Friday, March 23, 2012

Strange

The Republic of Singapore, aka Singapore, is a city-state. It's so small that there is only one airport and it's international because there's no other place to fly.

The Changi Airport is considered one of the world's best in terms of traveler amenities. This includes Gucci, Shanghai Tang, Hermes and Bulgari shops, a swimming pool, a movie theater, showers, playgrounds, 24-hour napping areas and six open-air gardens. I explored one of those gardens, The Butterfly Garden.

It creeped me out. The butterflies eat pineapple. And I didn't much like them flying around my head. But I checked it off my list.

The weather in Singapore is miserable - hot and humid with frequent rain. People carry umbrellas every where they go. Still, the landscape seemed familiar. After a few days I figured it out: I was in Jurrasic Park. Big plants with big leaves. Mud. Little people.

Now on to some of the interesting things in China.

There are 23 million people in Shanghai. Some of them drive. (Our friends Mark and Rosemary have a driver supplied by her employer.) Many more take the Metro. I made space with my elbows on the Metro, a skill I learned by watching my daughters play soccer. It was very useful when forcing my way out of crowded trains. Force is the right word although push would be accurate, too. We saw many people ride bikes and scooters. Entire families (three people -- this is China, remember) rode on one bike. No helmets. No child restraints. Just three people balancing on two wheels, one of whom is pedaling and steering. I shot this picture on the street. Shanghai is cold in the winter and these people know how to keep their hands warm while en route!

More on the families. We did notice that the families were small and it took some getting used to as most couples we know have two or more children. They were at all the same tourist attractions we were -- just popping pictures of mother and child or father and child. I wonder what kind of coping / negotiating / people skills those only children will have as adults.

In case you are wondering, we came across three kinds of toilets in China. First and found from time to time are Western-style toilets, the same kind you find in your house. Second, and found more of often than not, are squat toilets, sometimes with a ground-level ceramic surround. The third type, which we saw a few of, are Japanese-style washlets or Super Toilets. They are Western-style with additional features such as deodorization, seat washing, bidets and sound controls (to disguise the sounds the user emits). We saw one more feature which is worth a post all of its own.

Also in Shanghai is a tourist attraction that everyone told us to skip. But Dave and I appreciate kitsch so we took The Bund Tourist Tunnel under the Huangpu River. It was supposed to be a Shanghai history lesson. Instead it was five English sentences accompanied by six minutes of flashing lights, much like the walkway between Chicago O'Hare's main concourse and the United Airlines concourse. Dave and I had a car to ourselves. A cable car to be exact.


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