Some thoughts from Vinnie.
China is a bit of a shock, especially coming from South Korea – as Seoul could fit right into Europe. So far, our experiences in China have been a little more difficult, but I’m loving the difficulties – Seoul was a bit too easy for a worldwide trip.
Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve stayed at a youth hostel, and as a married couple, it can put some stresses on the relationship, but I’ve been seeing a part of the world that has only been images and imagination to me – it’s pretty fucking amazing to be here.
China has been harsh, crowded, and loud. By loud, I mean horns constantly honking (and they make them louder hear then in Korea), people constantly screaming (mostly older folk), and lots of push or be pushed aside in order to navigate the subway system. But as one couchsurfer, Ian, that we had dinner with in Shanghai said – “A great social experiment is to get on the #2 line at rush hour and try to get off at People’s Square – try it, you’ll release any anger you have” It’s true, within hours, you will go from a mild manner person, to somebody who says I’m getting off this train, move or get an elbow to the stomach or a shoulder to the chest (and it for some reason feels a little relieving). Very few people follow common subway rules about standing off to the side to let people out first. So I can understand why everybody is like this, if you weren’t, you would never get anywhere in Shanghai. But from my talking to locals – I think that’s just Shanghai, and not like the rest of China.
Talking to some Chinese students at our Shanghai hostel, they didn’t like Shanghai either. They ditched university for a 4 hour bus to come check out the expo. I met these two friends over beer and take out chinese street food (here they just call it street food). As I was eating on the steps, enjoying a 50c beer (which you can find in 24 hour marts, however a bar will run you $8 since only foreigners go there), they asked me where I was from and commented that I used chopsticks very well – although their english was broken and they didn’t say chopsticks, I got the gist of it. They were super nice kids, I was the first foreigner they ever spoke to, and we made a night out of drinking TsingTao and communicating by drawing, pointing, hand waving, chinglish, and translations on one of their cell phones. The more beer we drank, the more comfortable they became with their English. I learned a few Chinese words that night, including the Chinese characters spelling of my name, which is pronounced Wen-cen-te.
They invited me to get some food with them and I’m glad I did, we went into a little shop that I would have never gone into on my own and ordered food I would have never picked on my own. I couldn’t tell if it was balls of fish or balls of meat, I don’t even think they knew, so we ordered a bunch and the chief cooked us a soup.
So that’s the little parts of China I’ve liked so far. We also were introduced to a Shanghai native, Jialin, via Bonnie back in SF and he welcomed us on our arrival – trekking out to our Hostel, and spent the day with us on Saturday to take us to all the great food spots and sample everything from excellent soup dumplings to rice cake.
So I’m intrigued, fascinated, and yes, sometimes frustrated by China. But I always had in the back of my mind that this trip would be a little frustrating – that’s why I wanted to do it. Life isn’t fun unless your challenged!
And now we’re in Nanjing, China, about 2 hours north of Shanghai, we escaped for a less crowded city, which it is, but are still having difficulties settling in. For instance, in Korea, you could always find a great place to eat with interesting food, so far in China, that’s been a little harder to do, it’s much harder to gauge the quality of the food from the establishment, the food is much greasier/oily, and the only restaurants we see packed with people are KFC and McDonald’s – my theory here is that Chinese people don’t eat out cause it’s expensive, so that leaves very little options. And we’re still pressed to find a bar that servers $2 beers, it’s either 50c at the convenience store, or $6-$10 at the bar.
And construction here is amazing, literally the street is being built underneath you, there are dozens of people laying bricks, planting flowers, and hammering away at buildings. One sidewalk we walked on when we first arrived was half brick, half dirt, the next day it was completely finished.
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