Dinner, Lunch, Old Shanghai, More Lunch, More Dinner

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This post was originally published in 2008
It may contain stale & outdated information. Or it may have grown more awesome with age, like the author.

The time had come for me to meet Yvonne's friends. I had declined an invitation to a karaoke evening last month, citing cultural differences. Actually I just don't like singing unless I'm really drunk, even then, I'd need a good reason. Tonight they were just having dinner, so I went along. We arrived in town early, and spent about an hour searching for DVDs, as the ones we bought with the DVD writer didn't work for what I wanted them for. We couldn't find any though, so we went to Watson's, and Yvonne inspected their merchandise. After approximately one eternity Yvonne announced that it was time to meet one of her friends. He was nice, and tried his best to talk to me. When they had caught up we walked to the restaurant, which was on the twelfth floor of the Samsung Castle. The lift ride to the twelfth floor was awesome. There are a lot of glass elevators in China, same in all but function as the Great Glass Elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The restaurant itself was OK, not the best I've been to, but not the worst either. We sat down, and Yvonne's friends slowly arrived. I was introduced to them all, and remember all of their names perfectly. My favourite was Yvonne's friend's husband. He is a police officer, and made the most effort to talk to me. Half of the restaurant was filled with people obviously taking part in a karaoke competition. Most of the singers were bad, all of them were very loud. The meal was OK though. * * * The next day we had dinner with Paul at the Golden Jaguar. This time I drunk some beer. After dinner, Yvonne and Susan wanted to go to karaoke, so we walked around until we found a suitable venue. The karaoke bars are interesting, consisting of a reception area connected to a long corridor that has numerous small rooms attached. each room has a TV, a table, a karaoke machine, two couches and some speakers. All of them smell strongly of cigarette smoke. When we were finally assigned a room, we were told that the minimum order was 25元 per person. We bought about five premixes. While Yvonne and Susan sung, I looked through the available songs. The machine had a lot of songs, mostly pop. I didn't find anything I'd be wiling to sing sober, so I didn't. On the elevator ride to the bottom floor, Paul beat boxed for about five seconds, which caused the crowd inside the elevator to go silent. While we were waiting for a taxi, I was accosted by a woman selling flowers. * * * The following day we had to get up at about six-thirty, to go look at Old Shanghai. We took a bus, then various subway lines, to the Bund, where we waited for some of Yvonne's relatives to pick us up. While we were waiting we watched a group of middle-aged people dancing, which I thought was weird considering the air temperature - minus two degrees. I bought a coffee as well. We were going to have it in the cafe, but they also have a minimum limit. Instead of buying drinks that the others didn't want, I got the coffee to go. The coffee was OK, it didn't have any sugar though. I couldn't be bothered going back into the store to get some, as I didn't want to waste energy in case the sugar cost 100元… When the family arrived, we piled into the van and drove for about an hour. While driving to the car park, we were continually "approached" by people, who would make "roll the window down" gestures. If the window was rolled down, they would shove a business card in the driver's face and start jabbering about how great their restaurant was. We just laughed at them - a man running alongside a van, yelling about his restaurant is funny. After we had parked, a woman convinced us to check her restaurant out. We accompanied her to a waiting van, and were driven into Old Shanghai. Apparently, the woman said she'd have our admission fee waived, but I don't think that happened. Old Shanghai is quite nice, filled with old buildings. There are various canals running alongside the streets, and one is able to take boat rides along them. We took one such boat ride. We passed a boat filled with musicians, who were being paddled up and down the canals, playing music all the while. It was very cold, I don't think the musicians would have been very comfortable. It seems that all of the houses have been converted into either shops or restaurants. The shops sell a variety of typical Chinese souvineers, none of which we bought. The parents of the cute little boy who was with us bought him a gun-thing that fired a soft missile-shaped projectile, and a Chinese-style hat, which I can be seen wearing in one of the photos. When we were hungry we walked to the restaurant owned by the woman who drove us to Old Shanghai. The food was pretty good. I haven't really had bad food this whole time I've been in China. After lunch we walked around Old Shanghai some more, until whoever was in charge decided it was time to go. From Old Shanghai we drove to a large shopping area filled with outlet stores. There were about 50-60 outlet stores, brands like Armani, Barbary, Gucci and the like. One suit was 10,000元, or enough for a cheap car. We looked in a few stores, until the boss decided it was time to move on again. We ate dinner at a restaurant specializing in Beijing Duck. The food was delicious, and when the duck came, it came with a chef who chopped it up in front of us. The toilets were good too. Among some of the food that isn't available in New Zealand, during that meal I ate: fish stomach and alien prawn (I call it alien prawn, I don't know what it's actually called, it looks like an alien though).
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