A Trip Back: China Part 7–Back to Shanghai for our Final Days

The time has come to conclude my recaps of my trip to China. It has been so fun re-living this great trip through these posts and I can’t wait to share more with you!

Motorcycle gloves
Farewell China, land of gloves glued to mopeds…

After a wonderful and busy few days in Beijing, it was time to pack up and head back to Shanghai for a few more days before I said goodbye to Anna. She had booked us passage on the overnight train and I expected it would be similar to the ride there….boy was I wrong. Anna had decided to be thrifty and save us some money by going with the less expensive tickets, this was fine by me and my limited graduate school budget. Once we boarded the train we were both shocked to see just how different the less expensive option was. For some reason I didn’t take any photos during this train ride, I don’t know if that was because it was late when we boarded and I wasn’t thinking or if I was just too scared to get my camera out, but I’ll do my best to describe it. The train car was essentially one large open car, no private rooms or seats like the last one. In fact there were no seats at all, just rows and rows of triple bunk beds. Yes, I said TRIPLE. Anna and I both got the luxury of the top bunk, which was not only extremely narrow but shook and swayed constantly with the motion of the train. Not the best sleep I’ve ever had as you can imagine. Here is a photo of an actual Chinese “hard sleeper” I found online, this is EXACTLY what our train looked like.

Train beds chris jacks.com
3 bunks high, no sheets/pillows/blankets, or seats 😦       Photo credit: ChrisJacks.com

The train was also filled mostly with men, many of whom were sitting around in various states of undress playing cards or reading. There was one bathroom for everyone to use, and lo and behold it had a squat toilet. Squat toilets are hard enough to use when stationary, imagine attempting to use one on a very jerky train. You should be able to imagine the state of the bathroom based on that information. Bleh. Since it was late when we boarded, Anna and I both stowed our suitcases and tried to sleep, eager to wake up back in Shanghai.

the bund Olympics pavilion

We survived the train ride and were excited to try out a new hostel during our second stay in Shanghai. Our new hostel was more expensive than our previous one on Pet Shop street, and felt like we were in a hotel. After making ourselves at home and catching a quick nap we woke up hungry and ready for another night out. Anna knew of an ex-pat bar that served half price hamburgers and we headed that way to meet a few of her friends. I’m not usually a burger lover but by this point in the trip I was more than ready for more familiar food. The burgers were good and were accompanied by live music from a Taiwanese band who specialized in American pop music. Solid.

 Band at Expat Bar

We met two British men at the bar who looked very similar (both rather short and balding), were quite intoxicated and who took it upon themselves to hop up on stage and provide backup vocals for the band. Highly entertaining.

Anna and funny Brit Funny Brit

Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without a trip back to BaBa (Number 88) where I happened to find more of my favorite “not quite correct but at least they tried hard” signs in English.

BaBa Sign
                “Prohibit the loud hubub”
BaBa Sign 2
“The bar is strictly prohibited drug trafficking in dangerous drugs”

The next morning we met up with Anna’s friend Vincent who to this day is one of the most flamboyant and colorful characters I’ve ever met.  If you’ve ever seen Kevin Lee on Bravo, this is EXACTLY what Vincent was like. Fabulous Vincent insisted on treating us to lunch at a very fancy establishment….Pizza Hut. Now lest you think I’m being snotty, I’ll have you know that Pizza Hut is very different and IS actually fancy in China. The food is relatively the same, but the prices are high by Chinese standards and the restaurants have chic decor and a maître d rather than plastic booths and employees in logo visors. One more weird reason to love China.

Vincent Fancy Pizza Hut

Vincent ordered for the table, which was customary since he was treating, and after much deliberation he chose the “Delicious Meat and Poultry” pizza, which he was sure we would love. I think it tasted about as good as it sounds.

 Pizza Hut

Continue reading

A Trip Back: China Part 4–Hangzhou and My First Chinese Train Ride

If you are new to my China series, catch up! Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I last left you after a night out on the town in Shanghai so it’s only appropriate to pick up with the morning after. Naturally, after a late night out, we didn’t feel 100% the next morning, so a trip to the corner fruit/liquor/cellphone stand for some sustenance was a necessity. Enter the most delicious, manna from Heaven, magical citrus fruit known to man….the pomelo.

Palmelo Palmelo 2

Isn’t it lovely? Ok, so that isn’t the greatest picture (late night, remember?) but I assure you that this is the best citrus fruit of them all. It’s kind of like a giant orange, only tastier and without the chewy white membranes some oranges have. It was so yummy, and sadly I have never seen one at any grocery stores back in the states. Maybe Whole Foods or somewhere really fancy carries them? If you know, please share because I would love to have another! The pomelo effectively brought us back to life and canceled out the late night Chinese McDonalds we indulged in, leaving us ready to bid adieu to Shanghai and head to the train station for our trip to Hangzhou.

Snow
Goodbye Snowy Shanghai!

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province in Eastern China and was the perfect location for a day trip on our way to Beijing. It is a beautiful city and home to West Lake, a large freshwater lake bordered by many temples, gardens and pagodas. It is a fairly large tourist destination and definitely worth a stop if you are nearby!

 Hangzhou 5

It was snowing when our train arrived so Anna and I grabbed some coffee and headed out to explore West Lake. We explored a few long winding walking paths around the lake and came upon this adorable trio of musicians.

 Band

We also spotted this guy with a pretty bad toupee who proceeded to hock a giant loogie directly in front of our feet. Bleh.

Toupee Loogi Guy

Public hygiene etiquette is a little more lax in China than what I am used to. It was not at all uncommon for people to spit directly on the floor of the subway or train as they are sitting next to you. You will learn to watch your step rather quickly around there.

Hangzhou 3 Courtyard Statues

There are many beautiful temples around the lake so we decided to explore one of the tallest pagodas that would give us a good vantage point. There was a brand new escalator leading up to it which seemed hilariously out of place.

Escalator up to temple Escalator up to temple 2

Once inside, we thawed out a bit and discovered  a beautiful display of wood carvings. They were behind glass so excuse the poor photos but look at that gorgeous detail. Amazing!

Wood Carving 2 Wood Carving

Continue reading