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It's great to get together again with Tim and Maite. We met up with them in Shanghai at the top of the Captain Hostel (our hostel) for some refreshments and a view of Pudong. We exchanged experiences, they and their trip to Qingdao/Beijing and we on our trip to Kunming/Lijiang. We laughed a lot.

The next day we went shopping. Tim insisted that I buy some silk pajamas and, you know, they ain't bad. In fact, he convinced me that I ought to move on up to their swank hotel. So we moved into the same hotel too. When I checked in, I asked for non-smoking. No problem. And when I asked for the 20th floor, it was also "no problem." Then I really pushed it; I asked for early check in. No problem. Everything was "no problem." A guy could get used to this kind of treatment, living in the 5-stars, drinking cognac, and lounging about in silk pajamas.

Of course, had I not been staying in the hostel the first few nights in Shanghai, I wouldn't have enough money to buy silk pagamas. I called downstairs (in my silk pajamas) and asked for ice. Within minutes it was at my door. No problem. Hostels don't even have room service. In fact, they don't have any service. You can't ask for stuff 'cause they don't have it. You're supposed to bring your own.

But of the two hostels we did stay in while visiting China, Captain Hostel and The Hump, The Hump was better. At The Hump they were extremely friendly and helpful. They chatted a bit with us and made us feel right at home. But the Captain Hostel did have a great view from the top deck.

There is another thing that the hostel had that was not available at the five starRamada Hotel... a gas mask. I don't know why they had one in the room, but it was kind of cool knowing that I could use it if needed. But when? Am I supposed to wear it when they fumigate the room for bugs or something? Or is pollution so heavy I'm supposed to wear it if I open the windows? And since there was only one mask, what would Ruth use?

When we came back from shopping we saw some workers putting in AC ducts, setting marble stone, and installing wiring in one of the rooms off the hotel lobby. There were wires hanging out of the walls, dust everywhere, and twenty workers in the place. I remember thinking: Can't they just continue work on this tomorrow? It's 10:30 p.m. But in the morning the place was open for business. The marble reception desk was set in place and the walls were lined with refrigerated counters packed with beautiful food. Twenty employees with matching outfits stood behind the counters serving long lines of customers. The place was packed and the lines spilled out into the pedestrian mall outside the hotel. How is this possible? Even though the workers worked all night, how did the people find out about this place? Where did they all come from?

Everywhere we go in the pedestrian mall we are bombarded by people asking if we want to buy a watch. After awhile we started counting how many would approach us between our hotel door and our destination. Soon we were able to identify who they were before they approached. Then we formulated Chinese sentences to combat them like: "Why do you ask if I want to buy a watch. I already have a watch (point to your wrist). " This was great fun.

We did follow a guy to a shop but when I tried to barter with the shop owner for a better price, he wouldn't come down. I wandered into the back of the store while the pestersome street vendor waited in the front. The shop owner followed me. He said in a whisper: "Come back tomorrow and I'll give you a better price." Ah, so the vendors roaming the pedestrian mall get a cut if they bring people to the shops. So now I just ignore them and find the alley stores myself. I need to save money now that I'm in the 5-star and have bought the silk pajamas.

There is a Brewery right off The Bund called, well, The Brewery off The Bund. We shared a large ale and dark lager. We took a quick tour of the tanks. Tim saw some guy trudging about the place in rubber boots and asked if we could take a peek at the brewing ale. They play some great blues in the place. The tables are built for giants, you sit up high and have a view of the passing traffic. We were in China but it felt as though we were sitting in a San Francisco pub, that is, of course, except for the Chinese writing on the cabs passing by. Great place to get an ale. They have steak too, even Japanese Kobe steak, but you'll pay with your firstborn for it.

Well it's pretty late. I have to climb into the silk pajamas and find the cognac.

You know you've been in China too long when . . . you enjoy the taxi as much as an amusement ride. - Tim Duggan

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