Me on the Bund
In front of the Bund all lit up at night.
Well, I don't even know where to start. I suppose that adding "chrono" to the beginning of "logical" would make the appropriate word; however, there's so much to say that it will be difficult to stick to that. I have returned from my escapades in Shanghai and Huang Shan. Granted, I returned the Sunday before last (May 4), but I had to rent an apartment, do some work for my internship, final exams, presentations, and projects. so it has taken me a while to post this. My apologies (especially to you, Andy - I will be make this my first priority over my grades next time). That being said, I hope that I am able to paint this picture as well as I had planned 2 weeks ago. Shanghai
When people say, "I love Shanghai," they're not kidding. I kept hearing how amazing the city was and I did not know whether to believe it or not. Sure, I figured it would be great, but I did not want to get my hopes up too much for a let-down. So much for that - I had been looking forward to seeing Shanghai since I arrived in Beijing. Seeing pictures online
The Brush and Brush Holder
So, the rock on the right has one tree on top of it and that is supposed to be the Calligrapher's brush. Then the 5-pointed rock on the left is supposed to be a brush holder because that's what one looks like.
and hearing stories, I was taken in by all of the lights (if you conduct any Google search for Shanghai, you will see what I'm talking about). Needless to say now, I was excited.
We jumped on an overnight train to Shanghai on Friday night with plans to stay in Shanghai through Tuesday and then head west to Huang Shan through the following Sunday. Funny story, you can only buy one way train tickets in China sometimes, so you have to wait until you get to your destination to buy return tickets. This fact was a little unsettling because China's main break from work and school began on Tuesday night - right when we were supposed to leave for the mountain. We were taking a few days off of class for Shanghai.
Anyways, we arrived in Shanghai on Saturday morning with our backpacking backpacks, the guidebooks, and the smell of sitting on a train for 14 hours. We decided that our first stop would be the People's square/park because we knew which subway line to take and it was an appropriate event to kill time before the hotel check-in. The people's park is what it is - a
Cards in the Park
park where people hang out. Many people practice tai chi, walk around, play the erhu, play cards, etc among the manicured greenery. I don't mean to sound like I am knocking this because it is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours or the afternoon. My friends and I enjoyed it by walking around and running into a group of Chinese men playing cards on stone tables and stools. Naturally, I sat down to play with them. What did you expect?! My friends and I busted out a game of Rummy and ofcourse, the crowd began to gather around the foreigners joining them to play cards. After they watched 2 rounds and only slightly seemed to catch on, I decided to explain the rules of the game with my broken Chinese. I think I got the point across enough so that they could follow what was happening. It was very difficult to speak with them because there is a specific Shanghai dialect in the city and not too much Mandarin. The Shanghai dialect and Mandarin are very different. There were times where someone said the simplest thing to me and I had no absolute idea what was happening.
Because of this difference, in my opinion and hearing from others who have studied in Shanghai, it is not the city to try and study Mandarin in.
After about 2 hours in the park, we walked over to grab lunch and find the hotel. Our hotel was right on the Bund (I'll tell you what that is later) across from the Aurora building. We checked in, etc and then met up with one of my friends' friends. They are high school students in Shanghai. We all took a ferry across the Huang Pu river to the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Pearl Tower is one of Shanghai's main attractions. Naturally, we had to go up it, so we went up to the ball that was 2nd from the top so that we could see the city. If we had gone up any higher, we would not have been able to see through the clouds/pollution, I don't know which. It was pretty cool up there; picture being at the top of any other tall attraction (i.e: Sears Tower, Eiffel Tower, etc). Right after this we had dinner, went back to the hotel to nap for an hour or so and then
Riding around the Botanical Gardens.
headed back out.
We decided just to hang out on Nanjing Lu and the Bund that night. Nanjing Lu, or Nanjing Road, is filled with some high-priced stores, restaurants, hotels, and a lot of lights. Essentially, it is everything that any tourist wants on one street. It is pretty cool to just walk around and hang-out. So, that's what we did. We eventually made our way back down to the bund, with Haagen Dazs in hand. (*Sidenote: Haagen Dazs is EVERYWHERE in Shanghai...and I ate more ice cream than you can imagine on this trip). Anyways, the Huang Pu river divides Shanghai into it's east and west sides and it serves as a shipping artery, if you will, for the city. This area is the typical symbol of Shanghai. The river is lined with the modernized skyscrapers. The Bund is the waterfront/road running along the river. The area is less than a mile long and is a pretty cool place to hang out. I went down to the Bund every night of the trip. It was so modernized that it felt like being at home, so it was nice to just hang out along the river watching the sunset
and taking things in. The only major difference between sitting along the river in Shanghai and one in the states would be the continuous line of street vendors and homeless people asking you for your money and having them constantly nag you. I would say that this is the first time that I actually got annoyed with some of them. Regardless, sitting there was very relaxing and definitely took me away from China for a while.
On Sunday morning, we went to the Botanical Gardens. It was a very pretty place to be; lots of flowers, trees, people, etc. There was a big, open, grassy area, and if you've been reading the blog, what do you think we did? Haha, no we did NOT play peanut butter football here. We ACTUALLY found a REAL Frisbee! Woohoo. So, we played frisbee. It was fun. Oh, and they had these sweet bikes that you could ride around in. Do you remember what the Flintstone car looked like? That's exactly what it was, except with pedals. I obviously had to rent one. We spent that night on the Bund again playing with these stupid, little, light-up flyer things we bought. haha. We're
Moving on. Monday, my friend and I went to Qi Bao. We wanted to see if Shanghai was all westernized or if some of it wasn't. Qi Bao is an ancient part of town, possibly from the Qing or Ming dynasty? There was a more touristy part of the town that we saw, but we also went and walked around the non-touristy part. I'm pretty sure the whole time we were there we saw about 5 foreigners, 2 of which were my friend and I. There was not much to do there other than walk around, etc, but I enjoyed it. We weren't looking for much other than a non-westernized part of Shanghai, and we found it. FYI, their bananas are not good.
Following Qi Bao, we hit up the Shanghai Aquarium. This aquarium has the longest underwater tunnel/walk-way. It is about 155 meters long, so we obviously had to go. It was fun. I enjoy aquariums and looking at the fish. I haven't been to one in a while so it was nice. When we finally made it to the tunnel, we were so excited. We stepped on that moving walk-way only to find that
I think I want a pepsi?
it was the slowest moving walk-way in the world. There are no words to describe how slow it was. Everyone was getting off and walking. I suppose it's slow so that you can take pictures, and that's nice, but you could take 8 pictures by the time you moved a foot. Naturally, my friend and I took bets on how long it would take to make it to the end, Price is Right style, so we had to stand in the same exact spot on the walk-way without getting off the whole time. I lost because he gave me a 3 minute span. Unfair. Anyways, it took a while. But, the tunnel itself was cool. The stingrays were huge. They were like 3 feet across and 4 and a half feet long or something.
We capped off Monday by going down to the French Concession and Xin Tian Di. The French Concession is a huge area of the city where its streets are lined with trees, shopping, little cafes, etc. Shanghai, in general, looks like it had been uprooted from a combination of European cities and American cities and thrown together. The French Concession was, by far, the most
Cute Restaurant Area
Part of the French Concession outdoor seating area
European feeling part of the city. I loved it. We got to eat dinner in this area filled with many westernized restaurants where you could eat outside and it was a really fun atmosphere. We decided to try this combination American/Mexican food place. Let me just say, that it was the best meal that I've had in China. Kabb was its name. We actually ate nachos, burritos, fries, potato skins, and drank strawberry, frozen margaritas! The best part about it was that they actually tasted like they were supposed to (except for the whole putting sugar on the margarita glass rather than salt). You don't find this stuff anywhere else. It was awesome. Eating in this little area was great and I started thinking about life goals, haha, I know, random. Anyways, I want to see the world. Who knows what my next stop will be, Europe, Africa, who knows; but I'm going to do it. Let me know if you want to join me.
Anyways, on Tuesday, we checked out of the hotel and decided to head over to the Yu Yuan Gardens and Bazaar. It was pretty cool and had a lot of shopping and gardens, etc.
Peanut Butter Football
Still made the catch reaching for it.
Check out the pictures.
All in all, I love Shanghai. I will say that, because I'm studying abroad in China to learn the language and culture, etc, Shanghai was not helpful for that. As I've said, it was very westernized and the dialect was completely different, so I did not feel like I was in China at any point other than at Qi Bao. However, I love Shanghai. It was nice to get away from China for a while, in a theoretical sense. I would live in Shanghai if I live in China one day...obviously. Huangshan: big mountain, lots of stairs, amazing experience.
Huangshan was incredible. Mount Huangshan is on the World Culture and Natural Heritage sites - and for good reason. It covers 250 kilometers; 154 of which allow tourists. There are many different ways to approach your trip at Huangshan, all very similar, but all different.
Tunxi, aka "Huangshan City" is a small town that looks like a small city and holds the train and bus stations for the area. It's about a 70 minute drive to the foot of the mountain from there. Tangkou is the little town at the foot of the mountain.
Word on the Street....
....is that some of you want to know what kind of Peanut Butter I use? Well, it's no Peter Pan brand, but it gets the job done...
So, when you arrive in Tunxi, depending on what time you get there, you could start climbing up the mountain that day, or you could stay in Tunxi or Tangkou for the evening and hike up the next day. We decided to go to Tangkou that night and stay there.
If you read in the Lonely Planet, they recommend that you try to find one of two men in Tangkou, if you can: Mr. Cheng or Mr. Hu. Both of these men own little restaurants in Tangkou and speak a lot of English, so they often help traveler's around Huangshan. Our friends were doing the reverse trip of us, Huangshan first and then Shanghai, so they recommended Mr. Hu. With the experience said and done, I am skeptical as to whether or not Mr. Hu owns the town of Tangkou. The man has lived there for 20 years and is the definition of a "monopoly." I am definitely not knocking him, the guy is nuts, but I think he runs the show. If he doesn't, then everyone else just does what he wants them to. Anyways, from Tunxi we get on this little mini-bus to Tangkou. We arrive, and
the first thing that we do is look at the Lonely Planet for Mr. Hu's address and how to get there. Literally, as I am speaking the words, "We need to find Mr......", I hear a man go, "Are you looking for Mr. Hu?" I look up only to find Mr. Hu, himself, standing right in front of me. haha, the guy appeared out of nowhere - he's good. We chat and we tell him we want to eat at his restaurant, etc. So, he arranges a car for us to get there within about 4 minutes. Granted, Tangkou is very small, but it was about a 2 minute car ride over there.
We stuff our faces and when we're done, it's about 1:00 pm or so. We have no idea what to do the rest of the day and we're just planning on hanging out around town before we climb the next day. Mr Hu was kind enough to tell us about places that not many people get to do. You can go to all 3 places within the afternoon so he set this up for us and then also got us a personal driver. Now, I know
that he was doing it for the business, but for the price that we paid for all 3 tickets plus a personal driver (rather than having to follow a stupid tour group), it was a friggin' steal. So, they were just 3 more little places to hike with some cool things to see (i.e: a green lake and the love rock). Our personal driver was awesome. At one point he pulls the van over and is like "Oh one sec, this is so cool." He's all excited and everything. Apparently they have berries in Tangkou and they eat them right off of the tree. This was the first day he had seen them for the season so he got us all a branch. He wasn't lying; they were good. So, that night, we walked around Tangkou a little bit and bought some food to carry up the mountain with us and then just crashed in the hotel.
We woke up the next morning and decided to wait until the first wave of tourists started at the mountain (probably around 6 or 6:30). We expected the next wave to go around 8ish. So, we arrived at the mountain around 7:15;
The one in the orange was so excited to have his picture taken - he was waving off the hook...unfortunately we missed that part with the camera...
the happy medium. We bought our tickets and started climbing. Now, I would like to specify right now that by climbing a mountain, I really mean climbing up more stairs than I have ever seen or have expected to see in my life. I believe the words that I'm going for are: "Oh good God." There was a cable car option, but why would I take the easy route? We climbed, with our bags, up 10 kilometers worth of stairs. The views were cool and the feeling of accomplishment at the end made it all worth it. However, it was nuts. Not many people chose to climb the mountain versus the amount of people who took the cable car. But, the majority of those who did climb the mountain were only making it a day trip. Apparently, if the Chinese want to camp on the top, they take the cable car up to camp out, rather than hike. Then, those who want to hike, don't camp. Obviously the foreigners were unaware and decided to hike AND camp - woo. Anyways, as we're walking up, because of this apparently "obvious" method, everyone thought that we were "lihai" (or in English, amazingly
intense) for climbing up AND camping while carrying our huge bags of camping equipment. Everyone constantly said that and was shocked that we were still walking. However, I don't understand and this is why: there are no roads that go up this mountain...at all. That means, that all of the little food stands, water stands, hotels, everything that is up the mountain, is carried up my manpower. There are tons of men hired to carry crap up the mountain hanging from each end of a stick. I mean, even when they built the hotels, they carried up the material to build them. Why don't they use the cable car? I don't know! But they don't....The weight hanging off of these guys was overwhelming and needless to say, these guys were ripped. But, those guys, who carry stuff up and down the mountain EVERY DAY were also telling us that we were the awesome ones. We're going, "um...no, you are the impressive ones," and they wouldn't agree with us. All I can say is though I felt pretty "lihai" compared to the people not carrying anything for their day trip, I felt like an absolute schmuck compared to these employees. Oh,
At the Aquarium
Just a cool picture.
and one more thing, there were a few girls in heels.....I mean, really? What were you thinking that morning when you were getting dressed: "Oh, I'm going to climb a mountain today...has any one seen my stilettos?" Naturally, they were carrying their heels and walking barefoot.
Anyways, when we finally made it to the top, it was great. The views were perfect and the hike was worth it. I really started to understand why people say it's one of the most beautiful places. My pictures don't capture the true essence of the experience. But, there was more to come.
That night, we camped on the mountain. For 4 of us, we had one, 2-person tent and 1 sleeping bag. Now, this would have been completely fine had we not all had a huge bag with us. Don't ask me why, but SOMEHOW my friend and I had to sleep outside the tent while the other two got the tent AND the sleeping bag - even though my friend and I carried the tent and the bag up the mountain...really, don't ask how we were feeling that night and the day after. What I can tell you is that
I have never been so cold or endured so much wind in my entire life for that long. I can not describe to you what it was really like. We didn't sleep the whole night. Picture the windiest day that you can think of, and that was the wind. Then, add the fact that it was about 20 degrees outside. Oh, and because we didn't have the tent or sleeping bag, we were out there in under armor, jeans, a hoodie, and a hat. Yea. Wait, let it soak in....Yea. We found some random hotel at one point and we slept sitting down on stair of a stairwell for about 30 minutes before we had to leave...oh, and we were out there in the cold like that for 7 hours BEFORE we went and sat outside for another 2 hours waiting for the sunrise. Like I said, there is no description to do it justice.
But, I will say that though I froze my butt off, the stars were amazing! One of my favorite things to do in life is to just lay out under the stars and stare. I have never seen the stars like that before. I
remember one time in Door County with my family, there were a lot of stars, but not like this. You could see every star in the sky (which, I guess the wind helped move the clouds away..but still). You could see the Milky way band perfectly. I wish I could have taken pictures to have that for the rest of my life. I've never seen the Milky way like that. It's incredible. All in all, there is no description for that night. For the good or the bad; just take my word, it was a night to remember.
Around 3:00 am, we began the short hike back up to where we wanted to watch the sunrise. Mr. Hu told us it was a great place to watch it and it is listed as one of the best. Because this was a huge tourist holiday, we wanted to go early to beat the crowds. So, sunrise predicted at 5:23, 20-30 minute hike up, that gives us about 2 hours of preparation to hold a spot for us. My friend and I scoped it out and found the perfect spot just in time. About 5 minutes after we settled ourselves to
hold our ground, the crowds started arriving. We were front row for the famous sunrise - which the whole time I was climbing the mountain I was thinking "this sunrise better be worth it." haha. We waited, the skies gradually started to lighten up with the silhouettes of the mountains becoming clearer and clearer and finally, EXACTLY at 5:23 am, not one second too soon or too late, the sun peaked out. I can not believe how accurate that time was. The second the sun peaked out, the whole crowd erupted with applause and gasps. It was gorgeous. Once again, the pictures do not do it justice. I think that the whole scene and set-up of what had happened was perfect. You all sit out there for 2 hours together in the dark to see the sunrise, then when it does happen, you're just as taken aback and inspired as the next person when you see this. Huangshan is more of a Chinese tourist spot, so outside of the Chinese, many people don't see this. You should. There are so many paintings and stories written about the Huangshan sunrise and I never understood what the big deal was until then.
I love watching sunrises and sunsets, but they're nothing compared to this. I wish I had a better way to describe it other than this and the pictures...but I can't.
We packed up the tent and began our hike down. I mean, we climbed all the way up, how could we take the cable car down? Plus, you're supposed to see some cool stuff. However, we started walking down, and we were moving about 1 step every 2 minutes - and that's not an exaggeration. All of the tour groups that took the cable car up were walking down. I just want to say that Chinese people do not handle crowds or lines well; it was ridiculous and very unorganized. It was so annoying trying not to step on the person in front of you and walking up one step, waiting, walking up the next, waiting, and so on. Dad, you will enjoy knowing that I locked a lock on the mountain. On Huangshan, people lock padlocks everywhere and they are supposed to symbolize a wish that you want to come true. Obviously, I had to do this. I have never seen so many locks in one place in
my life, and there were multiple locations for them. So, my friend and I locked our locks onto the chains. But, I have got to say, we took the cable car down. By the time we made it to the cable car (in about 4 times the amount of time it should have taken), we were all ready to punch somebody for walking so slow and being so unorganized. I would not have lasted the whole way down behind those crowds. So, it was a little disappointing, but oh well. I got a medal for climbing up the mountain - score! I'm such a winner and I deserve a medal for that - I don't care what anyone says haha.
Because this post has been so long in general, I'm going to sum it up by saying that the trip was amazing. Shanghai is great and Huangshan is overwhelmingly gorgeous. After such a great week, you'll all be pleased to know that I got to ride a 21 hour train ride home on a HARD SEAT! Yea, see, they were sold out of sleeper beds.....it was the most uncomfortable thing ever....never again.
Well, my apologies for being so
Best Guy Ever
This guy was awesome. He had the best fried rice and fried noodles ever all for the equivalent of $0.50
delayed. I promise that after I finish my final project, I will post information about being a student in China and camping on the Great Wall. I hope that all is well at home! (p.s - I'm not proofreading this and I'm really tired from camping, so I'm sorry if this doesn't make sense).
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