Hot and Sweaty Like 1 Billion Others
Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 2 of 11 › view all entries
Well my trip in Hong Kong ended not too long ago. Sort of an anti-climactic end with visits to the High Court, the maximum security prision and then final exams... if that's what you want to call it.
Next I was off to Shanghai- by myself. Man was I unprepared for travelling in Mainland China! The people here do not speak English and it is not easy to get around. I quickly learned this on my airport shuttle to the hotel, where the only Mandarin Phrase I learned was my destination. Naturally that wasn't enough and the woman in charge of the shuttle was yelling at me in Mandarin about God only knows what. God and the other passengers of the shuttle that is.
Shanghai didn't have a lot to offer in my opinion, except for very fine dining, which is a luxury I can only rarely afford. I met up with a classmate of mine from Hong Kong for dinner at Kathleen's 5 Restaurant (funny coincidence, eh?) on top of the Shanghai Art Museum overlooking People's Square and then we went for drinks on top of the Raddisson, overlooking the Bund, an area lining the Huangpu River where all of the fancy office buildings and hotels light up the skyline. The bund is such a huge tourist draw, that while I was walking along side it, I ran into Mr.
The next lesson I learned in Shanghai was that pedestrians are scum, not to be acknowledged while crossing the roads. This place gives all new meaning to "Crazy Asian Drivers." I'm not sure why lines are painted on the roads, unless they are a guide for drivers to drive over rather than in between. Nor am I sure why they have cross walks with a little green man telling you it's safe to cross. It's not safe- if the cars don't kill you, the bicycles will, if the bicycles don't get you, you'll go deaf from the horns blowing. Shanghai was definitely culture shock of the century. I had no idea it would be this hectic. So, in my effort to get out of hectic Shanghai, I headed to Suzhou, a neighboring city known for it's relaxing gardens. That's sort of overselling it, I think, but it was much less frenzied than Shanghai. While the sweet sounds of car horns could still be heard from the gardens, it was much less stressful to navigate the town.
My last few days in Shanghai were relatively uneventful. Since it wasn't exactly going swimmingly and because I had such a nice hostel and met some really nice people, my ambitions for venturing into town were minimized. I did head out to the Propoganda Museum, even though I thought was odd that the Chinese government would allow such a musuem to exist. Turns out the museum was sort of low key and in some guy's basement, which is how he gets away with it I guess. All over the museum were pictures of Chairman Mao, Chinese soldeirs, farmers and factory workers all cheering about the revolution. My favorite picture by far was one of a Chinese woman, probably a factory worker, standing proudly with her fist in the air, cheering, "Birth Control for Revolution!" Okaaaaaay. I also managed waking up early for a few runs in Shanghai... that is until I realized that white girls who get stared at on subways get followed by scary men on bicycles while running. I had to put into action the one swear word I learned in Mandarin from my roommate in Hong Kong which was, "What the hell!" It was a little out of context, but I think it served it's purpose- that being "Don't follow me because I speak 3 words of Mandarin and I will cuss at you!"
So with a not so inspired experience in Shanghai (I wanted so badly to bag Mainland China and head to Thailand early), I headed to Tianjin to meet with my old friend from high school, Tanisha. To put a cherry on top of my trip to Shanghai, my flight departed 4 hours late due to weather and when I arrived in Beijing Airport, Tanisha had already gone home because the airport told her my flight had not taken off. Sweet. But I eventually made it out to see her and take a little time to deflate at her home. She even arranged for me to have a massage by her local masseuse, Mr. Li, for the bargain price of $4 per hour. So I had a 2 hour massage that definitely cleared my mind of the last 5 days. In Tianjin, Tanisha was saying goodbye to her students and fellow teachers, so we spent a fair amount of time going out to eat with them and just taking our sweet time before the travelling began.
Then we were off to Beijing for 5 days. In Beijing, Tanisha tought me the greatest phrase I ever learned in Mandarin: "I don't want it." I use it liberally when vendors approach me because they follow me around shouting, "Hello lady, you want Louis Vuitton!" It's no coincidence that Tanisha ditches me every time I'm approached, since she's Asian and she doesn't get harrassed. Every time I'm approached and I look to Tanisha for help, she's accross the street laughing at me. Good friend, huh? I keep telling her if she didn't speak Chinese, I would have beat her up by now. That's really the only reason I keep her around. Otherwise, I would be in Thailand right now.
In Beijing, we visited the Great Wall (naturally), the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace Parks, and the Forbidden City and Tianamen Square, which interestingly still known more as a pleasant gathering place, rather than the site of a massacre. Maybe if it were in the history books people would see it that way, but until then, what are you going to do. After hitting up the obvious tourist spots we headed over to the Silk Market for some serious shopping. This is where my bargaining skills were put to good use. Ha! Hardly. Every time Tanisha wanted to buy something she knew she'd have to bargain for, she'd tell me to go away because they don't give discounts to white girls. I used that to my advantage while bargaining and told one vendor, "No Megua (American) prices!" I thought I came away with a good deal and proudly reported to Tanisha, "Look! I got this for $6!" Her reply was, "I bought 5 for $10 last year." And I thought I had done so well... But I bought a lot of stuff, including a pair of "Nike" pants and also checked out a few "Louie Vuitton" purses, but didn't actually purchase one.
After Beijing, we heading to Chongqing where we would pick up our river cruise through the 3 Gorges on the Yangtzie River. But first we met up with another one of Tanisha's students who took us to Ciqikou, a touristy artists neigborhood with small cobbestone roads and traditional wooden homes and shops. We went to a "hot pot" restaurant, where you put your food in boiing sauce and cook it yourself. It is famous in Chongqing and the Sichuan Province. The students spent a good half hour looking around for a restaurant that offered less spicy food. Finally we found one and made a special request for un-spicy hot pot. Holy Fire In My Mouth! Tanisha and I were dying, the food was so hot. But her students didn't even like it because it wasn't spicy enough.
Then we were off to our Cruise down the Yangtzie. I haven't downloaded my pictures yet, but it was really beautiful. And now, because of the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam, most of it is rapidly disappearing. We stopped in Fengdu, the "Ghost City" aka Hell. In Fengdu, we had to pass a series of tests, all in good fun, to test if our heart was true and we could go to heaven. One of the tests included leaping accross a bridge in 3 steps, where my new "Nike" pants ripped right up the middle of the crotch. $11 well spent I must say. It was super cool being stared at already because I'm one of the few white people around, but now I'm exposing the goods to hundreds of Chinese people. The knock off name brands do not do much in the way of quality, unfortunately. Afterward, the 3 day cruise took us up the river and through the gorges, and also through the 5 blocks of the dam, which lower the boats (or lift those going upstream) through the dam, similar to the method used in the Panama Canal.
So that's mainland China thus far. I know I promised my emails would be shorter, but I don't get much time to write, so they get longer and longer as I travel more places. Right now we're waiting for a flight to Chengdu, where we will spend 5 days and end our tour of Mainland China. Then I might get to ditch Tanisha when she teases me for being white, because she will be of no use to me since she doesn't speak Thai. But I might keep her around. Only 3 weeks left until I'm home, in case you miss me! Miss you all!