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Published: July 28th 2006
Elevator on the Way up to Cloud 9
This is the second of the three elevators we had to take to get to Cloud 9, a bar on the top floor (87th) of the Jinmao tower. My ears popped on the way up. Supposedly it's the highest-up bar in the world.
It's been a while since my last blog post - sorry about that. I actually have a lot to write about, though.
Since I last checked in on th 19th I've gone out to a couple of new places and done some more traveling within China. Last weekend Chuck, Hisae, and I went to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and hiked to the top of the mountain and around its various peaks. It was one of the most beautiful places I've been. We took the train from Shanghai at 10pm and got in the next day at 9am (264RMB each for the soft sleeper car). Immediately, and expectedly since we'd heard from other people about their experiences in Huangsham, we were bombarded with people trying to sell us all sorts of various things we might need. We bought a trail map - which turned out to be okay but not to scale at all, which made planning our hikes difficult - and two rain ponchos (I brought one with me) for another 9RMB. We met up with the van our hotel had sent to pick us up and caught a ride over to the entrance to the park about an hour away
Sitting with Chuck and Ryan (Hisae, Tina, and Ashley are off camera here) at Cloud 9. We got there just before it got crowded. Literally 10 minutes after we got there every table filled up, but when we showed up it was pretty empty. Lucky us. Chuck and I split a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Ryan met us after his business dinner, exhausted from the day, but was in good spirits and joined us in a drink.
(13 RMB each), and then stopped for lunch at some random restaurant near the entrance where the food was okay, but not great (20 RMB each). From there we took a taxi to the trailhead (10 RMB each) where we considered taking the cable car up the mountain until we found out it would be at least a 2-1/2 hour wait. We opted to hike up, so we paid the admission to the park (100 RMB, student price, which is half normal!! Expensive, eh?).
As we hiked the next few hours up the mountain, we saw all the supplies going up and garbage coming down the mountain on the backs of a lot of porters. Apparently it's cheaper to pay the porters than to transport stuff by cablecar. It was so hot and the hike so long that my shirt was literally dripping with sweat, and the clothing inside my backpack got wet from being up against my back. We got up to the top and then hiked another hour or so over to our hotel, the Xihai. Of course, we were officially only two people, because it didn't make sense to pay as much for an extra bed
This is the way they get everything up the mountain at Huangshan. It's literally caried on people's shoulders the whole way up. The porters get paid by the weight they carry, and make two trips up and down each day. Even building materials are carried up this way for the hotels.
for one night as it would cost for over a week in a hostel at the bottom of the mountain, so we told them that Hisae wasn't actually staying with us. After checking in, we hiked around for a few more hours and then made it back for a buffet dinner, which was actually pretty decent. I think I had more vegetables there than on the whole trip thus far, which was nice.
One of the things you're supposed to do at Huangshan is watch the sunrise, but after the long hikes the day before we didn't really want to get up at 4am just to see it. Luckily it was pouring rain and so foggy in the morning that we didn't have to make the decision - the weather made it for us. We finally got up and out around 11am and it was still really foggy, so we hiked around the parts of the mountain that one of the vendors at the top of the mountain told us would be good in the fog. As it cleared up we hiked over to the other parts of the mountain that were supposed to have great vistas. We stopped
We made it!
We just got to the top of where the cable car would have dropped us of at Huangshan. It was about a 2-1/2 climb versus an 8 minute ride down.
for lunch along the way, and in the 20 or so minutes that we were stopped, we saw the fog rushing past us over the top of the mountain and the sun began to beam down on us. Chuck took a before and after picture, not quite from the same angle, of the view.
It was getting late and we had been hiking all day. It would be dark in a little while and we had planned on taking the cable car down the mountain to the hotel we were staying at our second night. Only we were told that the cable car would stop running in 30 minutes, and we were at least a 2 hour hike away from where the station was. We started running, because we really didn't think it would be safe to hike down in the dark, even with the flashlights we bought. We got to the station about 30 minutes after closing, with the ticket window long since shut and nobody waiting to get down any longer. But we lucked out: when we went inside Chuck asked one of the employees if we could get on anyway. I guess she felt bad for
One of the beautiful views on foggy Huangshan.
us and radioed down to the bottom to let them know we would be coming. We paid for our tickets for the right down at the bottom where we were quickly ushered out. From there we hiked another 30 minutes or so to our hotel. We checked in, had dinner, and went straight to bed. Again, two beds, so since Chuck has slept on the floor the night before, I volunteered to push the chairs in our room together and sleep on them. I was probably more comfortable anyway, since the beds both at the top and bottom of the mountain were pretty terrible.
We slept in again, and then took an unlicensed taxi back from the park entrance to the train station. Of course, we'd heard all the horror stories about doing so, so we agreed on a price ahead of time and refused to pay until we got there. I didn't really care when the driver went all the way down to the checkpoint/tollbooth/whatever it was and then back up to the park entrance to try and pick up more riders. It helped to reassure me that we would end up where we wanted to go. From
The second day on Huangshan was so foggy that we could hardly see a thing. So though it looks like we're against the railing of a ship or something, over the edge is a perilous cliff (we're by "Flying Over Rock"). It was even scarier because we couldn't see anything but a foggy abyss.
there we found a person who said he could get us on an (unlicensed?) bus to Hangzhou where we could catch another bus to Shanghai, and then went to eat lunch. We stopped in at a random restaurant, and had the best food I've had in China. It was amazing, and at standard Chinese prices, about 10-20 RMB for a dish. We ordered way more than we should have been able to eat, but it was so good we finished it all.
We got on the bus and made it to our stop in Hangzhou in about 5 hours - quite a bit longer of a ride than the man who got us on the bus told us it would take (3 hours). But it was okay, since we stopped to get some dinner at the steamed bun place near the bus station. In the one block between there and the bus station, Hisae got pickpocketed (or maybe her stuff fell out of her backpack - the police surveillance footage that we saw didn't quite cover the spot where we thought it happened. Luckily, though she lost her phone and a few hundred RMB, she got all of her
This is the view from the place where we stopped to eat lunch when we sat down.
cards back since a crowd had formed around all the stuff on the floor and gave it back to her. She was very relieved to get her Hong Kong identity card back, since it is apparently a huge pain in the butt to get a new one. After filling out a police report, we got on the next bus to Shanghai, and all made it back in one piece despite our adventures.
I finished writing the paper I had started to write for the research portion of our class here on Tuesday, since I knew I wouldn't have another chance until I got back to LA - whenever that happens - and the due date is Sept 1. That night we went out for karaoke - we were there from about 11pm until 6:30am the next morning. At least, I was. Most people left around 4, and only a few of us stayed until 6:30. They would have kicked us out at 7am when they closed anyway, and we had class at 9 so we thought we should get some sleep since it was our last class. Needless to say, I didn't make it to class.
This is the view from the place where we stopped to eat lunch after we finished eating, about 20 minutes later.
spent studying for our final on Thursday, and also making flight arrangements to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from there to Ko Tao, from Kuala Lumpur to Manila, and from Manila to Bohol and back. I still need to look into flights from Manila to wherever my next destination will be - I think Vietnam.
Yesterday, Thursday, after the final I went to get a haircut and basically just relaxed a little bit until our final banquet, which everyone was about an hour late for. We were told that any unspent money in the program funds would be returned to UCLA (and we wouldn't see any of it) so we went all out and ordered some of the most expensive dishes and an obscene amount of alcohol. After a little convincing we got our Professor and TAs to get very drunk with us. Actually, except for the non-drinkers, I think everyone was pretty drunk by the end of the banquet. Which is why we made the logical decision to go from there out to the bars. By the time we got back to our Coffee Bar, about 11:30 or so (?) I was so exhausted from not getting
Me, Hisae, and Chuck feeling good about ourselves on the top of Huangshan.
much sleep over the last week and from starting the night so early that I was falling asleep on the table. I could harldy keep my eyes open for the walk home.
Which brings us to today. Ryan should be landing back in Shanghai shortly after all of his business travels of the last week. We are planning on going to get massages when he gets back, and then maybe going out from there. Since I had to make a few revisions to my paper, I decided to forego our last field trip to the water/canal city, the Venice of China, and finish that up. I also wanted to write this entry and eat at the noodle place in front one last time.
I'm pretty sad to be leaving here - I've had an amazing time in Shanghai. I'm going to miss the people - especially Chuck, Hisae, Ashley, Ryan and Jerrell, but also the others who have made this trip so much fun. But I think I'm going to miss the city even more. I could honestly see myself living here, though I'd have to learn more than the scant Chinese I know now to really enjoy it. The rest of China that I saw, I won't miss as much, but then, I didn't get to know any other place quite as well so maybe it's not a fair comparison. I think being a tourist in China really wouldn't be that interesting after a little while, but I think living here could be great. I guess I'll have to check back with Ryan every once in a while and see how he gets along and what he thinks a few months from now.
I was thinking about making a top five best/worst list for my few weeks in Shanghai, but I haven't given it enough thought to make it definitive. So here's the draft I'll stick with:
- Cost - cheap enough that I could have lived on a dollar a day if I'd wanted to, but even when I was splurging could rarely spend more than a hundred dollars at a time.
- Transportation - Shanghai has a great layout, and it's really easy to get anywhere in the city. The subway is efficient and clean, and the taxis are inexpensive. As a side note, I looked at the price of fuel here - it's much cheaper than the US. I think gasoline is subsidized by the government.
- Nightlife - Shanghai has a thriving nightlife, with something different to do every night. I could probably have never repeated a club or bar and still wouldn't have made it to most of them in my five weeks here.
- Convenience stores - unlike 7-Eleven and gas stations back home, convenience stores don't jack up their prices too much. They are more expensive than supermarkets, but they're everywhere and are a great place to grab an icre cream bar or bottle of water when you're thirsty.
- People - the people here in Shanghai are very courteous and friendly, remember you as a repeat customer (although I think being white makes me stand out a little to them), and are generally very honest.
- Shanghainese food - it's almost always too greasy/oily/salty for my taste. The massive doses of MSG don't help, either. Plus, you're just about as safe eating from a street vendor as you are at a regular restaurant, which doesn't say much for the sanitation. Which brings me to
- Garbage - despite the fact that there are city employees who sweep the streets every day, there is very little concern among people for throwing little in the garbage can instead of on the streets, so it gets gross and smelly, especially in the heat. If it weren't for the occasional thunderstorm, the city would always smell like rotting food.
- Refrigeration - it's hard to find anything that's quite cold enough - the drinks are usually lukewarm, and the ice cream bars are generally kept just cold enough that they aren't melting. I hate getting the icy ones that definitely did melt at least once before. I have found that the C-Store outside of our university's front gate has the coldest drinks and ice cream around, and they even sell (overpriced) bags of ice (which nobody esle seems to do).
- Weather - I've been told Shanghai has some of the worst weather in China. It's hot and humid in summer and autumn, and cold and snowy (and dirty) in the winter. I'm not sure the power grid in California could stand the heavy A/C usage of Shanghai.
- The subway stops running too early. Considering that there is so much to do at night, it don't make sense for the subway to stop running at 10pm. They should at least have 1/2-hourly trains until 2am.
Some other random things I'll miss:
- Giving my empty bottles to the poor old ladies who recycle them for the deposit and seeing how happy they are for them.
- The waitress and owner at 373 Coffee Bar. They were really good to us from the start, and I'll miss their kindness and the place itself.
- Feeling like money was never an obstacle. Surely there were a lot of places I avoided - like the business areas where the expensive parts of town are - but I never felt much desire to go there anyway.
- Never feeling like I was in any danger, even in the shadiest (or dodgiest, in Australian-speak) of alleys.
There are more, of course, but that's all I really feel like writing. It's time to say goodbye to it for now, and move on.
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