Shanghai, Part 2

Getting from Hangzhou to Shanghai was a breeze using the high speed bullet train (my first)! Imagine my shock when my bullet train ticket costed less than my bus ticket to Tunxi when the train was obviously faster and more comfortable. However, being a foreigner at the Hangzhou train station, it could be confusing. There was no clear signage on where to queue – if there was a designated counter catered to us. The information counter lady instructed me to queue like others. And the queues at all the counters were long. Lucky for me, after waiting for more than half an hour, the counter lady accepted my passport when it was my turn. I chose not to book my train ticket in advance, but if you are to do the same, it is generally advisable to arrive at the train station plenty of time ahead as you never know how crazy the crowd could be. Then I got to the departure hall where there was a designated gate to wait at and even when you were at the platform, you were divided into waiting areas based on your seat number. Seriously, superior Malaysians who thought China is a backward country should really make a trip to China. When I got to my seat, an elderly man was sitting there. With a stern face, I showed him my ticket. He had no choice but to move to his own seat. Having the window seat to myself, I happily enjoyed the views all the way from Hangzhou to Shanghai!

Some backpackers I knew would wake up really early just so that they could make the most of the day. I swear I tried, I really did. But I simply couldn’t drag myself out the hostel until it was 10am 😦 Especially those few days in Shanghai, my legs were sore from all the walking. Once I was out, the first thing to do was to grab a can of iced coffee at the Family Mart next door. There has been a dilemma – some of the most beautiful places in China and Indonesia are in remote places which aren’t conveniently accessible. A trip there may involve few public buses, hours on road and even the sacrifice of clean Western toilet. There might not even have a Family Mart selling me my much-need coffee in the morning. Am I willing to go the extra miles for those beautiful landscapes? I guess time will tell because I am getting more and more determined to challenge myself to visit more remote and exotic places hehe.

I also started to get conscious about what I was wearing in Shanghai. I started to pull out my dresses to put on. Afterall, I was in Shanghai – Paris of the East and I wanted to look presentable the least. Imagine my disappointment when the girls I saw in metros and streets were rather plain for a metropolis, in terms of how they look and put together with the outfit, hair and make up. Later on, I realized that Shanghai is a place full with either tourists (since I got stopped by few times for direction) or migrants from all parts of the country. And the girls I met at those places I visited simply weren’t the best samples I should get. Oh well.

Shanghai is also the place I felt more civilized, evidenced by the reduced frequency of spitting spotted everywhere I went. Lol. In fact, I had really nice experience with the locals – all the helpful uncles pointing me to the correct direction when I was lost, the middle-aged lady correcting my mandarin pronunciation in English, those elderly ladies in the parks with grandkids asking me where I am from, not forgetting an elderly man who spent close to an hour discussing with me about the difference between two countries and generations. The locals had a gentle demeanor and spoke in Mandarin that was distinctly clear to me, without any slang. Shanghai is a city which I could see myself reside in.

Photos are unavailable while I am typing this. Next post shall be about all the places I had been to (with loads of photos)

Shanghai, Part 1

It came as no surprise that I love Shanghai. Big cities brimming with lights when the night falls where hurrying throng of unfamiliar faces pass by you – each with their own story to tell but you get no glimpse inside their inner world. Even then, you take comfort in knowing that you are not alone amid the crowd. It is a funny way of detaching yourself without feeling the painful isolation.

I was staying in Fuzhou Road. Little did I know beforehand that it is also known as the cultural or book street, where stores selling books, stationery, supplies for calligraphy etc are found. So I spent my first afternoon in Shanghai excitedly checking out one bookstore after another. Among them are the multistorey Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore and Shanghai Book City (brother would kill to be here because of the huge collection of Mandarin titles on display). Put aside the more established and well-known stores, small stalls selling used or brand new books/ magazines attended mostly by elders could be found hidden at some corners or alleys. The entire time I was debating if I should shop for some Mandarin books for myself (esp those that are hard to come by in Malaysia). At last, I decided against it as I wouldn’t finish reading them anyway 😦 😦

Fuzhou road where I stayed. Gotta love the buildings around and it was not packed with tourists.

Books and more books. Heaven.

Fuzhou road was also where I finally found a family-run restaurant that served nice fulfilling flavorful Chinese cuisines with good price. I was fed up with having dumplings or noodles for past few days so I decided to stop settling for shops that didn’t serve rice no matter how hungry I was. I ended up having almost all of my meals there that the owner and her daughter recognized me as the weird girl.

Nice stuff. Wished I had taken more (and better) photos.

The reason why I chose to stay at the hostel in Fuzhou Road albeit the mixed to negative online reviews was because of the location. The Bund is just few steps away from it and it has a fantastic roof top bar which overlooks everything at night! Not to mention that it is near to the metro station which makes it easy for me to access all the attractions. But I wasn’t happy when I was there staying in the 8-bed female dorm. In fact, I felt so lonely and I craved for human interactions. As expected, all the girls in the room were young local Chinese. This seemed to be the same everywhere else (happened to the last two hostels I booked). Some came with friends, but most were alone. I soon realized that it was common for these girls to travel alone within the country and even when it was not summer break, they would travel around as long as they got few days off from classes. However in this hostel, the girls usually stayed for one night then checked out the next day before someone new joined the room. What drove me crazy was everyone minded their own business, no one looked at you and even if they did, they did it quietly. It was such a shame because I really loved the spacious room and the huge comfortable bed (nevermind the unsightly balcony that was full of clothes hung to be dried by these Chinese travelers). If I were to make friends with any of them, I needed to be the one initiating the conversations. But when I was put in a room with so many girls, I got intimidated. What if my friendliness was mistaken as a weakness or an unwelcoming nosiness? What if they reacted with indifference or hostility? I would feel hurt. I was such a coward, I was no different than them. So I told myself I would book a mixed dorm the very next time. But then again, the thought of sharing a room with so many Chinese guys put me off. Lol. On the last day before check out, finally a new girl said hi to me and conversations followed. Later on, another new girl chipped in. Both girls came from different parts of China and were in Shanghai for different reasons – one to look for a job, another to look for a friend.
As much as I enjoy the sight seeing and having a break from normal routines, I guess the biggest satisfaction comes from the interaction with people of different walks of life made along the journey.

P_20160619_194106_NTView from the roof top bar