Monday, May 02, 2005

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Already bored in Shanghai, I decide to grab a fistful of kwai and head for the Tourist Tunnel that runs underneath the Huangpu River from the Bund to Pudong where I could ascend the Pearl TV Tower. The tunnel is more than just that, oh much, much more. I thrown down 65 kwai for the full package ticket, which gives me entry to the aquarium and sex culture exhibits, in addition to the tunnel itself.

Passing through the gate in the depths underneath the river, I climb into a large capsule which will take me through the tunnel -- I feel like I'm in a twisted version of Disney World. As the door closes behind me and the capsule slowly moves forward, a less than dazzling array of colored lights flashes in the dark around me and is less Star Wars and more Marvin the Martian. Random geology words are piped into the capsule: "lava", "light swirl", "blue cobalt" (I see no blue anywhere). Am I supposed to be learning something here besides that I'm wasting money? Halfway through, a balloon-like boy and girl, each about 10 ft. high, dance and sway to the winds that rush through the tunnel, each wearing an unintended evil grin, and any twisted nightmares I had of Raggedy Ann and Andy as a child are instantly brought to the forefront of my mind. Can I get off, please? I don't like this very much, thank you.

The capsule pulls into the station at the opposite end of the tunnel where a young girl patiently stands at the ready, very Chinese in her attention to duty, and lets me out. What she thinks of this mess or of the people that cough up the kwai to see it, I have no idea. As I stand there and try to gather myself together, "We Are the World" emanates from speakers above, followed by "The Way We Were" - instrumental versions, of course. Part of the fun in China is giving up trying to understand everything. Once you see it as hopeless, you can really start enjoying yourself. I shrugged my shoulders, laughed to no one in particular and headed to the exhibits.

The aquarium exhibit is hardly worth mentioning, especially being a diver, except for that it's where I met Yuling, the cute girl visiting Shanghai from Anhui who spoke not a single word of English. Knowing that we wouldn't be able to talk about much, I decided it would be much more interesting to go right ahead to the sex exhibit with my new friend.

Tracing 5,000 years of history of sex in China, it was indeed more interesting than watching a couple angel fish swim around. Artifacts of all "varieties" stood proudly display as if they were ancient pottery or jade necklaces.

Only in Shanghai.

Afterward, I went up the Pearl Tower to look out over the city and saw exactly what I expected -- a wide view of Shanghai. Nothing more, nothing less. I had a plane to catch that evening to Huang Shan, so I left the disappointment of the tower behind and took the same route back to the mainland that I took to get here to Pudong -- the Tourist Tunnel. Once again, I passed through the nonsensical light displays and nightmarish swaying 10 ft. dolls. Emerging thankfully on the other side, some voice that I can only assume to be Celine Dion due to the shivers that ran up and down my back welcomed me back to the Bund.

I would have preferred Kenny G.


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