in Checking In

Shanghai Delights!

Wow. Just wow.

I’ve been to a lot of places in my life but Shanghai simply takes my breath away. Looking around, I just couldn’t believe all of this is here.

The training went much better than the Beijing one, in the opinion of most of us. Thirty-two partners attended, some from very far away. I skipped the stupid slide show and did my specialty – live demos and training. This let me cover more ground than Beijing’s session and the flow seemed to connect better with the attendees. It didn’t hurt that this hotel’s Internet connection is 3-4 times faster than the Beijing hotel’s.

We met at the hotel restaurant for lunch. With no grasp of the Chinese language, Gary and I fumbled our way through last night’s dinner and wound up with a good, but not great, dinner. I was frankly not looking forward to another bland dinner – and certainly not bland hotel food. What I got, though, knocked my socks off. It was top-shelf, amazingly flavorful Chinese food. I kept eating and eating until I couldn’t eat any more. What I thought was Chinese food – the stuff in America – didn’t come anywhere near the taste of this food. I was blown away! It’s certainly the best hotel meal I’ve ever had and the best lunch I’ve had in a long, long while.

In the middle of lunch I became the recipient of a spontaneous toast from my colleagues and the attendees at my table, for which I was surprised as well as deeply honored. Outside of my wedding day I’ve never been the recipient of a toast before (and those I shared with my lovely bride). How does it happen that people I’ve only just met would offer me a toast? I find it hard to fathom. Wow.

The rest of the training went smoothly. Everyone did well on the exam I give at the end of the course. As Gary thanked each one of us who put the session together, I told everyone that it was my great pleasure to have been with them today (and I meant it). I think they appreciated hearing that.

My colleague Jenny then helped me book a tour of Shanghai for tomorrow. Following that I had a brief chance to blog the previous post before we all headed out to dinner.

Our dinner tonight was for traditional Shanghai food at the famous Xiao Nan Guo restaurant. We feasted on roast duck; pork leg; roast lamb; beef; white radishes; seafood including sea cucumber, a succulent grouper-like whitefish, and even raw (!) shrimp; and bottle upon bottle of red wine!

Everyone was psyched about today’s training and the mood was festive. I made the mistake of sharing what my tour guide told me back on Saturday. He asked if my Chinese colleagues had taken me out for a big dinner. When I said not yet he told me to expect it. It is a Chinese tradition to treat guests to a big meal and massive amounts of alcohol. Once the alcohol loosens you up your true character shines through, you see. I shared this with my friends and immediately “cheers” became “bottoms up” (or “gala” in Chinese)! We began to down multiple full glasses of wine! I soon begged we “pace ourselves” in order to “make it a long night,” just to inject a little sanity back into things (though the wine was outstanding and I would’ve been willing, if not able, to drink them under the table).

Midway through the dinner, I looked around the table at these friends who were all, with the exception of Gary, total strangers just one week ago. I was enjoying myself so much that right then and there I began to memorize as many details of the scene as I could. I didn’t want it to end, and I never want to forget it.

We had the waiter take a picture of our group. From left to right are Tony, Alex, Jasper, Ja Ja, Dork Boy, John, Gary, George, and Jenny.

Dinner did end, though, at which point Jenny and George volunteered to take Gary and me on a quick tour of the riverside of downtown Shanghai, better known as the Bund. It was skyscraper after eye-popping skyscraper. Neon everywhere. And a good smattering of colonial-era buildings were thrown in for spice, too. If it weren’t for a chilly wind blowing in from the coast we may have walked down the boardwalk for an hour or more.

George is Chinese and on the younger side. He was in awe of my history of travel. I’d mention someplace I’d been and he would hang on my every word, a faraway gleam in his eye. One day, I told him, he may have the same opportunity to see the world as I have. I think he will.

Now I’m back at the hotel with so much to write about and so little time. I’ve been smiling so much today I think my face is permanently stuck. It’s been a fantastic day on so many levels. Already I’m making plans to return here some day.

Tomorrow starts early again as I hop a taxi to meet the day’s tour group at another hotel. I’ll have eight sights to see on my day-long tour. After that I’ll meet my colleages once again for another dinner, and this time it won’t be Chinese food but Italian for a change. Its all been so very fun that if it weren’t for my family being so far away I’d find it hard to leave!

Oh, and see shots of this amazing day in the gallery, of course.