Friday, September 24, 2010

Lost in Translation: Shanghai, Part 3: 10 Days With My Cousin Traveling Through Macau, Hong Kong, and China.

After consuming a relatively inexpensive meal - so far, food in China is more expensive than in Southeast Asia - we thought we'd check out Shanghai's financial district, in Pudong. This area, and rightfully so, is Shanghai's claim to fame where the city's stunning skyline erects. At night, its unique architecturally built, modern buildings are lit up making for a fabulous photo-op.

To reach Pudong, we took the bizarre Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. Jessica and I assumingly thought that this alternative way to reach Pudong would be an informative and entertaining way to pick up some historical knowledge about the Bund, Pudong, and the construction of the tunnel while crossing the Huangpu River.


Instead, what we experienced was a bizarre Willy Wonka-esque tram ride through the tunnel. Feeling a bit flummoxed, we silently stared out the back window as we observed psychedelic lights flashing, eerie music being played, and a recording of someones voice who spouted random words. Again, all very bizarre. I was waiting for Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka to appear and begin singing.

"There's no earthly way of knowing

which direction we are going

There's no knowing where we are rowing

Or which way the river is flowing

Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a-blowing? . . ."

The next morning, Jessica and I checked out of our hostel. Jessica had booked two nights for us in a hotel where a few of her friends would be staying as well. The plan was to find and check into our hotel then meet up with her friends, Kirsten and Will, at the World Expo that evening.

Yes, we would be returning to the World Expo. We thought we'd give it another shot. And, as always - at least since I'd left Southeast Asia and joined forces with Jessica in China - we had difficulty finding our hotel. Shocker. According to Jessica's directions, once we exited the subway, our hotel was suppose to be a 10 minute walk away - but in what direction? So, yeah, we got lost. Big time.

And the heat! My god, the heat! It's a good thing I only wear Under Armour Shirts which . . . [ahem] . . . "showcases an ultra soft second-skin fit and delivers signature Under Armour Moisture Transport to pull sweat off the body and speed the natural evaporation process during activity." Furthermore, Under Armour Shirts contains anti-odor construction which, very importantly, "prevents the growth of odor causing microbes, ensuring your gear stays fresh in the worst heat." Simply put: It's the best brand of clothing in the . . . [speaking in a high pitch voice] . . . world! And especially for vagabonds, i.e., long-term travelers like myself. In times like these, I can't help but to remind myself to be thankful for wearing an Under Armour Shirt.

"Yeah, it's a good thing I'm wearing this type of t-shirt," I jokingly said. "Oh, shut up!" Jessica responded, whose heard it all before as her cotton t-shirt continued to absorb every last drop of sweat.

We continued to walk aimlessly through the streets in search of our hotel. After asking numerous people for help who, frustratingly, couldn't provide us with any, we were approached by a kind man who was able to direct us in the proper direction. He even wrote down the street we were looking for in Chinese characters just in case we would get lost again - which we inevitably did.

"Okay, we're not lost. Serenity now, serenity now," I repeatedly thought to myself in order to keep my sanity. "It's just a little bit further . . . it HAS to be."

At this point the heat was intensifying and our luggage was getting heavier. Jessica began to walk noticeably slower and began to trail behind me. She looked like she was going to snap - which she did, sort of. Once we walked to the end of the road and saw that our street was STILL nowhere in sight, Jessica leaned back and belted out, "Duolun Rooooad!"

We eventually found our hotel, thanks to the friendly man who wrote the street name in Chinese characters for us. What a life saver that was.

Later that evening at the World Expo, we met up Jessica's friends, Kirsten and Will, both of whom are from Scotland, who she'd met while teaching English in South Korea. The World Expo continued to be a dismal disappointment; however, being amongst the camaraderie of our Scottish friends led to an enjoyable evening. They even got us an invite to a party which was being held at the Angola Pavilion once the Expo closed, at around midnight. And what a party it was. We partied and danced to the rhythmic beats of Angola's gifted musicians. Attractive curvy, voluptuous Angolan woman would clear a section of the dance floor and break into traditional African dance with a blended mix of western hip-hop. Will, who drunkenly acknowledged that, coming from Scotland, it's a rarity to see African women, found himself 'cuckoo for cocoa puffs' sort of speak, and would frequently need assistance lifting his jaw off from the ground. He truly was in marvel of their beauty - and I got a real kick out of it.

"Ah! This is brilliant!" Will would say in a thick Scottish accent while holding onto his beer, "This is bloody brilliant!"

Indeed it was. The people from Angola knew how to throw a party.

The next day, as one can imagine, we got off to a late start. I'm sure we looked like a bunch of zombies, sluggishly and grunting around. We did manage to see the Propaganda Museum, however.

Efforts by Jessica to see the movie Aftershock, a drama about an earthquake that occurred in China in 1976, eventually fell through. Coincidentally though, as I was eating some street food near our hotel, the couple who owned the food stall where I was eating was watching a pirated copy of the movie, Aftershock. And they generously invited me to watch it with them as I ate.

The next morning before Jessica, Kirsten and Will departed back to South Korea, we went for a leisurely stroll through a park near our hotel. It was a lovely park, too, as there were many people relaxing, fishing, sleeping, playing badminton, playing music and singing. I was really impressed with the amount of people who gathered around to sing. Now, as I've mentioned in my previous blogs, I'm not the biggest fan of the Chinese language; however, when the language is sung instead of spoken, it sounds exceptionally pleasant.

Later that evening, Jessica and I said our goodbyes. The past 10 days with Jessica was quite the deviation, in terms of experiences, from my previous travels in Asia. Our trip was a bit chaotic. And despite how frustrating it was to get lost all the time - and believe me, it was frustrating - Jessica and I always managed to keep our humor. To the average bystander, however, I'd surmise that our laughter sounded a bit psychotic, but, nevertheless, we were laughing. I really enjoyed Jessica's company. It was quite the journey together. I was looking forward to seeing her in South Korea after my travels in China.


Next Stop: Xi'an, China

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