... time to sleep, eat (a lot) less, exercise, visit the cats... and keep working hard.
Dennis Gage of My Classic Car. Shanghai Automotive Show.
Arrived to Shanghai this morning, took the subway straight to the race track, enjoyed the Chinese Formula 1 GP, took the subway back to the airport, and am now sitting on the airplane ready to travel back to Shenzhen.
Not a bad day. Not bad at all.
Gizmodo wrote up a list of 18 21st century buildings around the world they thought looked like alien spaceships. My first thought was that at least one of the buildings would be in China, and that building would be The National Theater in Beijing. To my surprise, five out of the 18 buildings listed were in China. Those five were:
The National Theater, Beijing
"Mobile "Art" Exhibition Pavilion, Hong Kong
The Beijing National Stadium ("Bird's Nest"), Beijing
The Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou
Galaxy Soho, Beijing
I then looked through the comments section and found some other Chinese buildings recommended for this list (though some were not from the 21st century), and was surprised to see that some of them were right here in Shenzhen. The readers' choices that included Chinese buildings were:
The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong
Shenzhen Visitor's Center, Shenzhen
Multi-Purpose Cultural Center, Shenzhen
UK Pavilion at Shanghai Expo, Shanghai
CCTV Building, Beijing
So what would I add to the above list based on my personal experience here in China? I'd add the following:
Shenzhen Poly Theater, Shenzhen
Zifeng Plaza, Nanjing
Water Cube, Beijing
Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 3, Beijing
Beijing South Railway Station, Beijing
Shanghai Tower, Shanghai (still under construction)
I don't know why it was such a surprise. Mission Impossible 3, 2012, Battleship, The Dark Knight, Looper, (am I forgetting any?) and now Skyfall. I shouldn't be shocked anymore when I sit down to watch a Hollywood movie and hear the words, "You are to go to Shanghai and await further instructions Mr. Bond."
Adding China to the storyline wasn't able to help Looper at the Chinese box office; how will it affect Bond? Some Chinese locales were a little over the top, such as the 1 million floating lanterns/pits with carnivorous Komodo Dragons Macau casino. I did though enjoy the inclusion of the Ya'nan Elevated Road (pictured below in the movie). It's a landmark that really does exist and is recognizable to anyone that has spent any amount of time in Shanghai, helping to give that section of Skyfall's story some believability (which it needed because apparently not much else was actually shot on location in Shanghai).
Mendes confirmed that China would be featured in the film, with shooting scheduled to take place in Shanghai and "other parts" of the country. John Logan described that production deliberately sought out locations that were "in opposition" to London with an exotic quality that made them "places for Bond to be uncomfortable". Many scenes were not filmed on location in Shanghai. Instead, the Virgin Active Pool in London's Canary Wharf acted as Bond's hotel pool in Shanghai, and the entrance to London's fourth tallest building, Broadgate Tower, was also lit up to look like an office building there; for the aerial footage of Shanghai, the crew received rare access to shoot from a helicopter on loan from the Chinese government. The interior of the Golden Dragon Casino where Bond met Sévérine was constructed on a sound stage at Pinewood, with 300 floating lanterns and two 30-foot high dragon heads lighting the set. Additional scenes were filmed at Ascot Racecourse, standing in for Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The first official image from the film was released on 1 February 2012, showing Daniel Craig on set at Pinewood Studios, within a recreation of a skyscraper in Shanghai.
About the movie itself, I enjoyed the return of the classic Aston Martin, the dialogue between Bond and Q, and the reveal in the end (similar to the reveal of Robin in The Dark Knight Returns). Does Skyfall have the least amount of Bond-on-Bond-girl action of any movie in the series or am I imagining things? Overall, thoroughly enjoyed it (just as much as Casino Royale and a million times more than Quantum of Solace).
In ECA International's 2012 location rankings for expat living conditions, Hong Kong comes in at #3 on the Asian city list behind Singapore and Kobe, Japan. In terms of ECA's global rankings, Hong Kong is 11th, Shanghai 83rd, Beijing 99th, Guangzhou 112th, and Shenzhen 123rd. Shenzhen is #18 on the Asian city list. On the report's rankings of mainland Chinese cities:
Scores have generally remained steady across most Chinese locations. Shanghai, ranked 83rd globally, is the most liveable of the mainland Chinese locations assessed, followed by Beijing (99). Small improvements in facilities for expatriates, such as health amenities and availability of goods and services, have meant that Guangzhou (112) is closing the gap with Shanghai and Beijing.
The three least livable cities globally for expats? Baghdad, Kabul, and Port-au-Prince.
Buried in an article about KFC's recent troubles in China is this:
Chargrilled burger chain Carl's Jr has started popping up in Shanghai, and Californian chain Fatburger in Beijing.
Wonderful news. Begs two questions though... Is Carl's Jr China serving fried zucchini? And when is Wendy's arriving?
By the way, I don't see how KFC can continue to grow at the rate it has been. My parents remember coming to China 15+ years ago and seeing Chinese having to make reservations for a table at KFC. As the article above absolutely correctly states, KFC is now seen by a majority of citizens in 1st and 2nd tier cities simply as fast (and unhealthy) food. Now they have the antibiotic scare. The answer isn't opening more stores, as KFC seems to have already saturated most of the east coast. So what to do?
KFC's current answer to inspire new consumption: "Heatwave" crispy popcorn shrimp.
I remember watching them this summer. Awesome. Yi Shiwen, the 16 year old swimming sensation, is on the right.
Shanghai Audi International Circuit, Shanghai
After the R8 LMS Cup completed its second race of the weekend Sunday morning, I was able to walk through the pits before the beginning of the 6 Hours of Shanghai. Drivers were signing autographs as teams prepared the cars. No one was in the grandstand. It was at this time I got to take the Audi R8 hot lap. I then made my way to the huge temporary Audi pit/auditorium where I watched the beginning of the World Endurance Championship race. It lasted from 11 am to 5 pm. I watched the last 3 hours from above the pit lane and was able to see the cars up close as they were inspected by the WEC tech staff after the race. Toyota ended up dominating but one team of Audi drivers secured the championship with a third place finish. Overall, not a bad way to spend a weekend.
I arrived early in the morning to find a light rain falling at the track. After the R8 LMS Cup and Lamborghini series races, the cars of the FIA World Endurance Championship took to the track for their qualifying session. Toyota qualified first in front of the two Audis. I watched it from the grandstand across from the pit and had a long conversation with a husband and wife sitting next to me. They had received free tickets and although they knew very little about motor sports, they did tell me they enjoyed listening to the cars as they raced by. The photo of them is included below (old man with the camera).
After qualifying, I headed up to the large (and temporary) Audi Ultra pavilion. That night Audi was putting on an RS-brand introduction event for VIPs and Audi Shanghai customers. Everyone was treated to finger food and car models before being whisked into the 2nd floor auditorium. The Audi China presidents gave some speeches about the RS brand (including the drop-dead gorgeous RS5) and then stepped aside for a pretty amazing driving demonstration (the video of which I'll upload later). At the end of this demonstration, an R8 Spyder drove onto the stage, lowered its top, and Jet Li jumped out. The crowd naturally went crazy at his surprise appearance. Then superstar singer (at least I think she's a superstar) Keri Hilson, whose music I sort of recognized, came on stage and performed. At the event's conclusion, everyone was invited outside for food, drinks, and more singing and dancing.
Lastly, I exited the building to find a long line of people waiting to take hot laps around the track in R8s and RS5s (last photo). I went to get in line but the Chinese hostess told me no more people were allowed and the line had been closed. As I depressingly walked away, I turned around to see a group of five Chinese men muscling and begging their way into the line. The hostess finally relented and let them through. I could have done the same myself but I guess I'm too nice/passive; I thought I had missed my opportunity to take a hot lap around the track. Tomorrow would bring better luck though...
This weekend I am in Shanghai as a guest of Audi for the R8 LMS Cup / World Endurance Championship race. I'm passionate about the brand (in high school I drove an '89 manual Audi 100 AWD). Each guest was given a schedule and it made mention of an evening event at Audi's VIP Lounge at the race track. Below is the fun adventure I had tonight.
1. I was picked up from the airport and the driver asked me if I wanted to go to the hotel or the track. We finally decided on going to the hotel first and then he'd take me to the track for the reception.
2. When we arrived at the track, he didn't know where to go and it turned out he could not enter with the pass he had on his car, so I got out and walked to the infield myself, having no idea where to go. It was great though as I have been to the Shanghai circuit the past 5 out of 6 years for the Formula 1 race and here I was by myself walking around freely in the track's infield.
3. I naturally went to the huge, colorfully-lit building with "Audi" scribed on its exterior. It was a huge temporary building with pits for the R8 race cars on the first floor and a presentation theater and lounge on the second floor. This had to be where the Audi reception was being held, right? There were a hundred construction workers still putting the finishing touches on the building. I hung out in the theater and watched the construction of the stage and the presenters run through a practice of a presentation. After an hour of hanging around and looking at all the amazing cars, including the new S5 and lots of R8s, I concluded this was not where the reception was being held and left the building (but not before a security guard mistakenly directed me into the actual race car pits when I asked where the bathroom was, to which the race crew members present did not appreciate).
4. I walked towards the pit building and heard music and loud voices. I then found a reception. Maybe this was it? I walked up and had a glass of wine. Most of the people there seemed to be from the race teams though, including Wolfgang Ullrich (Audi's motorsport boss) and Tom Kristensen (the most successful Le Mans racer of all time). I didn't see any non-racing team people, so I started thinking this wasn't it either. Hmm.
5. I asked a waiter at this reception if he knew where the "Audi VIP Lounge" was and he pointed to the top of the large race control building. He said, "it's in the bridge at the top." Great, maybe this was the breakthrough I finally needed.
6. Before I made my way into the building, the gate to the track's pit lane was open right in front of the building's entrance. I walked through the gate and suddenly there I was all alone in the actual pit lane on the race track. Awesome. Picture taking ensued.
7. I entered the race control building and went to the 9th floor. Upon exiting, I found myself in a mostly empty media center. Definitely not the right place. I asked a woman at the media center about the Audi VIP lounge and she told me it was on the second floor in the same building. I'm close!
8. I exit the elevator on the second floor and walk through the only open corridor I see. I found an open door at the end and walk through it. Bam... I'm at the winner's podium. What? Okay, obligatory photo on the top step. After retracing my steps, I found another corridor snaking around the outside of the building.
9. Success! I finally find the Audi VIP Lounge (I think, I mean it must be, right?). I walk in, and... it's still being constructed. No reception here. Well, what else to do but sit down and play a round of videogame racing. So I did.
10. At this point, I'm at the track with a non-existent reception and dinner at the hotel ends in 2 hours. So I make the decision to leave the track and try to find a taxi. I end up walking more than an hour to the nearest populated area (though listening to a podcast made it an easier walk) and after much searching (I finally took a motorcycle cab to get to a more populated area), I finally found a taxi.
11. Except for the taxi hitting a big piece of plastic on the highway and the driver having to stop and remove it from the front grill, it was a smooth ride and I made it back for dinner with 30 minutes to spare.
So no reception (well, except for the race team reception I happened to accidentally joined in) and I had to walk more than an hour to find a taxi but I saw hundreds of amazing Audis and other race cars, walked freely around the infield of the racetrack, and stood on the winner's podium. So in all, not a bad night. Tomorrow the actually racing starts.
October 13, 2012. 8:40 PM. New Heights Restaurant. The Bund, Shanghai.
Having already put on launch events in New York, Rome, and Tokyo, Ducati and Diesel brought their co-creations, the Ducati Monster Diesel motorcycle and the Ducati Diesel fashion collection, to Shanghai. We were lucky enough to be invited to both the initial press launch and a few hours later the official launch event for VIPs. The event took place at the beautiful Three On The Bund building in an art gallery on the third floor. A Chinese celebrity was present on stage for the unveiling of the bike to VIPs (not sure who he was), which was followed by various musical acts. The event went on until the early hours of the morning, though we left early around 9:30 pm. While I really like Diesel's Ducati Desmo Jacket, I'm am not sure I'm ready to spend 4600 rmb (700+ dollars) on it at the Diesel store here in China (though sites outside China list the price as an easier-to-swallow $428).
Click here to see the full gallery of photos from the Shanghai launch event.
Lamborghini Murcielago. Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Shanghai