taken today's flight
Customer: I have not checked in for tomorrow's flight
Amira H: Let me check.
Amira H: You will be assigned the seats at the airport.
Customer: that's not what I wanted to happen
Customer: and that's not what the error message said
Amira H: I am sorry for the trouble.
Customer: why is the system not letting me change tonight?
Amira H: You have already checked-in for that reason.
Customer: I did not check in yet. I have no boarding pass.
Amira H: It shows that on your reservation.
Customer: I can't control what your reservation shows. I can just tell you that I DID NOT check in for the SJC-DEN leg of my flight. I did check in for the DEN-SJC leg and printed out a boarding pass. If someone has checked in for the return flight, then your system has been compromised.
Amira H: I am sorry.
Amira H: The seats are under the airport control.
Customer: That is a different answer than you gave previously? Or is it somehow related? The flight isn't for another 20 hours? Is that typically how things work now?
Amira H: You will be assigned the seats at the airport, because the seats are under the airport control.
Customer: So, I am not currently checked in?
Amira H: You are currently checked-in for the flight UA 245.
Customer: That flight ended 4 hours ago.
Customer: as I mentioned
Customer: I am specifically enquiring about the SJC-DEN return trip. Tomorrow.
Amira H: I know but still it shows on your reservation.
Customer: You are driving me crazy. Can I have another agent?
Amira H: I am not driving you crazy.
Customer: How do you know?
Amira H: For your return flight seats will assigned to you at the airport.
Customer: You have said that 3 times. I understand. I'm asking why it is that I can't change seats now. You first told me that it was because I had already checked in for the flight. Then you said that it was because the flight was under airport control 20 hours before the flight.
Amira H: The seats are not available.
Customer: so, that's the 3rd answer you've given to this question.
Amira H: I gave you the information, you are not ready to listen.
Customer: You have not been helpful. Goodnight.

My favorite part?
Customer: You are driving me crazy. Can I have another agent?
Amira H: I am not driving you crazy.

You go get 'em United Customer Service - "Come fly the friendly skies" and all that.