hong kong shanghai and hangzhou
originally my family was to take this trip with me. but due to some problems they cancelled their trip. i went ahead with it though. of course right before my trip nato decides to bomb the chinese embassy in belgrade to make my journey a little more difficult(insert conspiracy theory here).
i had only been to the old hk airport in the past so this
was my first proper trip to hk. hk seemed like the love child of vancouver and new york city. i loved it. it was weird to be somewhere where i could hear so much english. and i was not used to seeing so many foreigners. but then my hotel was in a more touristy area next to kowloon park just off of nathan road.
after checking in i mainly wondered around nathan road. i also wandered up to hankow street (i think its called) near kowloon park. i found a cd shop there someone had told me about. it specialized in all kinds of great live bootlegs. pretty swell then i went into hmv and knew i was going to be in trouble. they had a ton of stuff that is impossible to find in taipei even at avant garden.
the next day i took the mtr(subway) over to hk island. the funny thing is whenever i would take the mtr i would end up gettin on where other foreingers were already on. on hk island i just wandered around going into any shops that looked interesting. i also took this long outdoor escalator that i think is the same one featured in wong kar wai's film "chunking express". up on hollywood rd. i found a used english bookshop that someone had told me about. great to just browse through books like that again. in the end all i ended up buying were some used cds.
when i returned back to my hotel i had a message from my friend ernest. so i called him back and we planned to meet a few hours later. we of course went cd shopping. we both did a little damage. i ended up getting the following in case anyone is curious: "soft landing on the moon" by the pizzicato five,"antique 96" by the pizzicato five, "oil on canvas" by japan,"chaps" by the monochrome set,"alive not dead" ep by the sun and the moon,"bubblegum perfume" by felt, "brain to midi" by kraftwerk, "incredibly strange music volume 1"(various obscure songs to go along with the re/search book of the same name.),"volume 2" by bauhaus, "no music is too taboo" by united future organization, and i accidentally bought a coil cd i already have but hopefully ernest is going to exchange it for me.
on my last night in hk i caught some show on tv showing a big memorial for the victims of the embassy bombing. it didn't really help with the anxiety i had about the next stage of my trip as before i left everyone kept telling me all these horror stories they had read in the press.
when i arrived in shanghai my friend tiger was there to meet me and we went to our hotel first thing. it wasn't too far from the airport and from the window we could see a few big department stores and lots of traffic. not far from here was this weird looking tube elevated in the street. a policemen would direct traffic from it. but he didn't just direct traffic but marched back and forth in
his little capsule like a soldier lost in a twilight zone episode or some sort of performance art.
my first couple of days in shanghai we mainly wandered around and looked at some of the city and the architecture. we took the subway to the people's square. the subway really wasn't that foreigner friendly. the stops themselves had english but the list inside the subway did not. the announcements over the speakers did have english but sometimes the announcement would come as the doors closed. and most of the signs within the individual stations had no english or pinyin.
at people's square we saw a museum shaped like a big rice pot and the shanghai opera house which is brand new. the square isn't as large as tiananmen square. but nice nonetheless.
after a few days we took the train to hangzhou. this was a beautiful city. situated on a giant lake called west lake. in hanzhou they grow famous tea. and there are lots of temples and a pagoda or two there. this is also where the story of the white snake takes place. this story has been made into a few films (there's a hk one called green snake) and a beijing opera. the basic story is about how these supernatural beings (snakes) after 1,000 years are able to become human. one of them marries but an evil monk can tell that she is a snake and tells her husbund and he has her drink wine that is poisonous to snakes to see if she is indeed one. she is revealed to be one and a fight ensues with her and the evil monk and he imprisons her underneath a tower in hanzhou. her son eventually frees her though. so that is the basic gist as far as i know. i picked up an english translation of the story in shanghai. so after i read that i will have a better idea how accurate what i just wrote is.(i've since read the book. and it isn't her son but her companion green snake who saves her.)
one day we went to various sites around the lake taking pictures and going to various scenic sites. we went on this walk in the mountains to a little village where you can relax and drink tea. well on our walk we met this young woman who invited us to her house for some tea. she was one of the tea growers.she knew a little english. we met her grandmother who was 81 but looked much younger and she just beamed. we talked about tea. and she said the embassy bombing was something all chinese people are paying close attention to.the tea they grow is considered the best in china. most of it is sent to beijing for the government's personal use. but what is left over they are able to sell. it was nice to see that some people weren't so paranoid of americans. of course she was making money off me but after the
bombing i could never tell if people were staring at me because i was a foreigner and so stood out or if they thought i was american scum and wanted to kill me.
one of the last things we did was go to the soul's retreat temple. this is a big buddhist temple where a lot of movies are filmed. we saw the monks worshipping. you weren't allowed to take pictures at the altars themselves.it was weird to see the monks selling the incense playing a gameboy when there were no customers. in addition to the temple there were little caves and carvings in a mountain. some of these were missing hands or pieces because during the cultural revolution people tried to destroy them. we decided to climb the stairs to the top of the mountain. we were a little disappointed when we got to the top and there wasn't anything really up there. i was hoping there would be more carvings or sculptures. but nothing. though there was a nice view of hangzhou from there. and the rocks were kind of interesting not to mention the snake like limbs of the trees. so it wasn't a complete disappointment.
on our last day in hangzhou we decided to take a bus to the train station. while we were crowding to get on the bus i felt a hand in my pocket. i ran after this guy and when i stopped him he said what? and i realized he hadn't gotten my wallet because it was still in my pocket. my friend tiger heard him speak and said he wasn't from hangzhou but from the west. where apparently a lot of theives come from. at least that is the stereotype. regardless it put me in a bad mood.
back in shanghai we met up with one of tiger's friends who is a math teacher. her and her 17 year old son came to see us. the son's english was really good. especially considering he hasn't studied conversation. he wants to go into the foreign service. one night we all took a walk down nanjing road. this is a big shopping street in shanghai. at night they close it to traffic and you can see people roller skating and just strolling along looking at all the lights. at the end of the street is the river we went up on its banks to look at the view. across the river you can see the tv tower they are building and other new buildings. while we were standing there i felt something in back of me and i am pretty sure it was another pickpocketer. but this time it was a little kid! theives definately seem more apparent in shanghai than here in taipei. throughout the night the son kept asking me different questions about americans and what they think about different things. but i'm a poor canidate for telling how most americans think about certain things especially since i have been living in taipei i'm not up on how different people view things in the states. at
least not first hand. but still i enjoyed answering his questions the best i could.
in all i had a good trip. and furthermore it accomplished what i really needed. a break from my job. but i still found it stressful with all the planning before hand and then a lot of that falling through. and the bombing really didn't help things much. this trip i didn't meet as many local people. and meeting local people is what i find the most interesting about going to china. because from them you get a taste of real china and not the china portrayed in the media or films or what have you. but with my small reservations i am still glad i was able to finally see shanghai and even happier to have experienced hangzhou.