From Experienced back down to moron
A year ago today I started this silly bike trip from Denmark to India, managing to get alive through some bad weather along the way. Now a year later as the 2. leg of the bicycle trip is about to start, I still manage to find new and innovative ways to mess up – mistakes that have quickly demoted me from experienced traveller to novice, then to amateur and finally back down to moron.
The whole visa debacle was suddenly resolved by my brilliant… eh… let’s rename him travel agent instead of “Sergey the visa guy” – He somehow managed to light a fire under the Pakistani embassy and get not only that visa ready, but the one for India and Nepal as well. Ho-fuckin’-ray!
So equipped with both passports and new visa’s meant I finally got to leave the hostel, and the 40 degrees boiling hot Shanghai. So I bought a train to from Shanghai to Urumqi and from Urumqi back to my bicycle in Kashgar and for the last day here planned to head out to this 400 years old Chinese city, now repurposed tourist trap with a cool Taiwanese skater called Szu – Wei.
It was her last day here as well as mine (or at least that what I thought) as she was on her way back to resume her studies in New York. The place had every tourist trap imaginable, right from the minute we stepped outside of the bus station and were chased by a very very persistent guy with a bicycle, who wanted to “give us” a ride the last kilometer.
A quick Chinese “fix”
If you need to get your Chinese “fix” in a hurry, this is surely the place to go. We paid for a boat trip and were joined by a scooter-fortune-teller who thought she might as well get in our boat so as not to lose sight of us. Szu – Wei ended up having her read her palm from on top of a scooter when we got back on land, predicting all manner of good fortune as well as some cultural Asian chauvinism – as the scooter-lady predicted that Szu – Wei would be very supportive of her future husband.
After the palm reading came the price – a 100 RMB for what essentially is a random stranger following us into our boat and then telling a story filled with all sorts of compliments about yourself. That’s a pretty good gig. This might sound like I’m complaining – I’m not – This place was awesome because it had so many tourist cliches crammed into such a concentrated area – It was hilarious!
The typical Chinese tourist
This is going to sound very presumptuous, but who cares – The typical Chinese tourist, or at least – the ones in this city don’t really care about the feeling or the history of the place they’re visiting, they just want the photo, so they can say they’ve been there. This is depicted in the next couple of photos where a little girl is dressed in some sort of traditional old Chinese garment… Maybe… When Szu – Wei asked them from which dynasty the cloth was from – no one knew.
You get in and get dolled up like you were a princess in Disney Land… And why not? If the kids think that’s fun, then by all means – go nuts! It just seems a bit too orchestrated by adults. You would think the girl in the picture was doing this as a full-time job by the professional way she handled it. She got onto the bridge and made a whole manner of poses that fitted the cloth and the setting, like she was a super model doing a catwalk.
It took me about 5 seconds to steal 3 different picture poses of the girl posing for the professional photographer – and the whole thing was over in a matter of minutes. I remember our professional family photos with a high energy photographer running around with a hand puppet, making silly faces and squeezing a squicky ball all the while trying to get at least one good picture out of all of us.
Mind you, this isn’t a bad picture for a family of at that time 6, later 7…… But look at that silly sod on the left, and then look back at the girl above. Not exactly in the same league when posing for a photography.
All in all the place is great, but don’t go there and expect to inhale what China was like a hundred years ago – not like you can do in Kyrgyzstan, where the main difference for some of the shepherds riding around the Kyrgyz mountains, is that they’re now carrying little plastic communication devices and their water bottle says “Coca Cola”.
We went back to Shanghai afterward and just managed a visit in the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower standing 632 meters tall with what with out a doubt the best city skyline I’ve ever seen. A 100 percent worth while “wow” moment.
From novice to amateur…
At the visit to the Shanghai Tower, I managed to lose yet another lens cap. So Monday morning, the day I was finally catching a train out of Shanghai, I went out about 3 hours before my train and figured I would just quickly zoom to the photo center in a taxi and grab a new one. This is my first mistake. Don’t zoom anywhere else than to the train stations when you’re in a city that has 4 times a many people living in it than your own country.
The zooming over there went fine. The zooming back, not so fine. I must have spent a good 20 minutes flipping off one passing taxi after another before I finally gave up and ran for the metro – Getting out of the metro I made my second mistake and thought I was lucky to finally grab a taxi for the last 1 – 2 kilometers back to get my things at the hostel. Somewhere in between me getting in and out of that taxi… A taxi ride that couldn’t have taken more than about 5 minutes. I lost my GoPro, along with a buttload of content from the visit in Shanghai. I had it in my hand as I was getting into the taxi, and then… Gone!
I realized this fairly quickly and ran like someone had just shot me in the face with the crazy gun, banging on every taxi window I passed, shouting and screaming at every person getting in my way, till I finally caught up with the right car at a red light a couple of streets down. It didn’t matter though… The camera was gone.
There’s a lot of things I probably should have done differently, but running in 40 degrees heat with a heavy camera bag on my back, already late, doesn’t exactly help with a clear head – so without spending too much time checking out the taxi driver, I gave up and hurried back to the hostel. All of this had taken me almost 2 hours – all for a fucking lens cap.
There’s a biiig difference between rich and poor here. 1 percent of all the Chinese people, that’s 13,7 million of the 1.37 billion own 1/3 of the Chinese wealth.
Imagine Denmark owning 1/3 of all of Europe’s wealth.
I spent a couple of nights walking around photographing Shanghai at night and wanted to make a shorts series of 7 – 8 pictures called “Sleepy Shanghai” because of all of the people sleeping everywhere around Shanghai. But I accidentally deleted all the photos but this one.
No time to waste though, hurry out the door to make my train, now running with a good 30+ kilo’s of luggage on me, like the out of shape military man that I am. I somehow managed to make it to the train station, and print my ticket with half an hour to spare. Now here is where a nice Chinese guard pointed out my third mistake, and just drop kicked me back down to moron. I was sweating like I had just climbed out of a pool when she looked at me, down to my ticket, then back up to me and pointed at the date.
The train had already left… About 23 and half hours before.
I’ve missed trains before and even mistaken the time of departure, but here – I had actually planned on leaving Monday and then bought a ticket for Sunday.
I went back to the hostel and was happy as a clam after a bit of pizza, whiskey, and “Rick And Morty“.
This is probably the prettiest thing I’ve seen in all of China.
This “Custom Made Cafe Racer” costs 16.800 RMB or 2150 Euro’s – Which to me sounds… Very cheap.
Check out their website: sh-customs.com/
I won’t miss Shanghai or China.
I don’t think I’m going to miss China like I do with the other countries I’ve visited, and this might be my own fault for not putting up more of a fight against the heat. But to honest, I don’t think it would have been all that different if it had been cooler. There is almost never a time when walking the street where you don’t see some form of police officers or guard, there always someone making sure you are doing everything correctly.There are barricades and barbed wire everywhere and the constant luggage scanners everywhere make you fear your backpack will get cancer.
China is like a germaphobe that has to wipe their hands to make sure they won’t catch anything. It’s supposed to make you feel safe, but for me, it works the opposite way. It makes me feel uncomfortable and restricted. The “Great Firewall of China” just perpetuates that feeling by blocking so much information that doesn’t sit well with China.
I might have thought differently had I managed to get my visa’s in time and traveled out to see the rest of the country, but as it is now – China is not a place I would want to live.
Soo.. The guy in the middle is carrying.. 1 – 2- 3- 4 – 5….. 5 people, and I just got dizzy standing up too quickly after taking his picture…. Yup.
Getting ready for round 2.
So I eventually ended up flying from Shanghai to Urumqi and catching the train back to Kashgar that apparently is celebrating Eid. I thought that was earlier in the summer? But hey… What do I know?
My bike is back from the mechanic with new brakes… and pretty much everything else new as well. The 2. leg of the trip will be vastly different from the 1., and like the 1. part it has its own unique challenges.
Acclimatizing to cycling in 4800 meters in the Himalayas, and at the same time getting safely through the war-torn Kashmir region, and the rest of Pakistan. Not getting hit by the insane traffic in India, or swept away by the current floods and then getting back up into the Himalayas to say “Hello” to Mount Everest base camp in Nepal before continuing south into India.