Ah , a nice refreshing 3 day break from work (Jan. 1st-3rd), now it’s Saturday morning and I’m on my lunch break. What? This must be a typo! Lunch breaks are not needed on the weekends. Surely in China one must be able to choose a time and place to eat on the weekends? This break must refer to the amount of effort it takes to get up from the couch in between pirate DVD episodes of “Game of Thrones”! No , no , no you must pay for that three-day holiday by working two days on the weekend in addition to the next week. Tuesday , Wednesday , Thursday off , and Friday to Friday on. The Chinese holiday schedule is not content with , you know, actually cutting people some slack. Great. As much as I loved those days off , it just doesn’t seem worth it with 6.5 more days looming ahead on the horizon. ( rainy, snowy, cold next 6.5 days) Happy New Year! WORK MORE.
On a happier note , the days off were really great! The first day of the new was the warmest it’s been in weeks, and the sun was shining! I took this opportunity to get out of my smelly little box that serves as an abode and ventured far off into the never never lands of Songjiang District.The end of metro line 9 is a long, long way from downtown. I rode all the way to the new terminal station (opened Dec. 29th), Songjiang South, looked around , and then hopped back on the subway one station north to the also newly opened Zuibai Pond station , home of Shanghai’s oldest classic park Zuibai Chi （醉白池）. The 醉 means drunk. This garden was the retreat of a famous poet who liked to come , drink, and write poetry. Awesome.
From there I walked to the other touristy places in the area, Xilin Pagoda , Songjiang Mosque , and Square Pagoda (fangta) park . I was the only non-Asian I saw all day which incidentally made me a tourist attraction as well. After all was said and done it was getting dark and cold , time to take the nearly one hour subway ride back home. Let on the “Game of Thrones” marathon begin! I’m late jumping on the bandwagon but am glad I did. I would love to read the books but sadly Season 1 and 2 on pirate DVD come up to a whopping 72 rmb ($11.42 USD) while the real editions of the books (only ones I’ve seen at the Fuzhou Lu foreign language book center) hits the wallet for more than 100 rmb a piece ($15.80+).
When dawn broke it was time to venture out again. This time I went to one of those place you hear about and always mean to visit , to be a tourist in your city again, Longhua Temple. This complex is located close to the city center and is totally worth the visit. It’s a peaceful oasis from the outside gray area where intense construction of the middle portion of the metro line 11 has the ground all ripped up, and safety walls erected everywhere.
Admission is 12 rmb and you get a free pack of incense! Everyone is just strolling around and bowing before the various deities and shrines. The temple interiors are quite impressive. I like Gods with hundreds of arms and swords. I would like to think the Gods were pleased by the pomelo and apple sacrifices. (I certainly would be). Comparing these shrines to their Vietnamese counterparts ,however, makes me wonder why the Vietnamese offer fruits , beer, and liquor to the heavens while the Chinese don’t give booze to the mighty ones above. Maybe drunken Gods have a mean streak in China?
After blissing out in the temples , and petting the fat temple cat , it was time to a nerd and ride the brand spankin’ new metro line 13 just for the sake of riding it. The terminal station’s , Jinyun lu, surroundings are a barren wasteland. A giant shopping mall looms above the surrounding low rises , a center of sterile fun in a bleak gray world. Billboards abound with messages about the great new west city business district that will have sprung up like a weed and pictures of vast green lawns are interspersed with shiny glass towers, the skies are photoshopped blue, and the people are way to happy to be in a business district. I certainly do not smile like that on my approach to the office. More the like inverse of that. My smile proportionally decreases with the proximity to work.
One cool thing in the area (maybe the only) was that you could see the Bottle Opener (Shanghai World Financial Center) Shanghai’s tallest building looming from the misty (smoggy) distances like the eye of Mordor. That was intense. OMG! Reference to an intense medieval fantasy epic , must return home for more “Game of Thrones”….
Day three was cold and little flakes of snow floated from the skies. Curses from the Gods for not receiving their alcohol rations (doesn’t snow in Ho Chi Minh does it?!?). Twas a day for cleaning, preferably in the 1 foot radius around my radiator. Sigh , now back to the work marathon.