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17

I woke up early and my computer's battery wasn't charging, and I only had about 15 minutes of power left. I decided that it might be a good idea to buy a cheap laptop to use for our trip. Ideally I would like to have found a Toshiba that used the same battery as mine, but I knew that was very unlikely.

We asked the concierge for suggestions, and he wrote down the name of an electronics market on a taxi card. The taxi dropped us off at a store called BuyNow just a few minutes before they opened, and there was already a crowd waiting at the door. As we walked in, immediately opposite the front door was a Toshiba store. With red chairs and tables, it looked more like a soda fountain than a computer store, but they had a very nice selection of laptops.

I was approached by a salesman who luckily spoke much better English than I speak Chinese. He seemed to understand my problem and called a technician to come look at my computer. About 10 minutes later, a computer repairman showed up and took us to a nearby building where there was an authorized Toshiba repair center. Things were really starting to look up.

The repairman didn't speak any English, and the receptionist spoke very little. However, that combined with my poor Chinese and the use of a translation website were enough for us to understand each other. The connector for my power cord was mounted to my computer's motherboard, and the only way to fix this it to replace the motherboard. Later I read online that this is a fairly common problem with this model of Toshiba. However, this has been corrected on newer models.

In a way, I guess it was lucky that my computer broke while I was in China, because fixing this problem in the US would have cost more than the computer was worth. Still, it cost me 700 yuan (about $100) and took about three hours to fix. We had originally intended to spend the entire day at the World Expo, but we spent almost half the day getting my computer fixed instead.

While waiting for my computer to be repaired, we ate lunch at Kung Fu Fast Food. Kung Fu is a Chinese fast food restaurant that uses a picture of Bruce Lee as their logo. Well, the company claims the logo isn't meant to represent Bruce Lee, but I don't think they are fooling anyone. Considering this is one of the fastest growing fast food restaurants in China, I hope that someday they will work out some sort of a reasonable deal with Bruce Lee's family.

The food at Kung Fu Fast Food was quite good and not too expensive, at least by Western standards. Their combo meals cost about $4 and come with a main dish, boiled lettuce, rice, black chicken soup with ginseng, and a drink. We got chicken with black fungus, and some sort of meatball (pork) stew. Both were good, and the service was very fast. Kung Fu Fast Food features steamed food, so they can keep everything at serving temperature without any danger of it drying out. Although Kung Fu clearly isn't a gourmet Chinese restaurant, I would choose it over Western fast food any day.

We loitered at Kung Fu longer than most diners, but there was a shortage of tables so we decided to leave so others could sit down. We decided to check out a giant mall very close to the building where my computer was being fixed. It turns out that this mall, just like the first one we visited was entirely dedicated to selling computers and electronics. Five floors, featuring every manufacturer you can imagine. It's worth noting that the building with the Toshiba repair center was also attached to a somewhat smaller mall, also selling only computers and electronics. Clearly this was Shanghai's computer and electronics Mecca.

In this third mall, there were a few restaurants scattered about. Rather than aimlessly walking around, we decided to find a place to sit down and have some coffee or tea. We saw a sign for Starbucks, but were never able to locate it. We followed the signs and even asked a few of the workers, but nobody seemed to know where it was. However, while searching for Starbucks, we stumbled on a much better spot named Chamate.

Chamate is a trendy Taiwan-based tea shop with an impressive menu, and an equally impressive interior. I got a coconut jelly drink, and my mother got corn juice. We also got a bottle of some sort of green tea. Everything was very good, but it was not cheap. Our tea and two drinks cost more than our entire lunch at Kung Fu Fast Food. Still, it wasn't really expensive, and I would highly recommend giving Chamate a try. One thing I particularly liked was their electronic system for summoning the wait staff. The plastic holder for their specials had buttons labeled order, water, check, and cancel. However, I don't think the cancel button would be very useful, because pushing any of the other buttons results in a waiter magically appearing in a matter of seconds.

It was now time to pick up my computer. I checked it out and everything was working great. Of course now my computer had a Chinese plug on its power cord, so I would have to purchase an adapter to use it once I returned to the US. Still, my computer was fixed, so it was mission accomplished.

After dropping my computer off at our hotel, we were eager to get to the World Expo. We arrived at gate 5, which is right in front of the China Pavilion. Because of our delayed arrival, there was no line to enter, and the security check was quick yet thorough.

After going inside and taking some pictures, we headed towards the Expo Axis where many shops and restaurants are located. It was already dinner time, so we started looking around for a good place to eat. We decided to try South Beauty, a Beijing-based Sichuan (Szechuan) restaurant located in the Expo Axis. They had a 200 yuan (about $30) minimum per person, but I could feel their air conditioning from 20 feet away, so that sealed the deal.

The food at South Beauty was excellent. We ordered Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken), Beef with Black Pepper Sauce, Stir-fried Chinese Vegetables, and enough beer and wine to reach the 200 yuan minimum. Actually, we fell a bit short of the minimum, but they let it slide.

Although it tasted great, the Gong Bao Ji Ding could have used a bit more heat. I like my chicken spicy, and this dish was quite mild compared to what I was expecting from a Sichuan-style restaurant. The numbing heat produced by Sichuan Peppercorns was present, but not as pronounced as you will find in Sichuan Province. Of course, most restaurants in the US don't even use Sichuan Peppercorns, so I wasn't complaining. After you eat authentic Gong Bao Ji Ding, your lips and tongue should be tingling and your mouth should be burning. Perhaps they held back on the heat because I wasn't Chinese. Occasionally, Westerners think they have been poisoned after their initial encounter with authentic Sichuan Cuisine. The numbing heat from Sichuan Peppercorns is something most Westerners have never felt.

After dinner, we walked through the Expo Axis and found a store where we bought a couple of Expo Passports, which are used to collect stamps at the various pavilions. We then decided to take a ride on one of the Expo's zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell sightseeing cars. These basically look like over-sized golf carts, and for 10 yuan (about $1.50) per trip, they shuttle visitors from one zone of the Expo to another. This is a great way to see all the pavilions lit up at night. Since it was already late, we decided to purchase a return ticket and call it a night.

Fuel cell car - World Expo

Although we had originally planned to spend the whole day at Expo, because of my computer breakdown, we were unable to visit any pavilions our first day. However, we had a great meal, got a sense of the Expo's layout, and got to see many of the country pavilions showing off their night lights.

The taxi ride back to the hotel was impressive itself. Shanghai is a beautiful city during the day, but at night it really shows off its world class skyline.



 

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