I'm currently writing this while waiting for my breakfast to come ( it showed up probably 30min later)
it is now 11:05am and i am in the bar at the Soho International youth hostel in Shanghai. We are having a late start today and I am very tired. As you can tell from the title, we went out dancing last night, well technically this morning. But like always I will start from yesterday morning.
- Disclaimer* it was a long eventful day so prepare yourself for reading a small novel. We woke up early again, worked on our blogs and packed up our belongings and headed to breakfast. Checkout was at 12, so we were really rushing to get to the food and back in time. We chose a restaurant that we had seen the day prior, it looked 'expensive' as in it cost ¥30 for lunch and a drink, that's roughly $5. Our waitress looked about 13, and had a huge gash along her arm, it was the sort of thing that makes you happy to have your hepatitis A shot. She didn't speak any English, but we squeaked by with the Chinese I knew. I got a noodle dish, super yummy. I also ordered hot ginger plum tea. It was delicious. We scarfed our food and ran back to the hostel, and checked out with 2 minutes to spare. This is where things get interesting.
I will try and upload a photo later of the route we had to walk. Try to picture this though. The main shopping center in New York, thousands of people, and a tall white girl with a backpacking backpack bigger then she is. I thought the staring was bad before. But I don't think anything could compare to how uncomfortable the staring was yesterday. You know how back in the states if you catch someone staring at you they quickly advert their eyes? Well not in China, they will just stare harder. I'm talking about start staring at you from 20feet away, stare at you as they walk by and turn around and continue to stare at you. Now multiply that by a few hundred, for about 45 minutes. I wanted to hide by the time we made it to the hostel. I'll be honest the staring wasn't the only thing that made it an uncomfortable walk. My.bag.is.so.heavy. I need to start dumping things or packing differently. But something has to change, I haven grapefruit size bruises on either hip bone and can hardly lift my arms my shoulders hurt so bad. The life of a weakling, I know, it's ok to scoff.
Anyways, the hostel we are in is very neat. I think my favorite part is the entrance. City blocks in China are not like they are in the states. They are....layered? I don't know how to explain it, but there could be building behind building behind building. It's like a city iiiinside a city. So our hostel is the second layer into the block, which means there is a cool concrete walk way and lofty overhangs.
After we got to our hostel and settled in a little bit we decided to go to the Yu Yuan gardens. We mapped it out and hopped on the metro. We ended up on Huaihai street, the very ritzy area of Shanghai. It was about a 30 minute walk from the metro to the gardens. We first had to find them, like everything else in China that can present a sort of challenge. The street signs here for example say "E N.suzhou W" meaning you walk one direction you are on East Suzhou road, but there is no exact line (that I can find so far) where it changes from east to west, north to south etc. So this induced a lot of wandering in the general direction, hoping we were on the right street. We eventually asked and old Chinese man where the gardens were and he pointed down an alley. Errrrr......I don't know if I want to do this or not, but he was very persistent it was the quickest way, so we went down the alley. It was awesome, it wound around this old wall and there were families playing fireworks in the streets and people cooking outside, it's not so much an alley but its own small town. We popped out on the other side in front of the most stereotypical Asian buildings. It would make sense because it was the tourist shopping center, pretty much a Chinese grand bazaar, but decked out for the New Year. And the food, oh the food was awesome!!
Lanterns everywhere!!! So gorgeous, so packed, and sooooo loud. You wound in between these buildings that would open up into huge courtyards with giant, and I mean HUGE things that looked like parade floats. They were in the shapes of rabbits, and snakes and other Chinese zodiac. Oh and there was a Starbucks and a Dairy Queen inside. Someone wanted me to take their photo with their child, but I think she was scared of me. We wandered around there for about an hour, and eventually made it to the gardens. They were closed. Haha
So...while wandering down the street trying to figure out what else to do we pass a hop on hop off tour bus. ¥30 for a 24 hour pass. Awesomeeeee. We got on and drove though the city. Most everything was closed for the new year so it was more fun to just sit and look through a bus window while our feet got a break. The bus however stopped at the furthest spot from our hostel as possible, so that kinda turned around to bite us in the ass. The last stop was the Bund. We had been there the day before but it was snowing and really cold, and....empty. Today however? Packed!!! (Or my idea of packed, I'm playing catchup a bit, and this crowd was nothing compared to the crowds today).
It was turning dark and we decided to head back to the hostel, the long 45 min walk. We walked up Nanjing road, the biggest shopping street in China. By this time it was dark, and there were fireworks and celebrations everywhere, it was awesome.
By the time we were a few blocks from home it was almost 7, and dark. I'll admit, I was a little nervous. Our hostel isn't on the busiest street, and we would walk along the empty sidewalk near the river. It reminds me of movie scenes like stroll through Paris next to a river or something, but this was our first time at night and I couldn't help but feel like it was dangerous. We were trying to figure out our plans for later, Misty wanted to walk back to the bund to see the fireworks but I was scared to be out that late. However when I asked the front desk person about walking at night she replies..."shanghai, it's safe. No problems, it's safe." No problems, that has become my favorite saying, there's no problems. Hakunamatata much?
We needed to figure out what to do for the next few days however. Stay in shanghai or visit another city. We were torn between Guilin and Beijing, and they couldn't be further from each other. We tried to do both, but that resulted in a projected $500 traveling cost, with trains, planes, automobiles, and hostels. Neither one of us could afford that. So we splurged on an early flight for Beijing for $100. We are planned to leave on the 12th. The hostel we have reserved is only $5 a night. It is a mixed dorm though. I am curious to see what that will be like.
While sitting in the bar area of the hostel trying to figure this out we made lots of new "friends." Or misty did. Haha this guy from San Francisco was...on something? It was honestly hard to tell, he could've just been really drunk but he was talking to misty earlier and she was like ok I'm going to do my blog now, have a good night. He would return every so often and say "add this to your blog, you know what I'm say'n?" .....no, no we don't. He had friends too and they invited us to go see a Chinese comedian with them, "give us something to really blog about." Our spidey senses were tingling. Don't worry mom we didn't go.
However, we did meet three really cool people. One, Maggie, she is approx late 20's, Chinese and staying on the floor above us. Her friends Ben and Robin were from Manchester and English teachers in a nearby city. They were really cool and told us they were going to a dive bar called DaDa. We said we would think about it and decided to go. They were right. It was a total dive and FULL of westerners. I couldn't help but wonder how they found this place, it was down an alley and not near anything touristy. As we chatted with others we realized most had lived in Shanghai for years. It was a not local local bar. I can dig it. Ben, Robin, and Maggie had brought along other friends as well. A couple! The girl, Julie was from Norway and her boyfriend, Jean, was French but from England. They were going on an around the world trip. They were both film production graduates from a fine arts school in England. They are probably some of the coolest people I have ever met. Julie had a septum piercing, lip piercing and tattoos. Jean had long hair and numerous tattoos. The bar got kinda lame after a while so we hopped in cabs and headed to No.88. According to Maggie clubs are just starting to become popular in China. But this one? It was hop'n. no pun intended. There was free coat check, no cover charge, and dancing, oh boy was there dancing. It wasn't like the clubs I had been in in Europe where people just bought a table, people we actually dancing. There was techno, and K-pop, J-pop and old school American music. For example we were dancing to "woop there it is." I haven't heard that since I watched Space Jam. We all danced in a big group which was nice, because being white and tall is like being a bright light in a field of bugs. They stare and slowly get closer and closer. But like misty put it, once they get near you they freeze. There was one I tried to dance with, he got wide eyed and backed up against the wall and looked like he was going to bolt. Whatever, we still had a blast. We left at about 3am, split a cab with Maggie and headed home. The cab cost about ¥20 so less then $2 for each of us. Cool.
I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. Until our new roommates woke up at 7am to move out. Oh dorm life.