The first thing I wanted to do after having a bit of a rest was to get a massage. There were ads everywhere for massage, at varying prices. I settled on a spa a block away from the hotel. It was staffed by a multitude of attendants, who brought slippers and menus of services. It cost me about $20 for an hour and a half of massage, during which time I was Shiatsued into submission by a tiny girl in a tight skirt slit up to her hip, and iron hands on the ends of her slender arms. She kneaded my back and legs right down to the bone. I bet she could crush marbles into dust with those fingers. I wondered what the chrome bars mounted on the ceiling were for. Then I discovered they were there so the masseuses could have something to hold onto as they walked on your back. I was layered with hot towels, pressed, rubbed with sandalwood and peppermint oils, and then scrubbed down. I walked out of there feeling like a rubber chicken, but not sure if that was an improvement.

Later on, I went to explore Shanghai at night. It was about a 15 minute walk to the subway through a vast commercial and banking area that seems to stretch out forever. In contrast to the dingy and somewhat grungy terminal near the railway station, this one was bright, clean, airy and again, staffed by beautiful women. My completely unfounded theory is that all of the fashionable and good-looking people move first to Shanghai, where the cream of the crop is skimmed off to work as flight attendants.

This time I found it easy to get on the subway and go. The system is not so hard once you start using the touch-screen terminals located near the entrance, which can be switched to English mode. Then you just find your destination on the map, touch the screen, and you pay the machine for your single-ride card. You swipe the card to get through the gate, and at your destination, you give your card back to the machine to exit.

I went to the Bund area of town, which is on the other side of the river from my hostel. This area is filled with grand bank and business buildings constructed by Europeans during the 19th century when they’d carved up China for their empires. There’s also a great view of my side of the river from there. You can see the enormous and garish TV tower that looks like the CN Tower on LSD. The surrounding buildings strive to keep up with the tackiness. Boats cruise the harbour, adorned with strings of light and neon. There was even a boat with a two-storey high TV blasting advertising out to the thousands of tourists teeming on the bank of the river.


I found this area to be rich with people-shooting opportunities. It was easy to shoot inconspicuously because of the massive crowds. Everyone had a camera too. I took a few photos, including this too-cool-for-school couple, and this guy who shows me what I’ll look like in 50 years, or 25 years if I lived in China.

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There was some kind of deal going down with these ivory carvings. A minute after I took the photo, the guy’s table and setup had vanished. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be there?


On the way back to the hostel, I saw this guy guarding a construction site. His head was down, and he was fast asleep, doing a bang up job of protecting those construction materials!


By this time I was starving, but I’d had it all planned out. I saw a sign earlier that advertised a hot pot and BBQ buffet for 59 yuan between 9:30pm and 2am around the corner from the hostel. It was pretty good! I chose from a variety of meat and vegetables, and different types of soup, just like before. A young guy who worked in the restaurant sat down at my table with me, seeming to want to practice his English, which was horrible. This buffet also came with a gas fired grill built into the table. The guy offered to cook the meat for me, and didn’t seem to understand that I wanted to do it myself. I was annoyed at first, because I just wanted to have a quiet meal by myself. But, after a while, it wasn’t so bad to have this guy cooking for me at my table. He kept asking things like “You… in home… Shanghai?” I said I was on vacation. He puzzled over this for a while. Then “You… in home… China?” I finally figured it out. He seemed fascinated by me, because I looked Chinese but spoke English. I get this reaction a lot in China. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept, as if they expect that having Chinese genetics automatically gives one the ability to speak the language. They also have difficulty believing there are Chinese outside of China. When I told him I was jianadaren, or Canadian, he was amazed, saying I didn’t look Canadian. But eventually he was convinced. He continued to cook for me for the rest of the night, which I was cool with me by this point. I didn’t really like dealing with the flames leaping out of the grill anyway. At the end of the meal, I tipped him 10 yuan. He tried to refuse, but I insisted. I continue to be impressed with how good service is in restaurants even though tipping is a completely foreign idea here.

After dinner, it was close to midnight. I was wiped out from a long day in a new city, and went back to my room to crash.

This morning I woke up early to do my laundry in the machine upstairs. It was annoying to discover that the laundry machine was broken, so I had to spend an hour washing laundry by hand. I’d asked if there was a service that would do my laundry for me, but none was available. The last thing I wanted to be doing on my vacation was to be washing laundry. Anyway, it needed to be done. I got everything washed and hung up to dry. It’ll take forever to dry, and they don’t have a dryer, but I have a couple of days here anyway.

Today I’ll do some more exploring. I think I’ll hit the Museum of Science and Technology, which my German friends in Huang Shan said was full of buttons that you press to make things happen. I’m going to go make things happen.

Later that day…

I just got back to the hostel. I had a pretty full day, examining stuff in the “fake market” where they sell everything fake you can imagine… clothes, iPods, shoes, jewelry, belts, hats, software, movies, you name it. I got involved in an altercation as I tried to take a picture of a cool leather briefcase. The vendor came over and smacked his hand over the lens of the camera and yelled at me. I can understand that in the land of copies, you don’t want someone photographing your stuff, but hey, don’t touch the camera! I told him so, pointing at him furiously. He made a motion like he was smashing the camera on the ground, and yelled some more. I yelled back at him in English, but decided against taking it any further. The last thing I need is a trip to a Siberian work camp for belting a man for verbally assaulting my camera.

I decided to take a lunch break. I discovered a Brazilian barbecue place near the museum. It is owned by an actual Brazilian, so I decided to give it a try. For less than $10, you can’t really go wrong. It was delicious. There was a wide variety of meat, carved off of skewers by wandering waiters. There was a full salad bar too, with many types of fruits and veggies. I had a fresh orange and carrot drink. It was cave heaven.

The Museum of Science and Technology was very cool. I was pressing buttons, mainly on my camera. Like the Louvre, it’s a building I feel I have a special affinity for. I didn’t bring my wide-ass lens with me in the afternoon because I thought I wouldn’t need it. When I got to the museum I wish I’d decided differently. But, I decided to shoot a bunch with the 50mm lens anyway. I liked what I got out of that, being forced to use something that I didn’t think was ideal for the job. It stretched my style a bit, which is a good thing.

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The museum had a number of interesting exhibits, mainly in Chinese but with most of it translated to passable English as well. The newer exhibits had the best English. The coolest exhibit was about robots. There was a lot of hands-on stuff, like an archery contest against a robot (I lost), and a microphone that lets you tell a robot what color purse to pick up off of a conveyor belt. There were also some propaganda-ish things in the display. For instance, the human body exhibit broke down the aspects of health, including physical and mental health. It also added “moral health” which included being polite, studious, law-abiding, and generally being a good citizen. I was pleased to see that there was also a heavy emphasis on the environment. As in other places in China, there were signs reminding people that living in harmony with nature should be our goal. That’s clearly a new government message that they’re peddling heavily. As government messages go, it’s not a bad one. There were displays showing animals that used to live in the Shanghai area, but are now nearly extinct. Probably many of them lost their homes to the construction of the Museum of Science and Technology, but that’s beside the point I guess.


When I got tired of pushing buttons, I went back to the hostel for a brief rest. Then I grabbed the 12-24mm lens and headed back to the museum. It wasn’t quite dark yet, so I took a couple of practice shots, then walked over to a spectacular looking performance hall across the park from the museum. The sky was darkening, so I could start shooting some long exposures. It wasn’t easy finding a good angle to shoot this building, because it was surrounded by trees and other shrubbery that was getting in the way. Finally I found a spot that let me incorporate the trees and shrubbery without them being too disruptive. I was living in harmony with nature! w00t!


It was now dark, so I went back to the museum. I was hoping they’d turn on the lights, because the building had lights mounted all over the place, and it would look spectacular lit up. But, I guess they decided to save energy to set an example for the rest of Shanghai, which is too busy adding more neon tubes to the outside of everything to notice. In the end, I was glad that there were only minimal lights on in the building. It let me play with some different exposures, and really bring out the color of the sky.

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The thing held up by dragons in the foreground of that one shot is an Armillary Sphere. It is an ancient astronomy tool, and makes a nice counterpoint to the sphere in the building, no doubt inspired by the Armillary Sphere itself. The Armillary Sphere was lit quite nicely by the fake market behind it, which was fortunate because it balanced perfectly with the minimal light on the museum building in the background.

I went back into the subway to go back to the hostel, but decided at the last minute to check out People’s Square first. People’s Square is the nexus of the city, and I figured it’d be worth checking out at night. The place was jammed with people, mainly shopping. It is a neon nightmare to rival Times Square in NYC. From street vendors to high-end clothiers, the area around People’s Square is feeding frenzy of consumerism. In Shanghai, the very cradle of Chinese communism, capitalism burns like a brush fire.


I admired the scene for a while, then headed back. I got off the subway a stop early so I could walk down busy Pudong Road. There was a night market in full swing, with street vendors hawking food, clothes, music, and even pets.


Now I’m back at the hostel, ready for bed. My feet are tired, but I’ve got another day of exploring to do tomorrow. See you then!