It's been my last day of training!
Finally I can go home (tomorrow). Up to yesterday, the only places in Shanghai where I have able to set foot are the airport; my hotel; Oracle University office in Harbour Ring Plaza; KFC near the office with spicy (but scrawny) chicken pieces; Bank of China near the office; and the Starbucks next to the Bank of China branch.
Oracle University's office is on the 32nd floor of Harbour Ring Plaza. My instructor seat is right next to a window, where I can see this:
The tall building under construction with cranes on top is the Shanghai World Financial Center, which will be the tallest building in Shanghai when completed at 492m and 101 floors. The somewhat-shorter building beside it is the Jin Mao Tower, which is (currently) Shanghai's tallest building at 420m and 88 floors, currently the fifth-tallest building in the world.
The building with a crown on the left is the Westin Bund Center.
Here's a panoramic view of the skyline outside the office window. I took this photo around lunch. The lunch-time traffic is really horrendous!
Notice the satellite dishes on the building in the above photo. Here's the Google Earth image: it's kind of surreal to also see them on the Google Earth overhead view (on the "Bank of China" labeled building).
I've been commenting about the lack of dumplings for the past couple of days, so my colleague Sean (that's him cut off on the left) accompanied me to a local restaurant near the office. It wouldn't look out of place in Binondo - dimly-lit and with no airconditioning.
Check out those dumplings! I paid for lunch (because I need to liquidate some of the money I advanced on my company card) but the total bill for our lunch came out to only 33 RMB. About 200 pesos. For both of us. And with all those dumplings.
That included the two platters with lots and lots of dumplings (4 RMB or 24 pesos each per platter), the large bowl of noodles (10 RMB or 61 pesos), and two cans of Coke. The Coke was pretty expensive at 7.5 RMB (45 pesos!) for each. Sean is from Chengdu and he mentioned that this particular noodle dish is a Xian specialty and only cost 3 RMB (18 pesos!) back home. It had beef and parsley in it.
I've noticed that "multinational brand" stuff is quite expensive here.
Sean was telling me that food is so cheap here. Then he tells me that in the provinces, farmers only earn 200 to 300 RMB per month (1200 to 1800 pesos). So the cheap food for city-dwellers comes at the cost of extreme poverty for the country people.
After lunch with Sean, I went to Starbucks because I dismissed class at 2:00 p.m. and I had some time to kill.
That's when I realized how insanely expensive Starbucks is here! the large mocha frappe which I bought cost 31 RMB! that's almost 200 pesos or twice the price back in Manila. And comparable in price to our lunch for two. No wonder there was hardly anyone inside Starbucks. I had a mocha frappe the other day, but I'd bought a couple of city mugs (which cost 125 RMB each) so I didn't notice the price of the drink.
Sean also told me that, while the per-capita monthly income in Shanghai is 3000 RMB (18000 pesos), the reality is that workers like his neighbor who works in a steel mill, only get paid 1000 RMB (6000 pesos) a month. That's minimum wage back in Manila. The average income in Shanghai gets pulled up by all the rich capitalist roaders who live here.
He also said that when he started college, he only had to pay 1800 RMB per year for tuition. That's about 11000 pesos. But now, tuition at his university is 5000 RMB a year or 30000 pesos.
By comparison, in 1992 when I entered UP, tuition was 6100 pesos per semester or 12200 pesos per year. At the exchange rate at that time, that would be 3600 RMB per year (and UP is a government university!) Today, UP costs 1000 pesos per unit or 36000 pesos a year, which is 6000 RMB a year. Very roughly comparable to Shanghai tuition.
But let's not forget that UP is government-subsidized. Ateneo and La Salle cost much, much more. Overall the Chinese seem to get a better deal in the education department. There is a prestigious school (Fudan University) not far from my hotel. They also have a high school, and their high school has an observatory dome for a telescope. Pretty good school, and for 5000 RMB a year, education there is a steal.
Several of the taxicabs I've ridden have advertisements inside, like this one:
"English first." They claim to equip your child with "dualBrain" (yes, it's camel case). They even have a URL. Speaking English is becoming a bigger and bigger deal for the upwardly-mobile classes.
After sending my attendees off and after my expensive Starbucks drink, I decided to see if I could walk to The Bund, which is the colonial-era section of Shanghai along the Huangpo River.
I regretted that exercise and almost gave up, because after walking a kilometer I was covered with sweat. But I decided to keep walking (had to; I was already sweating like a pig). I also saw the only Mazda3 I've seen here in Shanghai, parked on one of the side streets. It had an Axela badge and lots of rice stickers. Seemed to be "V" spec since it had fog lights but no sunroof. Turns out, based on Google Earth, I walked about 1.5km to The Bund, then about 0.5km along the river taking photos.
View of the tall buildings across the river from The Bund walkway, which is like Baywalk back in Manila (lots of tourists, with digital cameras and I even saw one guy with a tripod and a large-format camera, complete with bellows):
A closer look, with Oriental Pearl Tower at the left (third-tallest tower in the world, 468m):
Jin Mao Tower and the uncompleted World Financial Center are somewhat visible on the right (covered by the Aurora building).
Another view of Oriental Pearl Tower, with a (patriotic!) PRC flag in the foreground. I failed to take the picture while the flag was waving, because the Canon SD500 is a damn slow camera (didn't bring the bulky digital SLR). The patriotic scene is somewhat diluted by the large "Sprite" logo on the roof.
More photos of the colonial-era buildings of The Bund:
There's a garbage man in the picture below (the guy with two large sacks).
He was bugging the passersby, asking them for their mineral water bottles. Most of the people readily gave him their PET bottles (after hastily gulping down the remaining water) but one girl was not happy and yelled at him. Even though her mineral water bottle was empty.
Because I was tired and hot, I didn't explore The Bund some more. There was a big statue of Chairman Mao not far away that I saw from the taxi. I would've liked to take a photo of the Chairman. Also there might have been some dimsum shops in the area.
Now I'm back at the hotel. I dread another hotel dinner, but have been unable to contact my other colleague so that might be my fate yet again.