All entries for Tuesday 13 March 2007

March 13, 2007

2 weeks in China – Frustration, Friendship and Flying

Home at last, my flight arrived on time at Heathrow this morning and by 6:45 am I was at my parents having a cup of coffee. I got back to Birmingham around 9:30 and have been doing my washing and relaxing since then – what a contrast to the last 2 weeks.

My last post was rather brief as, if you recall, I left my power adaptor in Chongqing and my batteries were flagging. So, let me fill in some of the details.

Thursday (8th March), Shanghai: Since my last visit over 7 years ago like all cities in China (especially the first tier ones) it has grown, upwards. Before, there was just the Pearl Tower – a futuristic looking TV tower with a large sphere like structure half way up – think Flash Gordon and you’ve got it. Anyway, when I last saw it, it was sitting on its own on the East bank of the Huangpo river. Now it is just one of many in the Pudong district, a huge area that strectches to the sea around 30km to the East of downtown.
Pudong (East Bank of the Huangpo river)

As I mentioned previously I was given a tour in the morning, and lunch in the YuYuan old town area which, rather disappointingly in some ways, is actually a facade: behind the carved wooden exteriors lie buildings of steel reinforced concrete – you could blame the Japanese but it didn’t have to be reconstructed in this manner. In the afternoon we visited some agents, the best of which was a guy called Colin who actually has offices in the UK. Nice bloke but we turned down his offer of a meal and ate instead in the trendy Xintiandi district. Now, normally I hate the fat on meat and like a pansy have always cut it off, much to my mothers dismay. I hope she is not reading this because Grandma’s Braised Pork Stew was fantastic and the fat, of which there was a lot, was firm, almost rubbery but absolutely delicious. We grabbed a cab back to the hotel afterwards, the female driver was listening to rock music, was small and dressed in a way that made me think of Blade Runner. In fact, Shanghai conjours up many images of Blade Runner in my mind; at night the roof details of the many skyscrapers are really futuristic.

Wuhan, Friday/Saturday: Arriving in Wuhan wasn’t quite a shock but the contrast between this second tier city and Beijing, Shanghai or even Chongqing was quite obvious… things are generally shabbier, businesses spilling onto the street, more bicycles. Nevertheless Wuhan is still a big city, you could easily fit Birmingham inside it. The exhibition was very well attended and for once Warwick had a good position and the stand had busy trade all day. As has been the case however, so many of the prospective want Business and Finance and the engineers we saw were few and far between. For some reason there were quite a few materials science peeps.
Central Wuhan is off to the right on the far bank of the Yangtze

We were late getting to the restaurant on Friday evening and so had to queue – we’d been warned but couldn’t avoid the traffic jams. After waiting for around 40 minutes we decided to leave… we were a few paces down the road when one of the floor managers (in a long black skirt and elegant hat) caught up with us and showed us to a side entrance where we were told we could have the next table. There are some advantages to being a ‘Ghost’ even though it did mean that I am still feeling a little guilty about being a queue jumper (well, not that much). Amongst the various dishes were and amazing sweet and sour fish and a surprise vegetable dish: crispy shredded potato, or…...french fries.
Crispy Shredded Potato

The restaurant….
The restaurant in Wuhan

Back in Hong Kong on Sunday evening Wing and Euphemia took me out for a hot pot. I must remember the place and go there with a colleague next time I’m in HK.

On Monday evening I presented a seminar at the British Council on Hong Kong, by now I was prepared for the relatively low turnout.
The prospective students that turned up all seemed nice and had engineering backgrounds. I hope we get to see a few of them in October. I caught a train out to the airport around 10pm, had enough time to down a pint in the Sports Bar before getting on the ‘Lump’ and flying home. Oh Yes - my power adaptor/charger did make it to HK! – 2 weeks in China – Frustration, Friendship and Flying


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