The next morning (Sunday) the house resumed the usual frenetic pace so that we could make our 8.30am appointment with the Driver who would be transporting us to, and around, Shanghai for the day until it was time to put me on the plane home that night. A very generous gift from Mary and Russell to ensure that my experience of China was as packed with excitement as possible.
Russ and the boys browsed the market stalls with us for a while then bailed and got the Driver to take them to the ‘Hacker Space’ elsewhere in town where technology abounded and imaginations (and electric lounge chairs) ran wild.
Mary and I continued on and had a ball sampling the street food and dipping in and out of market stalls. Mary talked me into trying the ‘stinky tofu’ but I drew the line at budgies on a stick and fried whole crab.
Of the 101 ways with tofu, my favourite was tofu soaked in a beef broth with chilli sauce. Yum!
Mary took me to a Chinese food hall where we took a tray and scanned all the delicacies on offer.
Much of the food was fried or unrecognisable, but we managed to pull out a reasonable sample. Lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice, steamed broccoli stems with soy sauce and a doughy dumpling filled with soup broth and a pinch of crab meat which required a straw to extract.
The drinks were interesting but my stomach was already doing somersaults so I declined the passing trolley. The thronging crowd was a cosmopolitan melting pot of accents and ethnicity from all over the world.
We took a welcome break from the market chaos by stepping into Tea Scene, a reputable merchant where the atmosphere was serene and professional. We took tea in genuine Chinese style for an extended time and sampled a variety of tasty blends until we were fit to burst. We hurriedly purchased a selection of gifts and merchandise and scrambled off to find a loo!
We connected with the boys and vehicle again and headed to The Bund, a popular waterfront area of Shanghai on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Russ and I had a walk along the promenade with Edward and David while Mary warmed our seats (and rested her foot) at the famous Peace Fairmont Hotel.
Out the front of the hotel I spied some newlyweds in a photo session. What was significant is that the bride was wearing white which is a western affectation. Later we spotted a newlywed couple in traditional wedding dress as a comparison.
As we emerged from the Fairmont Hotel bloated and singing ‘Moon River’ in perfect harmony (thanks Mary!) our Driver pulled up and shuffled us off to the ferry terminal for a quick trip across the river to the Pudong area on the east bank.
The Pudong precinct has been developed much more recently than the west bank and is full of fanciful buildings and thriving retail barns.
Evening was beginning to fall so a quick repack of the suitcase to accommodate new merchandise and we were on our way to the bullet train station to roll me out before the family headed back to Suzhou. It was a sad farewell to Russ, Mary, Edward and David, but something was telling me I would be back.
I bought a ticket for the famous Shanghai Mag Lev Train to the airport that slides along at high speed – levitated above the track by a magnetic field. We took off calmly enough but within seconds the speedo was reading 150km per hour. Within 2 minutes we had reached 300km per hour and the countryside was ripping past while all was calm inside the cabin. Just before we were due to reach the airport, the train took a significant turn to the right, banking like an aircraft, and for the first time I got a hint of the ridiculous speed we were travelling. We travelled 30kms in under 8 minutes.
I was super early for my flight to Kuala Lumpur so I gathered the wagons (suitcases and bags) and had a 40 minute hobo sleep. Lovely. Then I ventured in amongst the 13 banks of (40) check in desks to try and identify where I needed to line up when the time came. Always on a grand scale here in China.
Having bookended my China trip with USA/Canada at one end and Malaysia/Perth at the other, it occurred to me that I had not actually seen any significantly overweight people during my time in China. In fact the general population seemed to be in very good shape indeed which doesn’t seem to bear out the horrific data coming out of China with regards to obesity and lifestyle related disease.
I have since learned that, in China, carrying a little extra weight denotes prosperity, while obesity is seen as ‘being ill’. People who are ill are encouraged to stay at home until they are well. Hmmmmm Obesity is a very public declaration of ill health and a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes will only serve to worsen the isolation for affected individuals.