In May this year, Cold Spring Harbor hosted a meeting focused on chromatin biology in Suzhou just outside of Shanghai. It turns out that CSH meetings in the US have been so successful that they have created a spin-off - CSH Asia - which has an office in a big hotel in Suzhou. In fact, they have built a whole separate wing on the hotel to house the conferences - with a flash 500-seat lecture theatre, restaurants, poster room and so on. They don't do things by halves in China, it would seem.

Anyway, Ana and I decided to go to this meeting to educate ourselves more on the biology side of things. The conference was fantastic - lots of great talks showcasing great science being done both in China and around the world. There is a lot of very high quality science being done in China - they have poured oodles of money in and many talented people are staying (or coming back) rather than doing their science overseas now.

We had a weekend first staying at a very nice B+B (Magnolia) in the French quarter of Shanghai (the streets really do look French) and seeing a few of the sights. I had been to Shanghai before, but Ana had not. It was also one of the last few weeks before I was due to run The North Face 100 km race in the Blue Mtns, which meant I needed to get a few kms in... Unfortunately, Shanghai is as flat as a pancake (in direct opposition to the race...). Still, it was an opportunity to see a few of the sights in the early morning before there were too many people around...

During our days in Shanghai, there seemed to be a sort of role reversal. I seemed to be the one out of the two of us who took longer to get ready, wanted to go shopping...

One night, we went to see some live jazz. There is an (apparently) famous group who play old standards at the Fairmont Peace Hotel - and their average age is about 80 or so. It must be said that they weren't exactly jumping all over the stage, but it was good fun... They even threw in some Latin pieces with the sax players on percussion.

Shanghai is certainly a place of contrasts. Going out for a long run, you see neighbourhoods that appear to be *very* basic with almost no real infrastructure and then on the other hand, I saw for the first time in my life someone walking a poodle wearing shoes - and yes - it was the poodle wearing the shoes...

You run through somewhere that is mostly rubble, and then you run into a gated compound (they never seemed to mind me just running in - perhaps being a foreigner helps...) and find a pristine athletic track!

We had some very good dumplings at a place I can't remember...

Then, on our other night, we went to the circus to see acrobats - and they were AMAZING! It seems like there are several different shows on every night of the week - we chose ERA. YOu couldn't take photos there, but the things they did (there were about a dozen acts - each about 10 min long) were fantastic. There were troupes of guys doing synchronized tumbling runs through rotating rings, a (very strong looking) guy juggling an *enormous* terracotta pot, a troupe of girls who were incredibly flexible (who came out of the terracotta pot...), a pair doing aerial silks, girls spinning multiple plates on sticks and 7 motorcycles in a spherical cage.

Probably the most amazing skill though was a guy balancing on a rolling cylinder on a plank, who kept putting rice bowls on one foot and the flicking them up onto his head (so that they landed in the rice bowls that were already on his head) - by the end he was flicking four rice bowls up at the same time (which were on different parts of his foot) and they would all land one after the other inside each other. Incredible...

[Click the thumbnail for a larger version and a caption.]

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