Saturday, March 31, 2018

At the Circus.


Tonight is our last night in Shanghai and I wanted to end it with something fun.

When I was in Shanghai in 2009, I came on a packaged tour. The itinerary for Shanghai included a acrobat show. I enjoyed that show so much that ever since then, if any Chinese troupe comes to the DC area, I get tickets to go see it. So, when I was planning this trip, I asked both Bro and SK if they would be interested in seeing an acrobat show in China and both were up for it. After doing a bit of research, I ended up buying us tickets for the ERA-Intersection of Time show that takes place pretty much every night at Shanghai Circus World, a venue located in the city. It has its own metro stop so it's very easy to get to.

We arrived at Shanghai Circus World after having spent the afternoon at Gucun Park.  I just had the driver drop us off here; we would make our own way back to the apartment by metro.  We arrived at Shanghai Circus World at about 5:45p, plenty of time to grab dinner before the 7:30p show.

I had bought the tickets, in advance and online from viator.com.  You can get them from any number of sources, including the venue itself but what I found was the prices were pretty much all the same so I just went with viator.com because I already have an account with the site.   I had my purchase voucher with me so the first thing I wanted to do was actually pick up the tickets but the counter was not yet open.  So we decided to try and find a place to have dinner.

Shanghai Circus World is situated in a complex of sorts and walking around, we stumbled upon a restaurant.  We decided to check it out.  It was obvious that this place caters to the theatre crowd as they were already well set up to serve dinner despite relatively early hour.

We couldn't exactly figure out exactly how service works here.  At the back of the restaurant was what looked to be a buffet set up of food so I initially thought that dinner would be a buffet.  But then when I went in search of plates and cutlery, I didn't see any.  There were women, who looked to be servers, walking all around us but none stopped to inquire if we needed any assistance.  In any case, based on what the food looked like, we decided we could eat here.

We walked back to the hostess station and that's when I noticed a door that led to a large room that was obviously a banquet hall.  Later, I Googled this place and learned that we were inside Shaoxing Hotel which is not actually a hotel but indeed a venue for receptions for large groups e.g., banquets, weddings, tour groups coming for the nightly show at Shanghai Circus World, etc.

Once we asked the hostess for a table, she led us to one of the servers who walked back to the food service area with us.  That buffet style layout of the food is actually the menu.  You basically get to see the dishes and pick out what you want and then you place your order right there and then.  I have to say, I've never ordered food like this before so this was a definite first for us.  In some ways, it's actually a very nice way to order because you can see exactly what you're getting and you can ask the server questions.  If she doesn't know the answer, the kitchen staff are just a few feet away.   I let Bro and SK do the ordering.  When we were done, the hostess led us to our table which was in one of the large banquet dining halls upstairs.  It was there that we also ordered our drinks.


Our meal was a simple one but we did treat ourselves to some nice dishes - we had roast duck, sauteed shrimp and tofu.




As soon as we sat down, a server put a tiny receipt on our table.  That was our menu order.  As each dish arrived, the server would cross it off the receipt to make sure that all the ordered dishes would be served up.  Of course, had we had Alipay, we could've simply zapped the QR code on the plaque on our table but being the lame tourists, we could only pay with cash.  Thank God, they still take cash here though at the pace the Chinese financial world is advancing, it will not be long before the majority of the system is cashless.


We ended dinner with plenty of time for me to go back to the main building and get our tickets.  There was a bit of a line but it moved quickly.  When I bought the tickets, I could only specify which section we wanted to sit in. 


So, you can imagine my surprise when I looked at the ticket and realized that we were seated in Row 1!  What was even more surprising was that we were in Row 1, just a tad off center so the seats were amazing!  We had a perfectly unobstructed view of the stage and the performers.


The theater is semi circular, surrounding a stage of the same shape.  As we were waiting for the show to begin, there a large glass cylinder on the stage.  You could tell from the way it was sectioned, that it would raise up. 


The show began and as with most circus performances, you don't get a brochure so you have no idea what acts will be taking place.  I like the excitement of anticipating what will come next.  I have seen so many Chinese acrobat shows that pretty much you come to realize that there are x number of acts in the overall acrobat show playbook and each troupe presents a subset of those acts.  I didn't keep track of how many different acts were on stage tonight but here's what the company has decided are the highlights of the show.

There was a fifteen minute intermission.  It was cool how time was kept.  A large curtain came down and the count down clock was projected on it. 


I have to say, time at the show flew by and based on the comments by Bro and SK, they both really enjoyed it! After days upon days of sightseeing, it was nice to inject something different into our travel itinerary.  I was hoping to find something similar for us to do in Beijing but aside from another acrobat show, all I could come up with was a Shaolin monk performance and operas.  I attended the Shaolin monk performance when I was in Beijing in 2009 and saw another one in the US and didn't really enjoy either of them as much as I did the acrobat shows.  The opera might have been interesting but I got zero interest from Bro, SK or Yim so I decided to not research shows.

In any case, going to see the acrobats tonight was a nice way to end our visit to Shanghai.  After the show, we made our way back to the apartment by Metro.  Before coming on this trip, I had assured Bro that taking the subway in China was easy peasy but I think he had his doubts.  After Hong Kong and Shanghai, I don't think he will have a second's qualm about going about Beijing on its subway system.



Back in the apartment, we each did what we had to do to clean up from our day today and to prepare for our departure tomorrow.   For me, it was fun to be back in Shanghai and to be able to share in the experience with Bro and SK.  But I still feel there's more of this city for me to explore so I hope I can come back one day!

Goodnight from Shanghai!