Shanghai: Bye bye Tokyo… Hello China!

I left Tokyo with the belly full of Turkish food, as my host Osmar was a chef and Turskish and was delighted to cook for me, as the last time. I spent a really nice time with him and I have to say it was amazing to meet him and give him some company. He had recently divorced from his Japanese wife and I suppose it can get hard to find your feet back when you are not in your country, your culture and all that. People around is always the best and in that sense, he was fantastic as well. Anyways, I said goodbye, again and took a monorail to Haneda airport, where I would take a flight to Shanghai and new exciting lands.

The transport system confused me, as always, but I found my way. Once there, it was a bit too early but the flight was quite late at night and I just only trying to make sure that I didn’t lose the last monorail. So I took a sit and relaxed a bit before doing the check in and head to the boarding gate. There, a Canadian Chinese guy sat down next to me and started a conversation. He was the kind of guy that I usually am: the person that chat up non-stop. Anyways, we chatted although he talked more than me for once and there I realised that I was a bit down as I always am after saying goodbye, specially so many of them. It is the “break-up syndrome” as I started calling it and always makes me push people away. Somehow, it makes me a bit anti-social. But this guy was nice and after getting paranoid with the “what if” (what if you cannot find a job after so long? Especially that one) he gave me a small package of peanuts and savoury cookies, right before saying bye to him. So sweet.

I made my way to the check in counter, security and boarding gate. It was early for the flight, but late at night. So I looked for two comfy seats in a row and made myself comfortable. I laid down and have an hour of sleep or so. I would say that I even got to snore. Maybe, I am not sure. Anyways, the alarm rang and 5 minutes after they were calling for boarding. When the flight attendant and the captain got to shut up, I got some sleep. Maybe two hours, but very low quality sleep. Surely that I didn’t snore here. By 5 am I have had 3 hours of sleep and I was cranky and tired. I passed security, immigration, got a lovely stamp in my passport with no questions asked, thank God because I was in no condition to answer anything properly and then I looked for two or three seats in a row where I could lay for a bit. I was decided not to leave the airport in this condition. It would be counterproductive, it was way too early to go to any hostel, and it would only have me getting lost or scammed or… No idea, I couldn’t think and the best and most safe thing to do was to get a bit of sleep and recover. Plus, I wasn’t even sure that the public transport was already working. So I slept until a group of Chinese people seating at the other side of the seats where I was, were speaking really really loud. I looked at my watch: an hour and a half of solid sleep. It had been a great nap and I was happy to continue my day. I couldn’t sleep anymore over there, anyways.

I took a public bus and I realised I was going to have a hard time not listening much English around… The bus took long but I wasn’t in a rush and it dropped me at the main railway station, which was close to my hostel. Now I only needed to find the place. The street was easy to find. But no idea about which building I was looking for. I kept looking at the address I had noted down and around me… Nothing. I tried my luck asking around and after showing the complete address; some locals pointed me towards a complex of buildings that were all looking the same. After going around a couple of times and several trials asking people that couldn’t understand me, a girl helped me out. She was on her way to the very building and even to the same floor, the 16th floor. She guided me until the door and on the way she asked where I was from, told me she had been to Ibiza and asked me to be careful because I was alone (the story of my life). When I was left alone before the door I realised there was no hostel signs or anything indicating that I was in the correct place. I knocked the door but nothing was happening. I panicked a bit because a couple of days before I had received an email sending me to another location because this place didn’t accept foreigners, which shocked me because in its name there is the word “international”. Then, the following day and before I could confirm anything they send another email to disregard the previous one. So, before the idea of leaving me with no place to stay or having to move to a new one, a started knocking the door as if it needed to be brought down. 15 minutes after, someone opened it for me. After a while I noticed she was just upstairs sleeping in the dorm, so that’s how hard I knocked. She led me upstairs, showed me a bed, told me to wait with signs and said something about the boss coming later. After half an hour in the room I started figuring things out: all the girls where Chinese, probably staying there long-term, definitely nobody could speak English and there was not going to be signs of any boss any soon. In the room, there was food, plates, a rice cooker, a kettle…Everything was too weird. I got sheets to make my own bed and also got the Wi-Fi password from somewhere in the wall. I couldn’t figure the rest, so I asked the girl that opened the door for me if she had keys or something to open the door and after 5 minutes trying to understand each other I got a number that happened to be the password for the door. By then, I thought I had everything I needed and since the situation was so weird I decided to go for a walk and get some fresh air and see something around the city.

Not many steps I had to take until my walk took me to see a dead person dead in the middle of the street with the police checking his ID and people walking and stopping by. I decided the day was not entirely ruined but it wasn’t looking very well either. After a while, I got to some temple but I decided that I didn’t want to pay because there will be so many other temples…And I have already seen lots of Chinese temples, especially in Malaysia. I kept walking, got to a nice park full of sculptures and stayed in the shadow looking at old people practicing Taichi. After a good while, I got to some other park and a museum but I was too tired for any museum and took the way back to my weird home. Where everything was waiting for me exactly as I left it. So I laid down in my bed, ate apples and waited for it to be a decent time to fall sleep to not mess up my sleep any further. The decent time was around 8pm. Well done.

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The highlight of the day: the smell in this shop where there was…HAM!!!!!! Cured ham!!

Next morning I woke up with more energies and I got ready to explore the city a bit more. I also got to “talk” with one of the girls in the room and find out who I had to pay the price for the stay. An older lady came in and brought little ribs for everyone and offered me as well. Yummy. Then, she offered me some pills from a big can and well, I was all in, so I said yes again. She gave me two and I thought they couldn’t be any harmful but I was wondering what they were. I chewed them and knew immediately they were good and then I got to see the can: Vitamin C. Lovely, I don’t want to catch a cold with this…heat!

On my way out, I had my first truly Chinese food in China in one of those places where nobody understands you and then, I visited the museum. I was lucky enough to get there by lunch time; otherwise I would have had a huge queue and probably would have missed it. I was bigger than expected and took a long while. After the museum, I went to a place called the city of God. The first I saw was stinky tofu and the smell was intense… Then I understood why it is called like that. The place was crowded with tourists and I still managed to found a temple that I would visit this time. I have to say I didn’t enjoy it because of the humongous amount of people everywhere, running from place to place, from God to God, from statue to statue.

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Zig zag bridge and tea house in the city of God

Afterwards, I had heard of a garden to visit and I crossed the zigzag bridge, also crowded with people (the engineer inside me asked herself if the bridge would be designed for so many people, seriously worrying) and visited the mentioned gardens, that didn’t impressed me very much but they were less crowded and nice to walk around. The buildings were typical Chinese, as the rest of the huge shopping complex where this was situated.

A few steps later, I realised the place was full of shops with lots of stuff, but one that I was particularly interested: a scarf. I was in need of a nice scarf to cover my head in a couple of weeks and this was the place to get one. I tried several ones and for the first time in a lot of time considered colours, patterns and others, checking which one was suiting me the best. Also, for the first time in my life was considering which colour to cover my hair was suiting best to my face. I decided on a blue one with a flowery pattern and got it. At the same time, I was trying to think how would I use it back home, but I couldn’t really remember my “normal clothes”.

My next visit was The Bund, or the shore at the other side of the river with views to all the cool buildings. It was amazing just to be there and look at them and as much as I wanted to cross and walk around these buildings, I had no energies left. So I sat down to wait for sunset and to see the buildings light up. I was sure it would be as amazing as usual in these cases. I spotted a space between two girls and a group of men and I sat down. 5 minutes later I had the men talking to me in Chinese, quite enthusiastic about something. I knew what was coming after: Picture time. They asked to take a picture with me, with the help of the two girls next to me who were translating half way for me. Once the group was gone, the girls asked me a couple of easy questions and wished they had better English to talk to me. And then they also asked for a pic with me. Happy to do it, whatever the reasons behind it are.

Night came and the buildings lighted up showing their best. I loved it. I loved to see that, to walk along the shore with those views. And then I ended up in between a horrible huge mass of people. People, people everywhere pushing you to follow more people. But I was on my way home.

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Big cities always create their own shows

Once I got to my place, I finally could pay for the accommodation and got in bed until the next day, when I woke up to pack my stuff and go to my next destination, Hangzhou. The last strange thing happened, though. There was only one toilet and shower, all together, for everyone staying there. And there was this guy who had been there forever, not even locking the door, even though I had showed up already a few times because I needed to use the toilet. As he was taking so long and the last time I checked he was putting some hair remedy on his head (I could see his concerns going bold), I decided to ask him to use the toilet for just one minute. He kind of understood what I was saying and then invited me to use the squat toilet while he pointed the shower and the curtain. He was inviting me to pee while he was showering or washing his head or whatever he was going to do, as the normal thing. I couldn’t believe. And I decided to avoid the situation and keep waiting, because I had no intentions of doing that at all.

After my last shock in this weird place and getting all my stuff ready, I was ready to take a metro to the South railway station to take a train to Hangzhou. The metro was quite easy, I think after Tokyo there cannot be anything more complicated. Although I never got lost. But to take the train it took me a while. Especially because after asking different people I realised that people is not helpful at all. But I managed okay, after getting in the wrong compartment I understood the way it was working and not that I understood what it was written in the ticket, but I started figuring things out by myself. I was on my way out of Shanghai!

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