The travels go well. I am currently south of Perris, California staying in the house of some friends whom I had the pleasure of meeting my second day in California. But more on that later, as there is a bit of a gap between where I left off last time in Chongqing, China and where I am at now. Sooooooooooooo, herrre it is.
I took the train from Chonqqing to Shnghai early on Christmas morning and was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and livable it was. It was a sleeper car like the one I had taken in Kazakhstan but it looked quite modern and not like a Soviet relic. Now I had meant to purchase a sitting ticket from the ticket booth the previous day, but either through lack of understanding or lack of availability, the ticket-sellers (five of them crowded the ticket window giving me googly-eyes [even the guy in the group] and taking part in the selling of the ticket process after waving me to the front of the line in front of a bunch of pissed-off locals. Sometimes being a westerner in a foreign land pays off) had sold me a sleeper ticket. As it was an overnight train I really couldnt lament this.
My bunkmate was a cool guy and we communicated as well as we could with no common language. Never got his name though… The ride was ultimately uneventful though and the most exciting break in the monotony was our actual arrival in Shanghai.
Immediately I took the metro to People’s Sqaure in the city-center and set about finding a hotel. There was no looking for a spot to camp in this city; I was determined to spoil myself with a bed for my stay. I found accommodation fairly quick (got a good price by taking a room with no windows … also, there was a dead body under the bed but that wasnt factored into the price), stashed my bag and I was off. More than anything, what characterized my stay in Shanghai was the gluttonous consumption of food; For realz, everything was so good and so cheap that I couldn’t justify depriving myself of anything. I won’t rhyme off everything I had but honourable mention for the fried pork dumplings served at “Yang’s Fried Dumplings” (more than just a clever name). Four big, delicious balls of goodness for 6 Yuan ($1 USD). The old lady at the register laughed knowingly when I went back for seconds.
Between all of this consumption of foodstuffs I also find time to sightsee. My first night I walked to the river that runs through the city (too lazy to google the name) and admired the skyline of the city’s Pudong region. The architecture here (and really, all over the city) is striking and very different from that seen in most North American cities. The Oriental Pearl…
Pictured Here: Far Left and Bulbous
…in particular goes a long way to making the view very futuristic-looking and awe-inspiring. The city also has some large malls; two of these I visited, and to deal with the lack of space in the city both were built 7 or 8 stories high.
My second day in I took a walk south and by chance found a garment district. While I looked at some counterfeit watches and debated having a tailored tweed jacket made, I decided to opt for small souvenir bracelets only, as I already had a watch and didn’t want more clothing weighing down my pack. Toward the end of the second day I decided that although the view around the river was nce, the view of the ocean on the east side of Pudong must be even better. So I took an hour long train trip to the end of the line but realized with dismay that I couldnt get through to the water because there was an airport in the way. I entertained the notion of going around the airport but after running for fifteen minutes the road ended and I realized that if it was indeed a picturesque coastline they wouldn’t have put an airport in the way. I made my way back to the train station, sobered and a little wiser for my troubles.
Day three I managed to find a bookstore which had a small English section and picked up book 3 and 4 of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series. Its pretty good so far and good airplane reading. After this unlikely find I made my way to the Shanghai museum where I spent the better part of my day. It was good and all but I found myself speeding through it as I was tired and not really in a museum-going mood. Still, I felt compelled to culture myself so I took it all in even after the point my eyeballs had gone bleary and vacant. After a large dinner I made my way to the airport with my bag to wait for my flight and also for what would be the longest day or recent memory.
My night in the airport was sleepless which didn’t bother me too much cause I had about 13 hours of flying to crush so I figured Id have plenty of time to doze. One thing I will say is that ramen does not make a substantial meal on its own; I went through two giant bowls of it while I waited in the airport and still was incredibly hungry for most of the night.
Flew to Japan for a thee-hour layover. While Shanghai had had its fair share of whitey it was still dominated by Asians. Not the case with the Tokyo Narita airport; not only were their a ton of white people there but black folk as well. I literally don’t think I had seen any black people at all in Kazakhstan or China. A lot of the white guys in the airport were also fat neckbeards which leads me to believe that they were in Japan to hone their bushido skills or were on the road to Viridian City.
Little do they know that Giovanni has a trick up his sleeve
Ultimately, it was bitter-sweet; the change in complexions was indicative of how far I had come but I was sadly, no longer the sole foreigner whom everyone was gawking at.
Took a ten-hour flight to LA from Tokyo and en route I finally watched Bridesmaids, The Hangover 2 and Bad Teacher, a couple
films movies which I had been meaning to see for some time. Upon landing, I shared a cab to Santa Monica with Paul. He was killing time on a layover to New Zealand. I had been in that situation myself a few years back and had gone to Santa Monica as well…
…so I took it upon myself to show him around some. When we parted ways I took a train east to the city of Riverside on a whim. Walked SE hard from the station til about 1130 pm and had one of the deepest sleeps of recent memory (remember I had been up for 36 hours because with the time change of flying east across the Pacific I essentially had the length of my day doubled and had been watching movies instead of sleeping on the plane). I woke up to a beautiful sunrise over south Riverside. I’m not sure what it is for certain but the sunset the night before had been equally beautiful. Perhaps its just the smog.
Anyway, after waking up that morning in Riverside I walked SE til I got to Interstate 215 South. Walked along there for a while til I got incredibly tired and sore around 1130. Hit a Starbucks south of Perris, and while there I got to talking to Eric. Turns out he and his wife practice “permaculture,” which is, briefly, self-sufficient farming which takes care of itself to a large measure. Their primary output is free-range eggs. He was quite passionate about the superior quality of these oeufs and after showing me pics of the darker coloring of the yolks I was pretty enthusiastic myself. At length he asked if I would like to come by and try some eggs. It sounded like an excellent idea to me.
At his house he showed me the whole egg-farming operation they had set up and they fried me up a couple sunny-side up. When the chickems have a more varied diet than simply just generic feed the yolks are a darker marigold colour and quite good.
After lunch, Eric and his wife, Serena asked me if I would like to sleep in their guest room for the night instead of camping. How could I say no? So I stayed and today after sleeping in til noon (hopefully getting over my jet-lag) I was taught the game, “Go.” Apparently its a game as old as chess, and quite strategic. It almost reminded me of a cross between Minesweeper and Checkers. Apparently I did good for a first -timer … basically I got my ass handed to me. Later I went to Eric and Serena’s church for their evening prayers, and afterward Eric took me around to show me the architecture as I had expressed some interest in seeing the various design features, many of which were imported from places I had been in the past few months (Doors from Antakya, Turkey for example).
I am here for one more night and since it is still 2011 here for another two hours I am still planning my night. Since everyone here is early to bed for a wedding tomorrow I think I may go out a little later on for a walk around the neighbourhood. Eric tells me that the local Mexicans play some raucous Mariachi music on Saturday nights and I think crashing one of these jam sessions could be kinda fun. Aside from that I leave for Vegas tomorrow via my thumb and when I get there I will start making plans to fly home. I’m pretty damn excited.