Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost in Translation: Shanghai, Part 1: 10 Days With My Cousin Traveling Through Macau, Hong Kong and China.

Jessica and I exited the train and quickly headed to the bus terminal. We had made a reservation at a hostel and, according to the website, there should've been a bus that would drop us off just a block from the hostel. The key word in the latter sentence is 'should've'. We went to the first bus terminal. Wasn't there. We went to the other bus terminal located way over yonder on the other side of the train station. Wasn't there, either. Oy vey.

Frustration quickly kicked into gear.

And there was so much commotion, so much going on, that it was difficult to hear yourself think. Seriously. The station was a live, busy beehive swarming with people buzzing into and around us.

Frustration kicked into second gear.

We tried our luck at Information. We thought maybe the people there would be able to be of some assistance. I sat on my rucksack outside awaiting Jessica and hoped she'd return with good news. But, alas, she did not.

Frustration ultimately kicked into the highest gear.

Apparently not even the people who work for Information at Shanghai's train station could speak English. You would think there would be at least one person employed who could speak English. I mean, being in the most populated country and in one of the most populated cities on planet Earth, I would think that there would be one, at least one, person employed who could speak English. I mean, the city of Shanghai is the host of this years 2010 "World" Expo. Notice the emphasis on the word . . . "World". Call me crazy but if I was hosting a "World" Expo I would assume that people from the rest of the "World" - ya know, people other than just the Chinese - would be attending. And when these people outside of China - again, you know, from around the "World" - travel to Shanghai, I would assume that they wouldn't speak Chinese but English, the lingua franca of the "World".

In the end, we decided to take the subway. We stayed at a hostel called Captain Hostel near the Bund. The Bund, an area that stretches along the Huangpu River, used to be Shanghai's Wall St. and is now one of Shanghai's historical landmarks. It was nice to walk to the Bund at night and view Shanghai's fabulous skyline, located across the Huangpu River within the city's financial district, Pudong.

After we found our hostel we took a nap. Later, we decided to walk along the Bund then to the Yu Yuan Gardens before seeing the World Expo that evening. It was painstakingly hot that afternoon as we walked along the Bund. It must have been 100-degrees Fahrenheit. Forget global warming, it felt like global melting. We were pretty much baking. And what made matters worse was that - well, but of course - we had difficulty finding the Yu Yuan Gardens. It wasn't too pleasant walking aimlessly through the streets of Shanghai when we could literally fry an egg on the streets. And just as Jessica was about to reach her breaking point . . .

. . . we found the Gardens. However, we stopped to have lunch first as we were a bit hungry. I sure enjoyed my meal. I wish Jessica could say the same.

Real quick about the Yu Yuan Gardens. Simply put: it was lame. Really. Maybe because everyone seemed to speak so highly of it and it was always on the list of places recommended for tourists to see, that perhaps I had set too high of expectations. It wasn't anything I hadn't seen before, that's for sure. I guess it's pretty hard to top the botanical gardens from my hometown in St. Louis, Missouri.

And do you know what else was pretty lame? The World Expo. Yeah I said it. I know what you're thinking. "Huh? Wha-What? Shanghai's World Expo was lame? Is this true, Adam?" Indeed. I really wish it wasn't. But it truly, truly was.

Shanghai World Expo = Lame-O

Honestly, it really was a disappointment. There were, however, a lot of country pavilions and we probably didn't even see half of them. So keep that in mind, as I didn't see all of them. Basically, each country's pavilion was an enormous constructed building and, architecturally, all of them were designed differently. So from the outside the pavilions looked impressive. But as everyone knows, looks can be deceiving. After waiting in long lines under the scorching hot sun you would expect for there to be some sort of payoff. Why else would I purchase an expensive entrance ticket and wait in long lines in the heat? Isn't that why people don't mind paying for an expensive admission ticket and waiting in long lines in the heat for amusement parks, because of the payoff and the brief thrills that typically ensue?

The World Expo gives every country the chance to showcase their country to attract and increase tourism. And we all know that when a country experiences a high level of tourism, that people are typically spending their money in that country. And that's what its all about, right? Money. Well each country did a horrendous job promoting itself. Now I'm not saying I expected the same sort of thrills that I receive when riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, but at least attempt to blow my mind some sort of way. A little effort would've been nice and appreciated.

Now I understand that the theme of the World Expo was "Better City, better life," and that its purpose was to promote an alternative lifestyle that caters to the "going green" revolution. And that's fine. But the result, unfortunately, was that every country boasted how environmentally conscientious they are, and the proper steps they are taking to implement policies to increase ecological awareness and innovation. All of this was done in a very expensive (I heard that the US pavilion cost over $80 US million dollars) and boring way. The lack of creativity was a disgrace.

I will, however, give Iceland's pavilion its props. The people of Iceland did an amazing job. And yet, it was so simple. The pavilion's exterior resembled an ice cube and, after sweating profusely outside in line, it was a relief to walk inside where it was refreshingly cool, hence "ice"land. After the employees from the pavilion herded us inside like cattle, a movie was presented on a 360-degree projector screen with beautiful footage of Iceland's landscape and natural wonders. To top it off, they set the video footage to a sensational soundtrack.

Boom! I was sold.


Next: Shanghai 2 of 2

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