Trip Start Apr 01, 2006
155Trip End Ongoing
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Today we had a slow start due to my cold, and just ended up walking around downtown Shanghai. We can't get over how expensive it is here!!! It basically is the same price as things are back home! After spending all of 14cents on dinner in Beijing, it seems even MORE expensive! We just came from an Italian restaurant near the Bund (our hostel is something like a 2 minute walk from the Bund) - our dinner was 569yuan!!! omg! Compared to our 1yuan dinners, we were a little floored. However, we did expect it. So, we made a pact that on our travels we will stick more to the cheaper towns!
Shanghai - it's just another big city. It's funny though, you walk along this one street that is SO westernized with big shopping malls etc, but if you turn down one of the side streets you all of a sudden get the feel of China again - no foreigners, and that same feel we got in Beijing.
We have come to realize one thing for sure - our favourite place so far has been Beijing. Why? Mainly because it is still sort of "old" China - keep in mind we stayed in the hutongs, not downtown where I am sure it is probably more Western. I came here hoping to see the side of China that is so different from Canada, and I got it in Beijing. And you know what? I loved it - complete with people spitting everywhere, the dirt (literally -everything has dust and dirt) and just overall a whole different way of living compared to what we have in Canada. The more "western" the cities have gotten, the less I have enjoyed them. In Beijing we were stared at constantly and were constantly asked if people could take their pciture with us, here in Shanghai they obviously have a lot of foreigners as we don't really stand out that much. I know that when I travel though, I am looking to see something totally different from what I experience at home. Shanghai - very similar really, just a different language and some different things here and there. Beijing.. so completely different, I loved it. John and I have even joked about going back to Beijing to spend our last week... mind you, where we have stayed has made a difference to. in Xi'an we had the most horrible experience with the staff at the hostel (Bell Tower Hostel - Hostelling International) - hence my venting a few posts back. Here, um, not bad, but it lacks the character of the place we stayed back in Beijing... oh we long for the days we spent at the Red Lantern Hostel. The ones since have been Hostelling International hostels, and they are so much bigger and therefore have less character than the Red Lantern. Speaking of hostels, one thing we have noticed is that not one hostel has had a kitchen for you to cook in or a fridge to keep your food in. So you are forced to "eat out" for every meal (they all have "kitchens" to order from, but here in Shanghai it is brutally expensive!).
Totally forgot to mention something that happened at our hostel in Beijing... it is something that has sort of stuck with me and continues to gnaw at me. First, to explain the Red Lantern I would say it is very peaceful, very calming. There is all women working there except for the 2 male cooks which of course are in the back cooking away. Every afternoon "gramma" would show up with the baby. We assumed one of the women working there was the mom, but since everyone sort of cared for it, we couldn't figure out exactly who the mom was. Anyway, one day this guy shows up - we figure it is the baby's dad... of course whispers were going around amongst the guests as to who he was. He carried himself in a way that you just knew not to mess with him. Anyway, before you know it, he starts yelling about something... and it started getting louder and louder... and kept going on and on... he was yelling at gramma and another one of the girls. Before you know it, the guests all started going to their respective rooms - embarrassed to be witnessing such an outburst. There were a few guys that we had been talking to before all of this and we were all sort of standing around just wanting to get out of there. John started to head towards the door - which this guy was sort of blocking in a way -and I called him back... I knew he wanted to get out of there, but I also knew this guy was extremely pissed about something and if John just happened to get in the way, this guy could take it as John trying to get involved etc. Just as I called John back, we could hear this guy hitting one of the girls. Of course I was horrified by this, and to see the other guys reactions was interesting - it took everything in them not to step in and protect the girl.... back home if a guy were to try to get rough with a girl, other guys would step in... it's just not cool to beat up on a girl. Anyway, I could see in this one Aussie man's eyes that it was taking everything in him not to go pound on this guy (and he was a grown man that was there with his family). But, I think we all realized too that we were in a different country and that people may be different here, we are not here to change it. Needless to say, we were all sort of shaken up by the whole thing. I had an ex-boyfriend that figured he could use me as a punching bag one time - I walked away from that situation immediately, but have never forgotten my immediate reaction of looking in the kitchen for a knife... it happened only once as I got out of that situation immediately, but to see other women go through it just makes my blood boil and brings me back to that day and my reaction. I'm fortunate though in that I live in a country where beating a women is not accepted, so to see it happen where it may be somewhat acceptable, it breaks my heart.
Anyway... enough of that... that is not what I will remember about China. For sure I will remember the wonderful times in Beijing, and the extremely kind and open women we met on the train. So far, that is what stands out most.
As for our next move... we are going to hang out in Shanghai for another day or two, then head out to some smaller towns for a bit - probably leave our packs in the hostel we are currently in, and just take our day packs out with us, then come back here for our last night before we head out. Hard to believe we still have 8 days left! This trip seems to be going by so slowly! It feels like we've already been here for so long! But again, we are learning more about our travel styles -neither of us care much for the big cities - they are the same everywhere. I personally am scaling down what I bring from now on - I have always travelled very happily with my 35L pack, and am currently using a 50L pack - way too big for my liking... so I am going to go back to my 35L... there is something to say about having very little with you - easy to carry, easy to deal with. Haven't quite figured out what I will do for the long haul through SA as I will have to be prepared somewhat for the cold mountains. hmm. I'll figure it out I am sure.
But we are back to having a good time and meeting wonderful people... apparently we just ran into a few bad apples while in Xi'an. And the nodding and saying ok when really it's not ok... well, we can't change it, so we're just trying to work around it. :)