Sunday, 5 June 2011

Shanghai Sunday, 19th September

Our hilariously funny Shanghai miniguide, which Jenny picked up in a Bristol charity shop for 50p, written by the Shanghai tourist board in some previously unknown form of English, was full of hype for the Shanghai osmanthus festival. Osmanthus belong to the oleaceae family and the flowers are used in tea and perfume During September until mid October the osmanthus are in bloom and give off a delightful aroma. In Guilin Park there are over 1000 of these trees and the locals take pleasure in their flowering and celebrate in the park. Not able to resist this spectacle we headed over, finding some butter croissants on the way. Having paid our 20p admission we discovered sweet wafts of foul smelling toilets and saw many osmanthus leaves and trunks, but absolutely no flowers. We did however find the Chinese version of a very exclusive horticultural show. Throughout the park Bonsai trees in many shapes and forms with numbers on them were displayed on white shelving or pedestals draped in red fabric. The police presence, with each set of Bonsai trees being guarded, seemed a bit superfluous. Only in China... One of them seemed to find us far more intriguing than his Bonsai charges and observed us closely as we ate our dried soybeans and hawthorn sticks. As we were leaving we came across a small mob of judges who were examining each tree closely, presumably discussing the merits and making notes on their clipboard. Whether you get a prize or not for your Bonsai tree is probably very much hit or miss, much like the judging procedure at our village show.

Our leisurely stroll back to the Metro took us into a Chinese electronics store, where all flatscreen dreams can be fulfilled, and then on to the ‘TrustMart’ superstore. Here you could choose from a plethora of badly produced dirt-cheap items. Our newly purchased alarm clock had already given up the ghost before we attempted to switch it on. Fortunately there was food available upstairs and in our usual fashion we searched every packet for English ingredients. And just to rub in our plight, there were boxes and boxes of mooncakes.

Walking besides us as we crossed the street was a lady carrying a plastic tub of terrapins and a cage with ducklings and hamsters in it. We then took the Metro to a street full of expensive shops and lots of Europeans with too much money. In the overpriced ‘City shop’ we purchased some more Laugenbrot, because it’s not everyday that you find Swiss bread in China, or good bread for that matter. Unfortunately the acrobatics performance we’d been hoping to go and see doesn’t take place on Sundays, so we had to content ourselves with another visit to the vegetarian restaurant for some more sweet and sour ‘pork’. There were rice noodles too and what we thought would be a promising dish of tofu, but eating the soupy gloop turned into a bit of an arduous task. Back at the hostel we sat outside and couldn’t help but curse the moon.

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