Shanghai Week 3 & Beijing Week 1

After closing out the week of “home observation” in Shanghai I was finally able to make the trip up to Beijing this past Monday. The week in Shanghai was pretty nice. Moving from the quarantine hotel to the JW Marriott was a major upgrade. I had a nice size room that I was not stuck in, I could get my own food, and I was not alone. As my colleague, Mr. Owens was also spending the week there.

We did a little bit of exploring within walking distance of the hotel. Mr. Owens introduced me to his go-to Chinese meal: La Mien (spicy noodles, served in broth with meat). We also made a trip to China Unicom to pick up local SIM cards for our cell phones. That was quite the adventure, but it is incredibly important to have a local number for many things.

I got familiar with “Sherpa’s,” which is the Chinese equivalent of GrubHub, and with LaundryTown, which is a wash-and-fold laundry service that is convenient and much more affordable than the hotel laundry.

After another COVID test I was clear to travel up to Beijing. Travel by train is the thing to do here, especially since they have some of the fastest trains in the world. Business Class at 350km/h gets you from Shanghai to Beijing in 4.5 hours. It also gets you a lay-flat seat, lunch, snacks, and drink service. So much nicer and easier than flying. Plus, you get to see some of the countryside.

Upon arrival in Beijing I was greeted by our wonderful hotel staff person, Pan Pan (I still don’t know her official title). She takes amazing care of all of us, from getting all the necessary paperwork in order, to having a wine and cheese spread waiting in the room, to lounge access for the duration of the stay. She made check in quick and easy and I was able to get into my room, freshen up and meet up the rest of the TAIT team.

The rest of the week was mostly full of odds and ends to keep working towards getting site access and finally be fully clear of all the quarantine and monitoring procedures. That included another COVID test, of course. Here in Beijing for the first week we also have to have twice-daily temperature checks. Easy enough to just stop by the front desk twice a day.

Mr. Owens and I were able to visit one of the local banks and open Chinese bank accounts. This makes paying for things in China much easier. It is rather interesting actually, since most payments are made via WeChat or Alipay, however, in order to use WeChatPay, you need a local bank account, and Alipay is limited to 10,000RMB for foreigners in a 90-day period. It sounds like a lot, but in 3 months, it can go fast. Why not cash? Well, some paces don’t take cash at all anymore, and often the ones that do won’t have enough cash on hand to make change. US plastic is generally non-functional except in the hotels and major chain businesses.

Opening the bank account was generally pretty straight forward, right up to the point where the girl who was helping us discovered that her bill counting machine was not counting correctly. They error was in our favor, but it seemed that she must have realized that her till was off from even before us, so I am guessing the rest of her afternoon was not going to be fun. We got squared away and now have a good story.

We also made a trip to the Honqiao Pearl Market. The main goal being to get Mr. Owens a cheap cell phone. That mission was successful. We also got to explore the market a little. It was pretty clear that the vendors were hurting for tourism these days.

Last real adventure so far was walking around the Temple of Heaven. It is so cool to walk through these ancient historic sites. So much fun to be in places with thousands of years of history. In a way, it is somewhat lucky to tour sites like this now as they are far less crowded than normal. The craftsmanship and artistry is amazing. Plus the engineering of the whispering walls and one of the altars that focused your voice back at you is pretty incredible.

Other than all that, the name of the game is just wait for the client to finish processing our site access credentials, Hopefully they will come through soon as I would love to start doing what I came here to do. On the other hand, it is hard to complain about having the time to relax in a big bath tub with a book. Really though, I am itching to feel useful.

Now, enjoy some photos from the Temple of Heaven!