We played mas in Shanghai. Millions saw our costumes, heard our music, felt our euphoria of being on the road. China was introduced again to our culture. And it turns out our performance was not so bad! We got a certificate (they do that here) and we got invited to return next year! Woohoo! Time for us to relax and explore a bit of the culture of China.
We had many activities planned. First up, we visited a famous garden in China town, the Yu Garden. It was beautiful. Fefe explained one of the key differences of gardens in China in that they may include many houses. This garden was one 245 hectares of land which originally was the home of a top official. It included lovely houses and rooms, rock structures, ponds filled with large coi and one or two turtles. If you looked at the rooftops, there were statues of dragons, soldiers. It represented traditional Chinese housing and I loved it!
From the garden we headed to the City God Temple Bazaar (the local market in old china town) to a tea house where we learned of the various teas and their functions. From what I saw, the Chinese are not so hot on coffee, more tea. After this we had about an hour and a half to do some individual shopping in this vast shopping market. Fefe reminded us not to get lost. I wandered around looking for souvenirs and just admiring the architecture and the plethora of goods on offer. It felt like everything and anything could be bought here. The time went so quickly! It was time to meet the rest of the group for lunch.
After lunch, more sight seeing by the riverside where we could see the amazing modern architecture which was so different from the traditional buildings we had visited in the morning. This illustrated that although Shanghai had very strong roots and ties to their past, they also embrace modern life. Again we were accosted by the curious Chinese tourists and locals who wanted to take pictures with us. We did shopping at the science and technology underground shopping market where we haggled with the best of them thanks to Symone’s informal (and unknown to her) tuition. Everyone came out of that place happy and hands filled with shopping. Then dinner.
After dinner, there was the night river cruise which is not to be missed. It showed Shanghai in all its resplendent glory; the colours, lights, architecture. Amazing! My camera did not stop working during that cruise. I wanted to capture it all. After this long day we head back to the hotel.
Looking back on this whirlwind of a time in China some of the cultural differences begin to seep in. And because I have been to so many dinners I have noticed that we had an issue with double dipping. There are communal plates which everyone had to share from. In the Chinese culture as it was later explained, there was no problem with people using the same utensil to eat from and take from which we kind of frown upon when one ex pat did.
I learnt how to use chopsticks from the young expat who innocently double dipped! I am so happy. I struggled with that for a bit. The traffic!! Oh my… It looks like organised chaos with motorcyles, cars, bicycles and pedestrians all trying to cross at the same time. And I am trying to cross as well. I loved it!!! I just shadowed the steps of the locals.
I do not think I have ever had so many pictures taken of me before, requests for shared selfies, such innocuous curiosity about my hair and me (mainly the hair I think). I thought the interest in Tanzania and Zanzibar was something. In China? It was so much more.
There are some memories of this trip that will just make me laugh every time I think of them. Seeing the locals using bikes to transport ANYTHING, no matter the size!! Fefe our guide telling us that in the distant past the Chinese had many many children. Someone on the coach saying it’s because they had no TV. Fefe says ‘No TV… what’s the connection?’ and we all burst into laughter. Beverly saying in China, they copy everything and if you stand still long enough, they will copy you too!! Symone’s haggling skills. The way Chris was mercilessly teased. And Max saying, ‘Boi I dunno you know.’
Some trips are memorable because of the places you visit. And then there are some which become amazing and unforgettable because there is the added factor of people you travel with. Mr Dexter’s looking out for me, Beverly’s adventurous spirit, Dorothy’s unconscious grace, Veronica’s enthusiasm for music, Symone’s warmth and devotion to her mum, Vino’s quiet but accurate observations, Melissa’s undeniable talent, Janice being a great room mate and Ansel’s fantastic leadership. These and others not mentioned made this one of my top trips of all time. I was a bit of an outsider initially as I really did not know many of the people on the trip and they all seemed to know each other to some degree. But this group was very warm and welcoming. Ansel and Vino did an amazing job putting this together. The tours, hotel, dinners. This was executed to perfection. I would say that this is a trip that should not be missed! China, done. Can’t wait for the second part of this trip… Malaysia!