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The six pack

CHINA | Wednesday, 3 December 2008 | Views [385]

The train from Hong Kong to Shanghai was well long but I met some nice people, two Irish guys and brother/sister South Africans(SA) who were well into drinking lots of beer when I joined them. They could not remember my name so for the evening I was known as Detroit. They had all paid a little extra for four person cabins, I had opted for the "hard" sleeper which unknown to me is actually six bunks in an open cabin, no door. But after meeting the Irish and SAs I spent much of the evening in their cabin which was just the two SAs, the Irish had a separate cabin. We played drinking games and talked, it helped pass the time in an interesting way. They were very hospitable and welcoming and shared rice. Special props to Wade, the brother who became the dealer and lost very, very bad.

We arrived into Shanghai at about 11:30am the next day after leaving Hong Kong around 3:30pm. We headed for ATMs and to find food. The SAs were staying at a nice hotel, the Irish guys(Dylan and David) and shared a cab to a hostel we had read about. It turned out to be a really nice hostel so we checked in and shared a room with a Japanese guy who was already inthe room.

After getting rid of my bag I set out for the Lufthansa Airlines office to try and change my ticket for a return from Beijing not Toyko. I had tried this in Manila with no success(the guy was an indifferent ass! Just my opinion) and was determined to take my chances again. If it did not change the ticket I would need to leave for Japan on the December 8 ferry for Kobe, Japan from China which takes 48 hours. this would really limit my time in China which is why I wanted to change it. It would also mean I would not visit Japan but I only had about 5 days there which is not nearly enough time so I would save it for another day. I got had the address of the office and after getting directions from the hostel staff I set off. I found the office quite easily and made my way upstairs. After a few minutes of checking and calculations it turned out I could change the flight for about the same cost as the ferry was going to cost me and leave a day early from Beijing getting into Rome with time to catch the train to Florence to see Jess. So I changed, now no more Japan but more time in China and a huge weight of my shoulders. Whew! I told the Irish guys it was the Luck O' the Irish.

Shanghai is a pretty large city, second in China and as most people in the west hear about China-dirty. Not the streets or trash but the air, you can see it and feel it on your skin. The weather was decidely colder compared to Hong Kong which was much colder then Manila but clear and sunny. So after changing my ticket and getting some food, I toured the area known as The Bund at night (see pics) which has the largest structure in Asia across the river. I was getting cold so I returned to the hostel to play some pool with David and Dylan and turned in for the night.

The next day I walked to an area known for "antiques" to so some shopping. Well most of it was fake Chinese stuff, funny to say that in China, so I did not buy anything. I also toured the Yua Yuan Gardens and walked to the Peoples Republic Park in the center. I was taking a little break on a bench when two college students sat down next to me. They were cousins on holiday from Xian. We started to chat, the guy named "jerry" or YinYin spoke the best English so he translated for his cousin, Ling Ling. After talking for about an hour abour our lives they invited me to take in a tea tasting with them. I tagged along not knowing what to expect but knowing I drink some tea now and China has over 200 varities of tea.

The tea room was famous according to them but housed in a mall, apparently it was moved when things started to boom downtown. We were showed to our tasting room and the tea attendant prepared the water and cups. We started by blessing the tea buddha, which looked like a frog to me but I was corrected, oops! We started with ginseng tea then jasmine, then some fruity one(my favorite), then geen, black and ended with one that was a bud and when put into water would open up to reveal a flower. During each different tea, the tea attendant would explain the benefits of each one to YinYin and he would translate for me. It was a nice way to spend a hour with something the Chinese take very seriously. I learned much about tea and turns out LingLing and I liked the fruity one the best (hua guo cha-if you want to know the Chinese name). I am going to try and find some I can buy before leaving China. I was hungry so they took me to one of the many dumpling places Shanghai is known for and ordered for me. They had to go meet his sister so we said our goodbyes and I took their picture. A nice couple of "kids" who were eager to learn as much about me as I was about them. They included me in something I probably would not have otherwise done.

I went back to the hostel and talked with David and Dylan for a while then headed off to bed after grabbing some nearby noodles on the street. My train to Xian was leaving at 3:45 the next day so I got up early, packed and got some breakfast before taking a walk to some different districts. I came back to find Dylan and David still in bed so I said goodbye and wished them safe travels. I enjoyed tagging along with them, they are a couple of nice chaps. They are traveling to Beijing next before leaving for Australia and New Zealand for 5 months, very nice! They start new jobs next fall in Ireland. I wish them well! Off to Xian and the terracotta warriors!

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