Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adventures with Dad In China

The highlight of China was spending time exploring with my dad. It was awesome that he had a week off of work and we could spend time together. We arrived in Shanghai on September 4th, a bit tense from a 14 hour flight with little to no sleep. Instead of catching a super expensive taxi about an hour across the city to our hotel from the Pudong Airport, we took a cheap bus (about $1) for about an hour and half. This ride gave us a great introduction to the colossal city, with more skyscrapers than anywhere I have ever been. It was astounding and overwhelming. Just think, an a hour and a half to cross the city, with gargantuan buildings the entire way.

Our first meal was a failed attempt at verbal communication, but we successfully conveyed our order through gestures and body language. We couldn't read menus (in Mandarin) and there weren't pictures, so Dad just pointed to what someone else was eating, then held up 2 fingers and gestured to the two of us and did the same for Suntory beer. Beer is serve in liter bottles along with small glasses. Chinese drinking tradition requires you to chug an entire cup each time anyone drinks and says "gambe". This can get tough, quick. We had some tasty, spicy noodles in a red, greasy sauce, which may or may not have contained bits of meat, possibly peanuts, still not sure. It can be quite a guessing game while attempting to be pescatarian (no meat, some seafood) while traveling, just have to do my best.

Dad and I wandered across a pedestrian bridge by our hotel in the Puxi (Pooshy) district of Shanghai, which gateway from overwhelming opulence of fancy business buildings into the reality of a small community. Despite being 10pm on a Sunday, many people living in smaller apartments around were on the street playing cards and sitting at cafes, with shoe stores and food-on-a-stick vendors open and busy. Some bemused old men chilling in folding chairs shouted hello (in their best English) at us, everyone else observed us as we did them. It was a sweet peek into their lives.

We enjoyed wandering in Shanghai, checking out lots of sights, like a fresh market. This was my first of sooo many in Asia. I absolutely love them.

I experienced some traveler's guilt. Arriving in China, I knew that bargaining was an expected practice, but I had trouble getting into it when buying items on the street. While buying lace ribbons and some other crafting supplies from an old man on a bridge, I knew I should have given a counter-offer for asked price (which was lower than what I would pay in the states). But I didn't, feeling like I had so much, being fortunate to travel to his country, and knowing he would benefit. Later, this lady asked for 10 yuan (about $3) for a mixed bag of odd nuts, sesame rounds, and twistie snacks, I paid it having the same sentiment in mind. Afterward, her smile was huge, a friend came to talk to her and she pointed and laughed at me. Then I realized, to bargain is culturally expected. If you don't do it, you are being stupid. Asked prices are buffered for the bargain. I appreciated this lady for teaching me a lesson and encouraging me to be thrifty for my future travels.