Shanghai Noon

X-post from an ancient blogger account. Original post here:

Well Shanghai has been the toughest city to get the hang of so far. It seems that fewer people speak English here than the first two cities.

Yesterday, I flew in from Xi’An at around 5:30 which really wasn’t so good. For one thing I think they stop operatinging the airport buses at 6 so I think I might have caught the last one. The other thing I’m a little sick of is having to get the adresses and names of my hotels translated. Luckily one of the guys trying to book me at a hotel was able to help me with that. He also showed me approximately where it was on a map so I was able to figure out which bus I needed. Shanghai is pretty freakin big and the bus trip to the railroad station took almost two hours so it was about 8 by the time I was going to start trying to find this hotel.

I don’t know why I was surprised there were people trying to hawk hotel rooms when I got off the bus, but I was. After turning one down and with another hounding me (who didn’t really speak english) I managed to make it to a taxi and showed him the address. I don’t think he really knew where it was because he typed about 8 times the price I was expecting into his phone to show me and I didn’t know how to really ask him to run the meter so I was going to start looking for another cab. What happened next was kind of a stroke of luck. The hotel hawker asked to see the address and I figured it couldn’t hurt to let him see it. Then, to my surprise he pulls out one of his brochures that has an approximation of the name I was looking for and he types a much more reasonable number into his phone for a taxi ride. A short walk later and I’m in a minivan that I wasn’t getting the best vibe from, but I decided to let it play out.

After about 4 or 5 minutes we pull up to a hotel which didn’t have a stitch of english on it, but I’m automatically a lot more relaxed after getting out of the van. The no english thing definitely worried me though. I think in Beijing and Xi’An the city regulates which hotels can take foreigners since both previous hotels had signs to that effect near their entrances. So I walk inside this place with the hawker following me instead of just asking for the taxi fare since he probably got a commision if I wasn’t already booked. Then to my utter despair, the receptionist shakes her head no when I ask “English?” But I refrained from panic since I knew that wasn’t going to help. With a sigh, I pulled out my reservation which we proceed to look at with about 3 other Chinese people gathered around. We can’t seem to communicate what the reservation printout is about.

Right then, I had an epiphany about why I came to China. I remembered I was asking for these disorienting and stressful situations. I wanted to test myself in unknown waters and see how I faired. I could tell this was the first major test of my patience. The last two cities I’ve visited paled in comparsion to this. What happened next was almost as relieving as when I saw the guy had brochure for the hotel. The receptionist says in broken english, 9 o clock friend come who speaks english. Ok, I thought, this could be a lot worse. Waiting 20 minutes didn’t really seem like a huge deal. With my newly found serene center (though I’m sure I looked pretty travel worn by this point), I started running the possible senarios. 1) I was at the wrong hotel and I’d have to figure out how to get to right one, but at least I’d have someone who speaks english be able to help me get a cab or 2) I was at the right hotel and just needed to wait a few minutes to check in. Neither of these seemed like the end of the world and I was just happy I wasn’t walking around Shanghai looking for my hotel in the dark with all my luggage .

The taxi guy finally couldn’t wait anymore, made some ‘pay me’ guestures, and I gave him double since it was still significantly less than what the first guy wanted. Not ten seconds later, the receptionist finally asked for my passport which I already had out and tried giving her. She must have remembered the procedure for checking in foriengers right then. As soon as she opened it she saw my name and instantly pulled the registration form that had my name on it. I started smiling ear to ear. Typing it out makes it seem like this didn’t take too long, but while it was happening it certainly felt like an eternity.

So today (my first day here) has been pretty unsucessful. After leaving the hotel at 8:30, I started walking around. I put some bread and vegetable dumplings in my stomach since I didn’t eat dinner the night before and about 3 hours later I started getting some worse-than-mild stomach cramps. Sortly thereafter, it became a humid, and fairly hot day. The combination was to much to handle and I got back to the hotel around 10. I proceeded to sleep until 1 at which point I was feeling a significant deal better, and it was drizzling a bit so I decided to try and get out again. This time I thought I’d try taking the subway to the people’s square which is pretty much in the center of Shanghai. This was an awful idea. For one thing, just the sheer number of people in Shanghai means the subway stations are packed (probably from sunup to sundown). The next problem was that the ticket booth (which was a massive four sided thing with 20 to 25 windows) only had a few windows open so the lines to get a ticket were pretty long. The last issue which pretty much made me get out of line, was that unlike Beijing where you just buy a ticket and you can ride, here you have to tell them how far you’re going. I’ll be taking taxis now after that little foray.

After some subway fail, I started wandering around again, but this time in search of the intertubes. I finally found this place after almost walking past it. You can find these little hole in the wall (100 computer) places if you look for the video game posters outside. This is the worst computer I’ve used by far. They cap the download speeds so I can’t even get firefox and be rid of IE6. Not to mention the norton virus-detection popping up right away. ugh. I’m also surrounded by WoW playing chain smokers which doesn’t help.

So yeah. Had to rant a little. Still not feeling the best, but I’m going to try and fully enjoy the last part of my stay in China.

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