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We started off day three with a ride on the world's fastest train, the Shanghai Maglev, with a top speed of 431 kph (268 mph). For those who don't already know, the word Maglev is short for magnetic levitation. Basically, that means this train uses powerful electromagnets to hover only about 1/3 inch above the track, which eliminates friction. Propulsion is also achieved using electromagnets, creating a very fast, quiet, and efficient means of transportation. At top speed, a maglev train is about twice as efficient as a car and three times as efficient as an airplane.

The Shanghai Maglev runs at different speeds at different times of the day, and I definitely wanted to ride it when it was running at its fastest. That meant that we had to ride after 9:00 am, but before having a Beijing (Peking) Roast Duck lunch at the famous Quanjude Restaurant. Tickets cost 50 yuan (about $7) for a one way ticket, or 80 yuan (about $12) for a round trip. VIP tickets cost double and will get you a larger and nicer seat.

The plan was to arrive as close as possible to 9:00, and we nailed it. Our train pulled out of the station at exactly 9:00 am. The 30 km (19 mile) ride to the airport took only 7 minutes and 20 seconds, instead of 40 minutes by taxi. The train accelerated very smoothly, although more slowly than I was expecting. Still, it wasn't long before we were hurling down the tracks at top speed. The ride was incredibly smooth, but that's to be expected whenever the train isn't even touching the track.

Even though the Shanghai Maglev was built to shuttle passengers from downtown Shanghai to the Pudong International Airport, I was just riding it for fun. So once we arrived at the airport, I got off the train, took a few pictures, and got right back on for the return trip.

After returning to the Longyang Station, we took a taxi to the Purple Mountain Hotel for our Beijing Roast Duck lunch. We arrived a bit early so we sat down in the hotel lobby's lounge. We had reservations for lunch at 11:30, or at least I was pretty sure we did.

I didn't know how busy Quanjude would be at lunch, so I had called to make a reservation about a week before we left for China. The woman that answered the phone didn't speak any English, but at least that gave me a chance to practice my Chinese. I was reasonably sure I had made a lunch reservation for two at 11:30 am on Friday June 18th. I guess I would soon find out.

 

In the mean time, we got to catch the end of game seven of the NBA Finals. In fact, we were a few minutes late for lunch because we didn't want to leave until the game was over. When we arrived upstairs, we discovered that they did in fact have our reservation. However, we also discovered that it wouldn't have mattered, because they were not busy at all.

When I was in Beijing three years ago, I really wanted to eat at Quanjude Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant, but couldn't get reservations. That's why this time I called ahead very early to make sure we wouldn't miss it. In business since 1864, Quanjude is probably the most famous Beijing Roast Duck restaurant in the world.

As expected the food was excellent. We ordered a whole duck, duck feet with mustard sauce, and a duck chin. I had never eaten a duck chin before, or duck feet for that matter. Both were surprisingly good. After only about 15 minutes, a chef showed up with our duck. He very skillfully carved it at our table, and the waitress showed us how to make the rolls. Using a thin steamed "pancake," the duck is rolled up like a burrito with scallions, cucumbers, and a sweet bean (or hoisin) sauce. There is a reason that "Peking Duck" is so famous, and this is clearly one of the world's greatest duck dishes. However, despite the huge feast we ate, the entire bill was only about $50, including drinks.

The original plan was to go to the World Expo directly from lunch, but we ate so much we decided we needed to go back to our hotel for a while to rest.

After a quick rest, we headed off to spend the evening at Zone D of the World Expo. Zone D contains most of the corporate pavilions, and we chose to go there because we were short on time and it is the smallest of all the zones. Over the course of the evening, we visited the Cisco Pavilion, Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion, Space Home Pavilion, China Railway Pavilion, State Grid Pavilion, PICC Pavilion, and Coca-Cola Pavilion.


CISCO PAVILION
The Cisco Pavilion features a movie about a very special day in the life of the Chan family in the year 2020. Mr. and Mrs. Chan are celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary, but a major storm threatens their celebration. Visitors watch as technology helps nine-year-old Xiaolong, photo journalist Xiao Lu, and a very pregnant Lulu make it to the party by enhancing communication, transportation, and learning. Each World Expo is all about displaying the best technology available, while offering a vision for the future. Cisco did an outstanding job on both counts.  

 

SHANGHAI CORPORATE PAVILION
Nicknamed the "Dream Cube," this pavilion has an exterior made from recycled CD cases formed into plastic tubes that can change color using energy efficient LEDs. Power for the pavilion is provided by solar panels on the roof, plus a steam turbine powered by solar water heaters. The movie in the main theater was an entertaining and interactive 360 degree panoramic presentation featuring a conversation between a grandfather and his granddaughter.

Although I somehow missed it, near the exit of the pavilion there is a restaurant run by robots that can prepare 1,000 different dishes from four major styles of Chinese cuisine. Pansum, the company that builds the robots, builds three different models including gas and electric models for both commercial and home use.  

 


SPACE HOME PAVILION
As the newest member of the manned spaceflight club, China is eager to demonstrate its vision for the future. Fitting with the Expo theme of "Better City, Better Life," the Space Home Pavilion focuses on how space technologies can improve urban life. The first two sections feature displays about space exploration. The third section called "Beautiful Home" uses the Chinese concept of "Round Heaven" and "Square Earth" to provide a future vision of outer space and intelligent cities.   


CHINA RAILWAY PAVILION
Although the Shanghai Maglev was originally designed and built in Germany, with the help of technology transfers from Germany and Japan, China is now a world leader in the design and production of high-speed trains. In fact, China's conventional rail trains are now the fastest in the world. In front of the pavilion there is a domestically-produced 350 kph (about 220 mph) train on display. Inside they have a wide variety of exhibits including some rather impressive models of current and future train stations. Near the exit, there is a snack bar built to look like a train's dining car, complete with movie screen windows that simulate a trip through the countryside. This pavilion is a must see for anyone interested in learning about the future of transportation.


STATE GRID PAVILION
The State Grid Corporation of China is the largest electric power transmission and distribution company in the world. They are also the primary builder and operator of China's emerging electrical smart grid. The highlight of this pavilion is a psychedelic movie projected on all six sides of a large cube. Visitors stand on a glass floor suspended several feet above the bottom screen. This movie is more entertaining than educational, and it is a very popular pavilion. Wait times can be quite long, although it is possible to make reservations. 


PICC Pavilion
Hosted by the People's Insurance Company of China, this was by far my least favorite pavilion in Zone D. Unlike almost all the other pavilions at Expo, there was almost no English dialogue or subtitles. Now I realize I was in China, and I certainly don't expect the entire world to speak English, but unless you can understand Mandarin, you might as well skip this pavilion. The only interesting part about this pavilion was a simulated earthquake during the first movie, which featured a variety of disasters like floods, fires, and earthquakes. There were some rather horrific images, which I guess were intended to stress the importance of buying insurance. The second movie didn't have English subtitles either, so we just skipped it.

COCA-COLA PAVILION
Nicknamed the Happiness Factory, this pavilion is truly refreshing. The 3D movie is very good, but for most people the highlight is the free (tiny) bottle of Coke they hand out to visitors at the end. Now obviously it wouldn't be worth it to stand in line for hours just to get something you can buy for less than a dollar at any street vendor. However, this is no ordinary bottle of Coke.

For starters, the bottle itself is a special Expo-only limited edition bottle, but the real surprise is that this bottle of Coke produces its own crushed ice. Chilled to a precise temperature, when presented to visitors, it looks like an ordinary bottle of Coke. But when it is opened, closed, and gently shaken, a small amount of ice crystals appear as if by magic. I've accidentally recreated a similar phenomenon by leaving a bottle in the freezer too long, except in my case this always resulted in slush pouring out the top of the bottle like a volcano and onto the floor. This Pavilion is a must see. However, wait times can be quite long.

 

Day 4: Hangzhou. West Lake, the Six Harmonies Pagoda, and the Tea Plantation

 


 

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