The Lester File

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Would You like to Hear a Story?

Last Week, Jennifer, Sandrine, and I went on a most action-packed adventure that begins with a 12 hour overnight bus ride from Wuhan to Shanghai. You see, it was Labor Day or May Day here in China and everybody had a week off. It used to be one day, but they extended the time off for the whole week, which means that every able-bodied (and ill-bodied man), woman, and child in China was on the move. Trains were booked the minute they went on sale and all the famous tourist attractions were bombarded by a massive influx of bodies... including ours. Truth be told, we are all very accustomed to the masses surrounding us, the knowlege of such a constant presence is a very comforting one... until that presence hawks a lugee or blows a snot rocket on the sidewalk where you happen to be walking. But I digress...

Now, m
ost foreigners living in China tend to have the good sense (or lack of funds) to stay at home during the May holidays, but we were on a mission. Meghan, Kate, Duff, Lindsay, and two new friends went to Yunnan (one of the most beautiful provinces in China) to get some fresh air, while we headed north where some of the most significant modern historical events in China occurred. We slept on a sleeper bus all night then arrived in Shanghai at around 8am the next morning. Groggy and a bit out of sorts... we tried to figure out where we were. Shanghai is China's most lucrative economic district and has many Western comforts that we had forgotten to miss... like cheese sticks... mmmm. However, Shanghai is still immistakably Chinese with street vendors and markets selling bootlegged and fake name-brand merchandise ready and waiting for a savvy haggler to drive a deal. Its one of our favorite games to see just how low some venders are willing to go before they get upset. Of course, this is a game only played when we see something we want because it would be rude to make them go so low and then not pay. I... am still sort of learning this game... not getting very good at it though.
Upon arriving in Shanghai, we hopped in a cab and followed the Lonely Planet (famous travel book) to the Captain Hostel where we had 3 beds reserve
d in a dorm style room. (60 yuan per night = $7.50) We set our bags down, maybe changed?, and then began our tour of the city. We started with the Bund, which is a the riverwalk and financial district on the West Bank of the Huangpu River. It was described in the Planet as the Wall Street of China and it is indeed very impressive. Across the river is the famous space-age looking weather needle seen in the background of my picture. At one point we began searching for a legendary place that we'd heard about from a trusted friend. It was a place that promised abundant knowledge and sustenance the likes we had not known for many many months. I speak, of course, of a Barnes and Noble. We searched both sides of the river and ended up in the largest and emptiest shopping mall in the city. We walked around the city for hours and hours until we could stand it no longer and grabbed a cab and STILL the mythical bookstore remained elusive. We found a quiet place in the mall to order a drink and wait for the lights of the city to come on and then we returned, exhausted, to the hostel. However, we decided we should venture out and see more of the city at night. So, we went to a jazz club called No. 5 and it was actually very good. The next evening we went out to one of the city's night spots and found a nice little tapas restaurant. Can you imagine? We ordered a small appetizer and then I had a steak... wow... i can almost still taste it.

Over the next few days we visited a number of historical and religious sites including Dr. Sun Yat-sen's former residence and the Jade Buddha temple where there were a number of interesting worshippers performing various acts of prayer.

On the evening of May 1, we boarded a small cruise ship for another 12 hour overnight journey to the island of Putoushan and stayed for 2 nights. This island is the sight of some of China's oldest Buddhist temples as well as some of the newest ones. It is also apparently a military base from the amount of ships, soldiers, and the strange "off limits" area at the top of the mountain. We eventually made our way up to that sight to take pictures from the absolutley breathtaking view that layed out before us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice writing... for a GIRL. Kidding... But what about all the important sites???

(less well known as Bulaide)

10:49 AM  

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