The joys of the familiar

It’s been a long time since I saw people I know, 5 months since my parents came to India, 3 months since I said goodbye to the Madventure team for the last time, so I really had things to look forward to in China. Yes, I have met awesome people since, and awesome people who I plan to see again, but it’s still not the same as people you know.

Alix and Emily, old friends from school, had made plans to meet me in Shanghai, so getting there was my goal for the first half of my Chinese visa. On the way I got a message from my cousin Jon, inviting me to stay with him in Guangzhou – a bit of an odd detour from Chengdu to Shanghai, but worth the effort (and like I said, it worked well with Zhangjiajie) Jon’s currently living here with his girlfriend Jen teaching English and being paid very nicely indeed, with a free apartment no less – it’s sort of tempting to do the same but I’m not sure I have the right disposition to be a teacher, even if I get the joy of meeting Chinese children with hilarious English names like Sherlock Holmes and King Kong. I’d like to say traveling is in my blood, but since Jonathan’s been traveling and teaching for years now (Yemen, Syria, Egypt etc) and I’m starting to daydream about going home and buying coffee tables I don’t think I’m even in the same league.

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Jen, Jon and me by the Guangzhou tower.

I am not in the least bit ashamed to say I did absolutely no sightseeing while I was in Guangzhou. In fact during the days while they were at work I pretty much only left the apartment to buy my train ticket. We went out to eat in the evenings (and they refused to let me pay, which I was feeling guilty about until Jen mentioned that one of the other perks of her job was having a meal allowance so all our food was paid for), but otherwise this was pretty much the extent of what I did:

1. Catch up on sleep
2. Bum around on the internet
3. Wash and tumble dry EVERYTHING! Then because there were no hostel owners around to judge me I washed my stinky shoes as well
4. Watched counterfeit DVDs (I asked – it is apparently very difficult to buy legal copies in China). Got about 2 thirds of the way through the Great Gatsby before it stopped working, which was nice because it meant I could pretend it had a happy ending. Yay, they got back together and Daisy leaves Tom and nobody dies! La dee da
5. Enjoyed the kitchen facilities. Oh so very much. I might have hugged a frying pan. I had a cheese omelette the moment I arrived. With real cheddar from an import supermarket. Oh glorious day

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Look! More people dancing! This was on the way home from ill advised pig trotters I think – I feel pretty bad for recommending these, it seems whatever I ate in Chiang mai was not this.

So, the dreaded time arrived to leave Guangzhou. Maybe you think that I dreaded it because I would miss my cousin, or more honestly, that I would miss my cousin’s supply of cheese. Oh no, there was so much more. I was preparing myself for the worst journey so far. Overnight. Sixteen hours. Standing room only. Crap. Why is there only one daily train to Shanghai when it’s so fully booked days in advance?? I have never looked so longingly at a hard seat to sleep on. There were an enormous number of people standing and sitting in the aisle, made all the more awkward by people constantly walking up and down for no discernable reason, and food and drinks trolleys running over our toes every ten minutes. To be fair, the locals on the train were incredibly nice, offering me free food and drink (which I sipped very slowly because I didn’t fancy fighting my way to the toilet), and playing musical chairs every few hours to give people a chance to sit down, but I didn’t want to be doing that all night so I eventually swallowed all my pride and crawled underneath a seat to lie down on the floor like a street urchin. I think I may have scored about an hour’s sleep, in ten minute intervals.

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All worthwhile after making it to our hotel in Shanghai and meeting Alix and Emily, equally sleepless after their flight! After a quick drink (orange juice, because we’re so rock and roll), we all started our holiday off in style by going to bed for several hours.

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Eventually waking up, we stumbled blinking into the light to go and walk along the Bund, convenient walking distance from the hotel. The Bund is supposedly one of the must-not-miss highlights of Shanghai. Hmm. It’s a road of old (not very old) buildings with a view over the water to other buildings. I’m not sure why all the guidebook highlights seem to be buildings. Nice view I guess, but… eh.

Fortunately if, like me, you did not inherit the architecture gene, the Bund is also home to the unbridled kitsch that is the sight seeing tunnel. This is…(wait for it)… a tunnel with lights in. That’s it. On the other side is Ripley’s believe it or not and the 3D magic house. We opted for the magic house which promised realistic 3D photo opportunities. I wouldn’t honestly recommend either of these sights if you’re in a serious mood, but if you fancy something hilariously rubbish you know where to go.

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