Autumn Orient Trip

October 1999

After Hong Kong

Saturday, October 16, 1999

NEWNES reminds Gillian:

And, for Americans:

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1924: The Tong Wars

NEW YORK - The number of victims now claimed by the Tong War was increased to eleven last night [Oct. 15], when police found a Chinaman with a bullet through his head in the alleyway of an isolated section of Chinatown. Conciliatory efforts on the part of Americanized Chinese have failed to effect peace.

Dan Shen met us just outside of the arrivals bin at Shanghai's old airport. It has been five years (though Dan claims that it has been six years) since I last saw him in Shanghai. Dan Shen and LindaWhatever, he has aged a year or two while I have put on six.

Just a few hours before this, Linda and I were drinking coffee in the Dragonaire departure lounge at the new Hong Kong airport on Lantau Island. I told her then that Dan, whom I first met 16 or 17 years ago at the Shanghai International Seaman's Club, would probably look like he did when we last said goodbye.

But, back to the Shanghai airport. After assuring the Shanghai Quarantine and Immigration Office (not the real name of this outfit) that we were not infected with leprosy or lunacy we were allowed to leave. The ride from the airport to Grand Hyatt Shanghai was over roads that did not exist a few years ago. And these new roads led to a hotel that did not exist six months ago.

The Grand Hyatt Shanghai is incredible by any world standard. It occupies the top 30 something floors of the third tallest building in the world. Don't Look Down!Our suite is on the 83rd floor. We have a 270-degree view of Shanghai. I have never in my life been so awed by a hotel view. Parenthetically, 83 floors below my room, moored on the Huangpu River is the former P&O liner, the Oriana. This is the ship that carried my family from England back to Florida in the early '70s. How weird!

When Jean Marks and I first came to Shanghai in 1982 we stayed in a guesthouse that was operated by a youth organization. There were no real hotels that were open to foreigners back then. Oh sure, there was the Peace Hotel (a favorite of Mao's) and the Park Hotel ... both on the Nanjing RoadNanjing Road, but neither one was a real option for us.

Yes, the Nanjing Road was a might fine road. And, it still is. Tonight we walked the Nanjing Road the whole way from the Bund to the Park Hotel. We were on a quest for Peking duck. No, we didn't find it there. But, the new Shanghai subway (underground) took us to Quan Ju De. This restaurant is an import from Beijing. Founded in 1864, it now has branches elsewhere in China.

After dinner we walked to the Jin Jiang Hotel. It was it the courtyard of this 1929 hotel that Nixon signed the Shanghai Accords.

A taxi took us back to our tower.

Sunday, October 17, 1999

A NEWNES nod toward Cold War buffs:

Even of less interest to the rest of us:

Last night, when I was writing the journal for yesterday, there was something that I forgot to tell you. Before we started to walk up the Nanjing Road I stopped at an ATM machine to get some cash. Well, let me tell you something ... not only did this Shanghai machine give me the 2000 RMB that I asked for, but it peeked at my Florida bank balance and told me how much I had in my checking account ... in RMB at that very moment's exchange rate. I was impressed. Hey, it did all this in just a fraction of a second.

Today's saint is an odd one:

DIED 1243

The fiercely virtuous daughter of the Duke of Dalmatia, married at the age of twelve to Henry, Duke of Silesia. She would have preferred, one is told, to keep her virginity; but she must have regarded the wishes of her husband with some sympathy, for she bore him six children. At last, before their bishop, they vowed to engage in no more physical intimacy. Only once in forty years, at a time when she was suffering from undernourishment, did Hedwig eat either meat or fish, and then the papal legate had to ask her to follow her doctor's instructions. Every day she invited thirteen poor men to a meal - one for each of the disciples and one for Christ - and waited on them herself; she often washed, indeed kissed, the sores of lepers; and she slept only a few hours a night, on the ground. Thanks to her severe influence Duke Henry became a very good ruler. She survived him for fifteen years, doing penance, in a nunnery kept by one of her daughters.

This morning CNN showed videos of what windy-wet Irene did to South Florida a few hours before I awoke. Twelve thousand miles away from the Shanghai Hyatt there was this scene of the Elbo Room ... a drinking bar less than a mile from my home ... a drinking bar that was bent out of shape by a waterspout spawned by hurricane Irene. And, Jean Marks, my old Shanghai mate, who lives just minutes away from the Elbo Room had no electricity at all ... so she didn't even know what happened. Odd, isn't it?

The balance of today was rather full.

Dim Sum LunchDan Shen met Linda and me for lunch in the hotel; after a brief pause in the lobby for a view of the world below us we dined Dim Sum style at the Canton restaurant that is located on the 56th floor of the building.

Dan suggested that after lunch we should drive out to the new Shanghai International Airport. Though it is now open only for domestic service it will soon be one of the main gateways to China. Linda's eyes started to glass over at the prospect of this exciting visit. But the promise of an afternoon of shopping in the Yu Garden area of old Shanghai brightened her. First the airport, next the shops. Sounds fair!

Both visits turned out to be super choices.

The airport is located in the Pudong area of Shanghai; a vast space that was once marsh. It was really weird to see a gigantic world-class airport operating at less than 1% capacity. But, soon it may handle more traffic than either Hong Kong or Beijing.

Linda's treat wasn't in the least bit modern. Shopping in old Shanghai brought her into the studio of
Jane Li Qian, an art student from Xian. She found three pieces for her apartment. After a wander through the old streets we went over to the Nanjing Road to The Peace Hotel. On the sixth floor restaurant we ate Hairy Shanghai Crabs. After lots of courses we walked down to the colorful Bund for a look at the freshly illuminated buildings.

And that's it.

Monday, October 18, 1999

NEWNES reminds Andrew Page:

And, as a fillip:

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1924: Plot Thwarted

SHANGHAI - The action of foreign officials in seizing the Che-Kiang plotters has definitely finished the war menace to Shanghai. The responsibility was taken by international authorities on account of the danger to foreigners and now the situation is completely eased. The Chinese business men have agreed to pay the Che-Kiang soldiers and furnish them with transportation northward.

There were only four outside activities on our menu for today.

First, we had lunch at the Shang Palace restaurant in the nearby Pudong Shangri-La Hotel. I think that without this meal in our stomachs we surely would have had to rape the hotel mini-bar before going to bed (see below). Linda at the WindowAnyway, Linda was particularly pleased with the Cuttle Fish until I reminded her that, when dried, this dish serviced the needs of birdcage occupants. I liked the bean curd Shanghai style. After lunch I found three copies of James Hilton's LOST HORIZON in the hotel gift shop. One was to replace a copy that I gave to someone in Pakistan.

Second, we paid a visit to the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple. It was awash with Buddhas of various sizes and shapes. Sitting, teaching and reclining, of course, were the favorite activities. Linda wanted to buy a shopping one. It was not available.

Third, we had drinks at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Finally, we toured innards of the very retired S.S. Oriana. This is the colorfully lit hulk that we can see from our 83rd floor hotel window. The OrianaParenthetically, the same ship that I sailed from South Hampton to Port Everglades in the early 70's. At that distance it looks like a classic ocean liner. Up close it looks tacky but tacky with class. Inside it looks like chilled death. Unfortunately, the tour of its organs included a dinner in its European style restaurant. As we were the only customers in the restaurant the staff seemed caught off guard when we actually ordered something; apparently the menu is a period piece that just reflects what once was. Even spookier than the restaurant was what was left of the ship. It was as if the Bangladesh breakers had just finished work on the interior; then someone had bad second thoughts about it and called on Bangladesh interior decorators to put it back together again.

Oh, I forgot! Before we did any of the above things, Dan took Linda and me for a visit to an old Shanghai house where we saw displays and photographs of what this Pudong area of Shanghai looked like long before the wreckers and the builders were awarded their contracts.

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1899: Judicial Myth
NEW YORK - The "Philadelphia Ledger" observes that "judges are ostensibly elected in New York," and continues: "In effect, we gather from the Mazet investigation, too many of them are appointees of the Tammany boss. The elective judicial establishment is a myth, though it is still necessary to go through the form of a costly election. This, too, in the foremost State of the Union."

NEWNES informs Annie Erickson:

And it goes on to remind Alf and Paul that this was a proposed cut-off date:

I talk about food a lot on this part of the trip, don't I? No doubt this is because, since Linda and I have left Florida, we have spent at least five hours a day in restaurants. Today was no exception to this pleasant habit. And, thanks to Dan, we stayed close to mainland Chinese cuisine. After last night's flirtation with offshore dining, iceberg lettuce and fries are out forever.

Lunch this afternoon was taken at The Sichuan Court in The Hilton Shanghai. We were joined by Dan's good friend Frank Weng; Frank ordered all the courses for us: shredded beef, bamboo shoots, stir fried chicken, bamboo mushrooms, spicy beef and Mandarin fish. It was spicy enough to qualify for a two Heineken rating from Linda.

Linda and YuAfter lunch we spent a couple of hours strolling around the Yu gardens. Then Linda shifted into her shopping mode and we spent some time in the Old Street antique markets. Unfortunately, most of the antiques in the stalls were quite new, despite being instant-aged in a bath of sawdust and cat urine.

What about dinner? The Regal International East Asia Hotel has a very long name. It specializes in Shanghaiese dishes. What is that? Grand Hyatt Shanghai at NightHow about baby eels that have been gently squeezed from the mother's uterus, stir fried in a hot wok, seasoned with semi-sweet soy sauce and served with black mushrooms.

Later we walked to the Shanghai Hengshan Hotel ... which used to be called the Hengshan Guest House. That was way back in 1982 when Jean Marks and I first stayed there. Does anyone here remember Suzy the Runner? How about Fred Lebow? We all slept in that place in that year. This should not ring a bell with anyone. I hope that it doesn't.

Matsu and Linda had a bubble bath together. Linda had a Gin. Matsu did not.

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

DIED 417

A Florentine, Bishop of Florence, who traced his descent from Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra. He brought a number of people to life: a muleteer who was bringing him a gift of relics from his friend, St. Ambrose, who fell off a cliff; a French boy traveling in Italy with his mother; a little child trampled by oxen.

NEWNES, to empire buffs:

And, to other empire buffs on a wrong-way road:

[from The International Herald Tribune]
1949: A Boy's Dream

NEW YORK - A thirteen-year-old boy who lives in a Brooklyn tenement had a fine time exploring a deserted department store. Angelo Cruz stayed inside Namm's when the doors closed. He went to the toy counter, which was decorated like a Santa workshop. For hours he played with the toys. He went to the boy's clothing department and took off his suit and soiled shirt. He tried on clothes and watched himself in mirrors. Toward dawn he was found. He had taken nothing. Mrs. Cruz said her son often runs away. "He's a bit of a dreamer," she said.

Guess whom we bumped into this morning? Well, Linda and I were in the lounge on our floor having an early breakfast ... I had my back to the door ... Linda looked over my shoulder and said "Oh, look!" I turned around and there was Hugh. He was one of our guides when Linda and I did the Stockholm - Helsinki - St. Petersburg walking trip earlier this year. Remember, that was the Butterfield and Robinson trip on which we had so much fun with the architects. Well, what are the odds of saying goodbye to someone in the Grand Hotel in St. Petersburg and a few months later saying hello to the same person in the Hyatt in Shanghai ... without any intervening plans? I guess that a partial answer to that question is just another question: how many people who we know did we just fail to spot where we didn't expect to see them?


While still in the hotel Linda and I had an oriental oil massage in the Fitness Center. That and the morning treadmill workout made us very peckish. As if just breathing wouldn't!

But, before heading off-property for lunch we walked smartly next door and looked at the exhibit that the owners of this building thoughtfully created only for guys. It shows the various architectural submissions that passed through their hands before they settled on the one in which we are currently staying. As well, stuff out of which the building was constructed was artfully lying around. The lobby was nicely festooned with fabric hangings dedicated to the world's ten tallest buildings. Linda pretended interest ... though I believe she was thinking about her nails.

We chose yet another new Shanghai hotel for lunch this afternoon: today we ate at The New Asia Tomson Hotel. It offered Cantonese cuisine. Expectedly, the specialty was fish. The place deserved this sentence.

After lunch we spent a few hours in the Shanghai Museum looking at Chinese sculptures, bronzes, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, seals, jade, coins, furniture and clothing. Sadly, the museum shop closed before we reached it.

For our final dinner in Shanghai we returned to the Nanjing Road and the Park Hotel. This time we went to the Peking Restaurant on the 2nd floor. Yes, we had Peking duck. It deserves many sentences.

After saying goodbye to Dan we took a taxi "home."

Tomorrow we shall fly with Thai Airways to Bangkok. From Shanghai it is about a five-hour flight.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

After our cushy journey from Shanghai to Bangkok a read of Ursula's travels put ours in the proper perspective…especially the end game. Of course, if the copyist did get it all wrong then the numbers are not so bad, after all.

Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins

At an early age this Christian princess of Brittany took a vow of chastity. Then the pagan King of England, on behalf of Ethereus, his brave and good-looking son, asked for her hand in marriage. Her father did not dare refuse, though he knew what Ursula had promised herself or her God. Ursula accepted, on three presumably impossible conditions; that she should be provided with a thousand servant-girls and ten noble ladies in waiting, each of whom should also have a thousand servant-girls, all virgins; that she should be allowed to travel with them for three years before her wedding; and that her future husband and his court should join her religion.

To her astonishment, the English consented, and were baptized, and immediately sent the multitude of young women across the Channel. A throne was erected in a flowery meadow; the princess made a speech so eloquent that all were in a fit state of mind to be baptized at once, in a stream; then they all set out across France, over the Alps, to Rome on foot. Impatient Prince Ethereus had also come to Rome, by another route; but having knelt with her at the pope's feet, he had no further interest in merely becoming her husband.

Now the host of young ladies crossed the Alps again and sailed down the Rhine. In Cologne, unfortunately, they met an army of the Huns. Though the business of this army was the killing of Christians, when the soldiers saw all the boats full of attractive girls, they very nearly disobeyed orders. Ethereus was killed first, naturally. The Hun king then declared his willingness to marry and spare Ursula, but she preferred to follow her pure servants into a purer world, toward which the painful first step did not seem to her to count at all.

Perhaps the number "eleven thousand" is incorrect; it has been suggested that XIMV meant XI Martyred Virgins, and was misinterpreted by some copyist.

Ursula is the patroness of school-girls and school-teachers.

As our flight to Bangkok was not going to leave Shanghai until 17:30, Linda and I had our last Chinese meal in the Canton Restaurant: the 57th floor place where we had dinner upon first arriving in Shanghai.

An uneventful car ride to the airport followed.

The check-in at the airport for the Thai flight to Bangkok was speedy enough. It was the long lines through the exit holes that ate up the time. The minions who today worked behind the "immigration" booths seemed reluctant to allow anyone to leave China unless they had a damn good reason to go abroad.

But, past the stamp pads and the Fison machines lay an astonishing visual treat for both of us. Just before our flight Linda and I walked into an anachronistic airport relic. Linda with WickerCuriously, China Eastern Airlines (one successor to CAAC) still staffs waiting lounges that must date back to the days of the old Jimmy Doolittle (did I spell that guy right?) hand-me-downs. Wicker benches ... tea pots ... ceiling fans ... and chalk-board departure notices. And hundreds of giant vases all over the place. The vases have no decorative pretenses. Foreigners left them there. You see, when saying goodbye to guests it used to be the quaint habit of their Chinese hosts to press something of value into their hands. As Chinese porcelain factories, under weird production plans, were spinning out pots, vases and pans that could find no domestic home it was only natural that they be adopted-out and sent on their way via departing foreigners. In-flight MapWell, the departing foreigners, once free from the gaze of their hosts easily abandoned the clay orphans on their way to the boarding gates.

On the flight to Bangkok I started to watch "The Rocky Marciano Story." I probably have the name wrong. Anyway, it was a movie about the Italian boxer who had a fixation with cash. Soon into it I switched my attention to the in-flight moving map.

We arrived at The Oriental in time to go to bed.

Next: Bangkok

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