Day 3 – China Travel Journal
Sunday, April 14, 2013 – Shanghai
This city is huge, trying to see everything is not possible. Luckily it seems a lot of attractions are relatively close. Because of the language barrier, you feel lost, swept out with the tide. Everyone could be laughing at you, you’d never know.
It’s loud here. They love to beep their horns for longer than necessary. Even in crowded arcades, the shop owners blare music or set those robot barking dogs out front. The cacophony, mixed with the ever-present huge crowds, can be a total sensory overload.
The fashion. Heels are rather popular. You’ll see women doing their best to teeter along. But really, sometimes there’s a complete disregard for matching colors, patterns, and styles which makes for unfortunate ensembles. Maybe they just don’t care. That can be freeing. It helps that most everyone is skinny. Also, even though it’s in the 70s during the day, people dress like it’s winter. Hardly any short skirts or shorts, and if so, they wear tights underneath. Unless this place is unbearable during the summer, it seems funny that the natives are wearing wool coats when I’m sweating in jeans and a T-shirt.
There are no “Excuse me’s” in this culture. Everyone shoves their way through, trying to get wherever they need to go as quickly as possible. And never any space, always a tight squeeze.
Frank arrived around 10:00, from Munich via Helsinki. He dropped his stuff and we headed for Old Town and the famous Yuyuan Garden. There were people teeming all around it, but once inside it was quiet and there wasn’t the omnipresent feeling of overcrowding.
After the garden, Frank lead us through Old Town, which is like stepping back in time. Shanty-like buildings and filthy, narrow passageways. There was every animal part to eat, but we managed to scout out some delicious vegetable dumplings and cold beer. We also split a bag of steamed buns filled with greens. It really hit the spot. It could be all that MSG, but hey, it tastes great!
We emerged from the labyrinth of Old Town by the building full of tailors, the tissue market. Chris got fitted for a suit, which at 800 RMB, or about 120 USD, is a good price. They began whirring around Chris, taking measurements.
After all that beer at our back alley lunch, I really had to pee. I was led to a room by a friendly woman. It was a stinky, small, dirty room with 2 stalls. I entered one, and there it was: a long, open trench filled with shit and piss. My first dreaded encounter with a public toilet in China. There are Western toilets at the hostel and at the restaurants we’ve been too so far.
Trying to balance my purse, I pulled down my pants and balanced while sticking my ass over the trench, hoping to God I didn’t get piss all over myself. It was a good thing I practiced squatting back home, that’s what saved me. Good thing too I had tissues with me, there was no toilet paper. Of course there was no soap.
Now I have survived my first scary toilet encounter. Never take for granted knowing how to relieve yourself properly.
We had dinner at a local chain, Vegetarian Lifestyle. I love the name. At 195 RMB total, about 31 USD, it was probably the most expensive meal we’ll have here, according to Frank. We ordered eight dishes and stuffed ourselves. I adored the stuffed fried taro root and the “cowpeas.”
After that, we made our way to the observation tower of the SWFC, the Financial Center. The lights of the Bund are not on all night, so you have to make sure to go observe as soon as possible after nightfall. We decided to pay to go to the very top, the 100th floor, the top of the “bottle opener.” It cost about 30 USD a person. There are uniformed guides literally every few feet, always directing tourists, even though it’s perfectly obvious where you’d go.
The views are absolutely mind-boggling. The vivid blinking night lights really give you an appreciation for the size of the metropolis. I stared for an hour. There are glass panels on the floor which freaked me out. You can see through all the way down to the cars on the street.