1. Shanghai's Hawaii
My Journey To
Hawaii Begins All of the large cities of the world have their little
China Town area. And it�s not so different in China. No, I don�t mean
China Towns, because they�re obviously everywhere. I mean their little
�foreign� areas. The towering business center of Shanghai which includes
the JinMao Tower (world�s 3rd tallest building) is called �Shanghai�s
Manhattan�. And Hengsha Island, the smallest of 3 islands in the mouth
of the Yangtse River, is called �Shanghai�s Hawaii�.
So today I was
going to Hawaii!
The first 2 boats
bound for Hawaii were due to leave at 7.00 am and 9.45 am, and it
would take about 2 hours to get to the harbour, so I opted to catch
the later one. My plan was to leave home at 7 o�clock and have breakfast
when I got to the harbour. But as I left my home, I thought that maybe
the bus to the Metro light rail station would delay my arrival by
too much, so I caught a taxi just to be on the safe side.
By 7.25am I was
on the Metro and on my way to the end of the line. I was sure I�d
saved at least 30 minutes of travel time, so the 16 RMB (AUD$2.90)
fare was a great investment in peace of mind.
The bus depot
was just a minute from the Metro Terminal, and soon (and for only
1.5 RMB or AUD$0.28) I was on the 8.00 am bus bound for the harbour.
This bus had a long way to go, so it wasn�t making many stops. But
when it did, the bus ticket collector, who sat just behind the rear
bus doors, kept putting her hand out of the window and banging the
side of the bus as we approached our bus stops. This is the Chinese
way of telling the constant stream of pedestrians and cyclists between
the bus and the gutter �
�Hey you! We�re
pulling over any second now and you�re going to become minced meat
unless you get out of our way super quick!�
And it worked
very well, as startled pedestrians quickly jumped back onto the footpaths
and frightened cyclists desperately slammed on their breaks to avoid
the bus which veered mercilessly across to meet its waiting passengers.
In Shanghai, the bigger vehicles always have right of way over the
smaller vehicles, and none more so than the buses!
Hot, Wet And
our hot days are usually accompanied by cool mornings and cool nights,
so we always take jumpers or jackets with us in preparation for the
cool changes. But in Shanghai the summer weather is a very constant
warm temperature all day long, and very humid. So in no time at all
you can feel hot and sticky. In fact, many of the younger guys walk
around with their T-shirts rolled halfway up their torso�s, trying
to cool down.
about halfway to the harbour, we picked up a real �sweaty body�. This
guy had very strong B.O. (body odour), and at 8.15 in the morning,
that wasn�t a good sign for anyone coming in contact with him that
day. And it was just my luck that he chose to sit in the seat directly
in front of me. But it soon got worse. In order to cool down, he opened
the window beside him which immediately blew his surrounding aroma
straight back into my face. Peeeeeeeeew! I wasn�t going to enjoy the
rest of this ride.
arrived at the harbour by 8.30 am, much sooner than I�d expected,
and I could take a deep breath again. Shanghai�s summer is also their
rainy season, so it wasn�t unusual that rain had been predicted for
today. Then as I walked along the street it started to drizzle � then
stopped. As I looked up I saw a couple of guys washing the wall of
a 15 story apartment building I�d just walked past, and the drizzle
was the after wash falling from 50 metres (150 ft.) above. I guess
my bad luck wasn�t ready to let go of me yet.
buying my boat ticket (14 RMB or AUD$2.60) I still had over an hour
to spare for breakfast. Choosing a restaurant or street-side eatery
is always a lengthy chore. And I�m always attracted to something different
to my previous experiences. So when I saw a couple of guys making
noodles in the front of their small noodle restaurant, I quickly ducked
inside and sat at a table. A large bowl of noodles with beef was 5
RMB (AUD$0.92), so I just sat and observed these chefs as I waited
for my beef noodle soup.
Two chefs kneaded
a bucket-load of dough on a large stainless steel table. Then the
noodle maker broke off a piece about the size of a cantaloupe and
began his noodle-making regime. First of all he stretched it out,
the folded it over, twisted it, folded it over, twisted it and so
on about half a dozen times. Then he began to turn that mass of dough
into noodles. With a smooth flowing motion, he stretched it out as
far as his arms could reach, then he brought both ends together and
stretched the dough out again. And after each action, the noodles
got thinner and thinner, and more and more plentiful. He did this
5 times so that finally he had 32 lengths of noodles about a metre
(3 ft.) long, which he stretched even further with a sharp flick of
the noodles onto the stainless steel table, and immediately threw
them into the boiling pot beside him. These noodles were about as
fresh as you could get them. And then I realized something else. He
hadn�t cut the ends of the noodles, so each length of noodle was really
about 32 metres (100 ft.) long!
After I finished
my soup (I�m sure I didn�t get all 32 metres!) I walked into the adjacent
store to buy some drinks for my journey. In Shanghai there are many
convenience type stores, much like 7-11 stores, so it feels like I�m
back home whenever I walk into them. I�m still overwhelmed by the
variety of drinks available, and it doesn�t help when most of them
only have Chinese writing on them. So I usually go for the ones showing
a picture of the ingredients (orange, lemon, grape) or those with
their ingredients written in English (Almond Juice, Coconut Milk).
I was taking a little while in front of the refrigerator, and already
had a few drinks in my arms, when one of the staff members came over,
took the drinks from me and placed them into a basket she was carrying.
Then she just waited, happy to carry my basket for me while I shopped.
Talk about pressure! Now I had to fill the damn thing! Needless to
say, I bought a few more drinks, a cake and a packet of biscuits (there
goes the diet again!) until I felt the basket was full enough to go
to the check-out. But 18 RMB (AUD$3.30) didn�t really break the bank.
Chinese TV is
very amusing. I don�t choose to watch TV, it�s just on everywhere
I go. All the small shops have them on to entertain their owners while
their shops are empty. Almost all the buses and all the trains (including
Metro light rail) have them. And all the bus depots and airport waiting
areas have them too. As I waited at the boat station, I glanced at
the show on TV. I get a buzz every time I manage to understand some
of the dialogue, like Ni Hao (hello) and Xie Xie (thank you) and Hao
(OK), so I listen out for these words and just watch the picture for
clues to the storyline. Well, as all the actors were in national costume,
it appeared that this was a film based in olden Chinese times, and
it was a comedy. I could tell because at one point 2 Chinamen had
been found mocking a superior, and they were quickly brought to him
for punishment. Then as they knelt in front of him with head bowed,
the superior noticed the legs of one of the guys shaking fearfully.
Then when he moved the man�s jacket aside to take a closer look, he
quickly walked away in disgust after realizing that the poor guy had
peed in his pants!
Cool Boat Cruise
I was on the boat
soon, and it left right on time, at 9.45am. This wasn�t a small boat,
there were 617 seats on 2 levels, so it was more like a small ship.
But I still wasn�t having much luck with my traveling seats. My ticket
sat me right in front of a huge air conditioner, which would�ve been
OK if I�d brought a jacket with me, but in just a T-shirt, it was
way too cool for my liking. So I spent some time out on deck. It was
quite warm outside, but this eerie thick fog was everywhere. The sea,
horizon and sky were all one hazy mass of grey. I thought it unusual
for such a warm day, and rationalized that it was more likely due
to the pollution in the air than to any weather condition. I�d already
snacked on my biscuits and a few drinks, so standing on a rocking
deck was beginning to make me nauseas. The boat was pretty full for
the first part of the journey (about 40 mins.), but thankfully some
passengers got off at the first island (not Hawaii), and I quickly
moved away from the air conditioner to a warmer seat in the back of
My First Glimpse
It took one hour
and 50 minutes to get to Hawaii, and the fog still hadn�t lifted.
Nor had the colour of the water changed. The sea was still the same
muddy brown colour of the Yangtse River. I had no idea how far out
we�d need to go before we could finally see the blue ocean waters
again, but Hawaii was unusually green. Bright green grass and trees
lined its banks making me believe that we still hadn�t got to the
sea after all, and this island was really in the river�s salt-free
waters. As we got onto the island, all the passengers were immediately
hassled by taxi drivers to get them into the town centre. I had other
ideas. I wanted to get hold of a map first, then I�d make a decision
where to go from there. But alas, there is no such thing on this island.
It may be Hawaii by name, but not by tourist attraction. Therefore
no need for maps of the island. I walked a little further up, past
quite a number of unfortunately squashed crabs, until I came across
my first side road. And there it was. A perfectly straight, but narrow,
road that seemed to go on for miles. And either side of the road was
lined with palm trees. Yes, even though I�d never been to Hawaii,
this began to feel Hawaii-like.
I had no idea
where the road would lead to, but I wasn�t game enough to venture
too far off into the unknown, so I thought maybe I should get a cab
into town. �Fifteen yuan�, the cabbie said. �Ten yuan �, I replied,
but he refused. They always refuse. After all, I�m a foreigner, so
what�s another 5 RMB to a foreigner? But I always walk away and then
they come running after me. �OK, OK. Ten yuan.�
The 13 km (8 mile)
trip into town was lined with whitewashed trees, goats tethered by
the roadside and free-ranging chickens. Rice fields were quite plentiful
and 2 men emerged from a grass hut as dozens of workers squatted in
a neighbouring field planting a new crop.
The township was
very small, but there were lots of shops in the streets. There are
30,000 people on this island, yet by Chinese standards it�s only sparsely
populated. The rain had finally started to drizzle as I got out of
the cab (real rain this time). The town was very quiet, but soon I
came across a nearby bridge where there was a lot more activity going
on. A lone swallow swooped slowly down the middle of the road coming
back down the other side then repeating its flight all over again.
And each time it flew within reach of my grasp. Both sides of the
bridge were crowded with merchants selling their wares, and one lady
crouched over her lot of peaches with her face tucked between her
knees. It�s very common to see Chinese merchants taking a nap. In
fact, in many of the smaller stores you can see them fast asleep on
fold-up beds which have obviously been brought in for that purpose.
One particular occasion comes immediately to my mind. I walked past
a store and noticed a man fast asleep on his bed. I remembered this
store because I was tempted to photograph him. Then about an hour
later, I walked by the same store again, and guess what. Wrong! This
time there was a woman sleeping in the same bed (without the guy)!
They�d obviously changed shifts at some point, though I can�t see
how merchants like these could actually make a living that way.
As I moved on,
I walked past a taxi van. All I could see were a pair of knees! Yes,
the driver was lying across the narrow front seat of the van having
a siesta too.
Money To Burn
One stall that
caught my eye was selling wads of money. Packs of hundreds of notes
with denominations of 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 RMB lay neatly stacked
alongside notepads and other stationery. Funny money? Well, the story
I got was quite interesting. This was all �money to burn� (quite literally).
Apparently, when a relative dies, this money is used to burn at their
funerals, though I didn�t get the reason why. But as I studied the
notes I noticed something a little spooky. On the reverse side, the
notes had been printed with the name of a bank. Hell Bank Notes!
�Why Hell?� I
asked. �Why not Heaven?�
burn in Hell,� was the reply, and I couldn�t get any more elaboration
If they were Heaven
Bank Notes, I would�ve bought some. They were only 1 RMB (AUD$0.18)
for 100 notes. But I�m a little superstitious, so I didn�t want to
be carrying Hell Bank Notes with me. Don�t want to attract the wrong
When I crossed
the bridge again, I noticed a guy coming out of a tin shack (beside
the river) unbuttoning his fly. Then he walked across to a public
toilet. Yes, I needed to go too! By the time I climbed down the steps
to the toilets, he was already on his way back again. Had he been?
This was one
of the prettier sights.
The entrance to
the toilets was disgusting. Then as I entered it got worse! The urine-covered
floors started from the entrance, so it was like walking through muddy
slush. And there were no lights, so it was dark. And no doors at the
entrance or for the cubicles, if you could call them cubicles. Small
tiled walls less than a metre high were the only hint of privacy,
and within these cubicles was a long continuous smelly trench which
started at one end of the toilet block and ended at the other. And
for urinals they had a suspended trench up against the adjacent wall
with a gradual incline, so that the urine cascaded over the lowest
edge and into the first cubicle trench. A dirty mop lay across a trough
in the corner, but it obviously hadn�t been used in a long time. All
the tiles were white, once upon a time, but now they were covered
in black dirt and a rusty grime had set permanently on their surface.
But when you�ve got to go, you�ve got to go. Then as I ventured into
daylight again, I noticed something I�d missed before. The partly
demolished room less than 2 metres (6 ft.) opposite the toilet block
was well covered in urine and faeces. Obviously some of the Chinese
preferred this location to the filth of the public toilets.
A shop selling
cold meats caught my eye. And as I walked past a young boy to get
there he began to drop his pants. I�d seen toddlers encouraged to
pee in the streets, but this boy was about 5 years old and quite capable
of doing it without anyone�s help. Soon his pants were down around
his ankles and his urine was streaming into the street. And in an
attempt to see how far he could pee (as all us guys have done in the
past � and some still do!) he leaned back as far as possible and aimed
upwards, causing it to arch symmetrically through the air before splashing
in the distance. Moments later he was dressed and gone, leaving a
long wet puddle moving ever so slowly towards the middle of the street.
boy aimed a folded-paper plane at his father who was holding a baby.
His father wasn�t impressed, so the boy turned around and threw it
across to the other side of the street.
It was now 1 pm
on Saturday afternoon and I�d already noticed several tables in the
streets and in the stores with card games in full swing. Not really
much happening in this community! A family sat around a table playing
Chinese Dominoes. Much more colourful than our boring black tiles.
There were maybe twice as many tiles in the Chinese version, and the
tiles were 2-toned. Green and white.
A man walked out
of his home in his pyjamas and across the street. This was the main
street of the town, and it was 1.15 pm! His wife emerged soon afterwards
holding their baby. She was in her pyjamas too. When he returned,
they both stood talking on the footpath only a metre from me, quite
oblivious to the fact that I was writing about them. (How else do
you think I can remember so much detail? I walk around and whenever
I see something of interest, I stop and take out my glasses, pen and
pad, and start writing.)
Two young girls
across the street noticed me just as I noticed them. Were they eating
Mars Bars? I crossed the street to get a closer look. They looked
a little surprised to see me coming their way. So what did they have
in those bright black wrappers? Black eggs! This may be hard to imagine,
but almost all the boiled eggs in China are black! No, they don�t
come from the chickens that way, they�re cooked that way using soy
sauce and other spices.
Soon I realized
more and more people were staring at me. Obviously I was the only
�lao wai� (foreigner) in Hawaii that day. And my guess was that it
had been quite some time since they�d seen any Westerners on their
island, given the recent scare due to SARS. Which reminded me. I hadn�t
seen ANYONE wearing a face-mask for at least the last week!
Stores In Town
I passed several
stores with wooden abacus on their glass cabinets. These adding devices
have been in use for thousands of years, and here in China many shopkeepers
still prefer them to the modern day calculating machines. A cobbler�s
equipment lay unattended on the footpath. I guessed he wouldn�t be
too far away. A little further on a sewing machine was set-up on the
footpath with a bundle of coloured zippers on it. Again it was unattended,
but a lady watched me closely from the store closest to it. A shop
selling knick-knacks featured a bundle of cane fly swatters. I admired
the ingenuity of the makers who�d taken 30 cm (12 inch) strips of
bamboo about 2 cm (1 inch) wide and made about 20 slits about 12 cm
(5 inches) long in one end. These were then woven together with 2
pieces of wire so they flared out to about 10 cm (4 inches) width.
Such a simple design and most likely all handmade. A small 4m x 6m
(12 ft. x 18 ft.) store specialized in �Well it didn�t specialize
in anything! It sold shoes (mens and womens), clothes (mens and womens),
bras, buckets, plastic tubs, fire hydrant hoses and water pumps. So
I guessed that Hawaii, with its limited population, didn�t have much
need for many specialty stores!
As I looked around,
it seemed like somebody was either building, renovating or demolishing
something. Six women dressed in gloves and straw hats stood beside
a loaded truck waiting for their next chore. Women are a common sight
on building sites where they help wherever they�re needed, except
for the heavy work.
Another team of
workers relaxed near their work vehicles. A couple of drivers lay
across the front of these vehicles which looked like a cross between
a truck and a tractor. I asked a driver if he�d mind me photographing
him. He said he didn�t mind as he got up and smiled for the camera.
�But can you lie
down in the truck again?� I asked.
No he wouldn�t!
I took a couple a photos anyway and moved on.
As I walked away,
I could see a water buffalo pulling a cart in the distance. When it
finally came close enough, I took a photo. The old man on the cart
was not impressed. As the cart passed by, I noticed all the fresh
cow patties on the road. Obviously these creatures were still a very
common means of transport. Just then I jumped aside, just in time
to avoid being splashed by a fresh patty which had been squashed by
a passing truck. I had to make sure I kept alert at all times!
Time to get to
the ocean side of the island. Maybe the water would be bluer there.
Earlier on that afternoon, the �Hell Bank Notes� stallholder had said
she could arrange to get me a taxi for 4 hours at a cost of only 50
RMB. But I hadn�t seen any of the town yet, so I declined. Now I only
had 2 hours to spare before the last boat left for the mainland at
4 pm, so I asked the first cab I saw how much he�d want to take me
to the beach.
�35 yuan,� he
replied. �20 yuan,� I countered (Gee, I love this bargaining process),
and smiled as he tried to argue his point with me. So I left and walked
to the �Hell Bank Notes� stall. Then as I talked with the stallholder
again, the taxi van came back again.
�OK. OK. 20 yuan
Which was great
news, because this lady said I�d still have to pay 50 RMB even if
I only wanted the cab driver for only 2 hours. I sensed that she was
getting a commission from her taxi driver, so it may have been a deal
she commonly offered.
By now I was in
the cab and we were on our way.
Less than 10 minutes
later (the beach was only 15 minutes away), the cabbie said, �25 yuan.
OK? 20 yuan is too cheap.�
He was right of
course, but I hate negotiating a deal then having the terms changed
just because I�m stuck in a situation. So I handled it as tactfully
as I could.
�Stop the van!�
I yelled. �I�ll get off here and walk back to town.�
The driver was
�Stop the car
He stopped and
I jumped out. Then he motioned for me to pay him for the fare until
�I�ll pay you
nothing,� I said, and began to walk off.
�OK. OK.� He said.
�Sorry, sorry. 20 yuan is OK.�
�Don�t do that
to me!� I yelled again and jumped back into the van.
shaken him up a bit because he went very quiet afterwards. But I was
glad that he decided to take me back, because I really wasn�t looking
forward to walking back to town and I wasn�t sure I�d come across
another taxi out in the countryside. I know that 5 RMB isn�t a lot
of money, but it�s the principle that counts. He must�ve known the
fare was too low, but he wanted to get me away from the lady I was
negotiating with so he could make me pay a higher price when we were
alone. No way, Jose!
Holiday Village Resort
When we arrived
at Shuishangleyuan (Happy Water Garden), the beach was on our left
and the �Angels Seaside Holiday Village Resort� was on our right.
The driver already knew he wouldn�t be paid until I got back to the
harbour, and I was sure he wouldn�t start another commotion with me.
So I got out of the van and headed for the resort. The scene was quite
beautiful, much like you�d expect in any foreign resort, with clean
waters (though still brown), plush green grass and new buildings.
All the buildings had huge numbers labeling them and they were either
single-story brick cabins or double-story brick townhouses. The feel
was definitely American, and the small arched bridge added a lovely
touch to the scenery.
Out of curiosity,
I went to the reception desk to ask the prices for accommodation.
The cheapest price was 240 RMB for a single room, but they didn�t
have any left (or so he said). However, he could give me a good deal
on a 2 bedroom cabin which was normally 880 RMB/ night. I could have
it for only 700 RMB (AUD$130). I smiled as I left. It only costs me
about 5-10 RMB/day to live in China, so I wasn�t too keen on spending
700 RMB for one night�s sleep.
Crabs On The
The beach was
on the other side of the road. A long expanse of wet brown sand (it
was low tide) with a couple of boats beached ashore. Both were tied
to anchors, so I figured they still came afloat during high tide.
Walking along the rocks, dozens of small crabs went scurrying under
rocks or into little water pools.
During my early
teens, my parents had a block of land at Sorrento, a beachside town
about 90 minutes south of Melbourne. And we�d go there every Christmas
for our 4 week summer holidays. I rate those vacations as the best
weeks of my life, and treasure those memories to this day. Especially
the nights when we�d go crabbing after dark. We�d grab torches and
empty buckets and potato sacks, get dressed in warm jackets and gumboots,
and go fossicking for crabs along the rock pools at low tide. And
we�d stay out there for a couple of hours until the water began to
rise again, making it too dangerous to continue. We�d catch the crabs
by hand and always got back to our tents with dozens, or even hundreds
of these little critters, some of which went straight into a boiling
pot of water on our return.
The Goat Track
Well, there wasn�t
much else to do, so I made for the taxi van. The driver, who never
took his eyes off me, was pleased to see I�d decided to leave much
earlier than expected. Maybe that�s why he chose to take me back via
the coastline, or maybe he was still trying to make amends for upsetting
me. Nevertheless, it was an interesting drive through what I�ll always
remember as The Goat Track.
This was a very
narrow sealed road, barely wide enough to fit 2 cars side-by-side.
My immediate attention was looking out at the seaside, but when I
glanced back to the front of the car again, I saw 3 startled goats
running for their lives along the road, and the van was quickly gaining
on them. For a moment I thought we were going to drive right over
them, but the driver slowed down just at the last second. So there
we were, hot on the tails (literally) of these frightened little goats
which had no idea that if they�d just get off the road we�d bypass
them quite willingly. Soon we came to a fork in the road, and luckily
the goats veered left when we veered right, otherwise we would�ve
chased them all the way back to the harbour. We met 2 other flocks
(?) of goats along the way, though none as exciting as the first encounter.
The first group was of 7 goats which were sun baking on the road when
they noticed us, and casually got up and walked onto the grass when
we got nearer. The second group of about 12 goats were more startled,
and scurried off the road fearfully. But that group was mostly of
newborn kids which I�m sure would be easier to scare.
Dozens of swallows
swooped along the narrow road ahead of us as we got closer to the
harbour, and once we were there, I paid the cabbie and my Hawaii trip
Back in the boat
station, I sat beside a couple of women with bags full of live yabbies,
so I asked them where they got them from. Apparently they�d caught
�How?� I asked.
�With a net�,
I�d only known I could�ve gone yabbying, maybe I would�ve come prepared
with a net and long gumboots, and stayed much longer!
this abandoned hut would make an excellent artist's subject.
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
Taris web sites