22 December 2011

Nihao! - Part Eight

Part seven can be found here. We pick up from our imminent arrival at Chengdu airport, and I am pondering how my next day will go as Isaac says goodbye and I venture forth on my own.

Day eight - 3pm: I carry my luggage through the doors of Chengdu airport, Isaac and Vivian by my side. The flight doesn't board for another two hours, cool, that means I can spend thankfully some more time chatting to Isaac, making extra sure I have got all my tickets, times and places I need to be in order before he leaves.

This was all cut short however because suddenly Isaac turns to me and says "Ok man, it's been an amazing trip, I wish you a safe trip home".

I'm stunned. "What! You aren't staying with me until I board? How do I check in? What if I get lost? What if there is a problem with my ticket? No one speaks English!" Yes I admit there was the slightest moment of panic ha.

He laughs "Sorry man but Vivian needs to go. Don't worry you'll be fine."

We hug, and I try to express my sincere thanks for offering me this chance to accompany him on this amazing trip, one that has changed my life, but words escape me and I think all I managed was a rough 'thanks for everything' and a look away of the eyes. I watch them as they walk away towards the doors until I can't see them anymore, then look at my surroundings to get my bearings.

There is two hours before boarding, the airport is packed, and everything is literally in Chinese. I realized I was being silly at being nervous of being on my own, I mean how am I meant to travel on my own to New York City for a year if I can't manage 2 days in China (although to clarify it wasn't being on my own overseas that was the worry, it was more the language barrier that was the daunting part...crazy imagination). From my Yoga classes I have learned how to (with some degree of success) calm my mind and breathing, so I found an empty floor space, sat down, and read my book. Within minutes I was completely calm, it was nice to know I have much more control over myself than I initially realized.

Long story short I got through check-in and boarded with no worries and was soon fast asleep on the two and a half hour flight back to Shanghai. Cool. In fact being on my own was kind of fun, it gave me a small feeling of being a 'mystery traveler' ha!

Day eight - 9pm: The flight touched down in Shanghai, this is where the real test of being a foreigner in another country would begin, I was excited! After collecting my luggage I hauled my way to the taxi line, caught one, and showed the taxi driver a piece of paper where Isaac had written the address of my hotel in Chinese. After my repeated questioning in Chinese mandarin "do you understand?" and him insisting that he does, we were on our way.

Funny story here. After the 40 minute drive we were in the city. I had absolutely no idea where I was but I trusted the driver. Thankfully he finally starts to slow, points up ahead and says a bunch of stuff in Chinese that I couldn't understand at all, but I assumed he was saying something like 'the hotel is up ahead, just across the intersection'. He pulls over, I give him a thumbs up, then lug my extremely heavy bags into the direction he pointed. As I was waiting at the lights however I was looking up and down the street to where he pointed but I just couldn't see where the hotel was, but figured it must be just up ahead.

25 minutes go by and I am still wandering the streets, in which case I had already traversed each street of the intersection, got into a lengthy discussion with a security guard whom I asked for directions (despite the fact I had no idea what he was saying and he couldn't speak English), and got waved at by a disturbing number of 'massage' girls, and I still had not found where the blazes this hotel was. It was around 11pm now, and my bags with the addition of all the extra gifts were extremely heavy. Sigh... just my luck.

Eventually I decided to walk back to the spot the taxi driver dropped me off at to start over. As I was gathering my bags to get ready to trek out again a sign just in front of me caught me eye... a sign that looked rather similar to the hotel logo I was looking for. I stand up straight only to see that the hotel I had been looking for this whole time had in fact been exactly where the taxi guy dropped me off ha!

I really enjoyed the freedom of being on my own actually. After checking in to the hotel (thankfully one of them spoke a little English), I went down the street and bought some supplies and just generally wandered around for a while. A very relaxing way to end the night.

Day nine: My flight to take me home to Australia wasn't until 8pm which meant I had the entire day to explore Shanghai. My parents had recently come back from a holiday to Shanghai themselves and highly recommended the Shanghai Science and Technology museum, so my destination was set.

But to no surprise, due to my weird luck, it was closed that day ha! Sigh. The taxi I had arrived in had already driven away, and the street I was on was completely deserted, so alas I am forced to do more walking with my array of luggage. I better gain some muscle mass after this trip ha.

I made the most of my walk and took in the sights, Shanghai is such a beautiful city.

Shanghai Art Exhibition.

After a highly confusing conversation with a taxi driver (how do you portray 'Shanghai Museum' in charades ha!) I spent my day at the awesome Shanghai Museum. It was rich of the countries history and had some seriously impressive works of art and collection of artifacts. Some of the artifacts you see below are literally over a thousand years old!

800 years old!
With the museum complete and still another hour before I must leave I wanted to soak up the city one last time.

As I sat on the park wall, in the pleasant weather and the peaceful air, I felt completely at peace. Thoughts drifted to the question "could I live here one day?". After some thought I had my answer. Yes, I could definitely see myself living here sometime in the future. Time was running low before I had to head to the airport, it was at this moment I was highly reluctant to leave. Could it really had been 9 days? To be honest it did feel like it, my mind and body was thoroughly exhausted, what a roller coaster of tempo the trip had been.

It was hard to imagine that so much could be fit into such a short amount of time; chasing taxi's in Shanghai, traversing the Forbidden City, riding bikes through the peak hour streets of Beijing, exploring the wonder of the Great Wall, strolling through Beijing Olympic Park, meeting all those exciting new people, learning mahjong in Chongqing, haggling with merchants in Chengdu, drinking all that tea and eating all those traditional meals, not to mention the five plane flights and one train ride, and still that is just the tip of the iceberg of my trip. The recount of the trip could of easily been twenty parts or more (so be thankful it only made it to eight ha).

After another 15 minutes I tore myself from the view, chased down a taxi and went to the airport, savoring these last moments.

My last glimpse of Shanghai as I head to the airport.

The plane ride turned out surprisingly amazing. It is a 10 hour flight which I seriously dread (I get headaches and insanely bored on planes) but somehow, and I have no memory of this, I managed to fall asleep for 8 hours! Before I knew it the flight attendants were waking me up for the breakfast meal which meant there was only two hours remaining, win! On the flight also I made good friends with the guy next to me, his name was Matt and he had just come from Italy to try and get a job in Australia... how cool is that! We chatted for ages.

Alas, after what seemed like one of the most hectic weeks, I was home.

I'm home.


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