China Observations – expensive day

Most of the time when I travel- I do it as cheap as humanly possible. I usually eat street food. Actually, I almost ALWAYS eat street food. Having a ‘fancy meal’ meant that I would add extra bubbles to my bubble tea. (Slight hyperbole).


Anyway- I was always told to “splurge once in a while”…. And I did. On plane tickets to weird places. But there are other ways (better ways, probably) to do it… Like what my Aunt did.


Today four of us did our bit to bolster the Chinese economy. We didn’t set out to spend a lot of money – it just turned out that way. This weekend is part of a three day holiday and we decided to travel downtown to have Sunday brunch and shop.



Will (our Science teacher) and his wife wanted to go to the noon buffet at the Shangri-La Hotel. We thought about taking a cab to the subway, and then the subway to the Pearl Tower station. Traveling this way would have cost us a mere $11 US, but it would have taken 2 ½ hours. We decided that the day was going to be about pampering ourselves and we ordered a taxi to deliver us to the Shangri-La front door. $26 US (well spent) for the 45 minute ride.



Jim and I had never been to the Shangri-La Hotel or the buffet and didn’t know what to expect. An escalator delivered us to the dining hall. The men behind me spoke in French. I wondered who the others in the restaurant would be. Businessmen? Tourists? Locals celebrating the holiday? As we passed through the centralized bar area I noticed a rack of wine bottles and a sign (in Chinese and English) that read “Buy One, Get One Free”. Looking at the price I noticed they were $100 US each. Whoever our fellow diners were, they clearly could afford to be there. I suddenly wondered if WE could?



The buffet was enormous, with a terrific selection of traditional Chinese and international foods. (The desserts were simply amazing!) It was a marvelous way to spend a couple of hours. Finally, we asked for the check. Now, it’s true Will warned that it would be “pricy” but I had no idea how pricy, and truthfully I think the bill actually shocked him, too. $75 US per person. We all looked at each other and just laughed. I rather doubt we ate $75 worth of food between the four of us. It’s a good thing we hadn’t ordered wine! Can you even imagine?



Next stop was the mall across the street. The Chinese malls have grocery stores down in the basement. And the malls in downtown Shanghai stock items that their international clientele need and can’t find elsewhere. We purchased thick beef steaks (from Australia). Steak here (IF you can find it) is regularly ½” thick and tough, so every time we get into downtown we stock up. Our other purchases were also items that can only be found at the international stores: Dijon mustard, maple syrup, imported coffee, bacon. Stocking up is expensive. Very expensive. A little more than two people eating at the Shangri-La buffet!



Next Will’s wife decided she needed some perfume. She really likes Channel, but the store here didn’t have any (purses and jewelry, but no perfume). We went instead to Dolce and Gabbana. (When we first arrived in Shanghai, I had admired a blouse in their store’s window. Until I saw the price.) Today we left the store with $250 US worth of (wonderful) perfume.



Finally we were ready to go back to the apartments. Miraculously we found a cab (it was pouring and cabs are usually as rare as hen’s teeth). Traffic was so congested that the cab crawled along the entire way home. It took over an hour and a half and cost over $50 US.



What made today so unique? When you don’t pay rent and don’t own a car, living here can be quite inexpensive. So it was fun spending some of our hard earned cash. And helping out the Chinese economy at the same time.


Of course, when you think about what we spent (spread out over one billion people) – it wouldn’t get them a glass of water. But it’s the thought that counts …

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