Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Art of Being Lost

Being lost is generally a state that people avoid. After all, you have no idea where you are or where to go. You are vulnerable, confused and possibly scared or worried at the very least. You are lost to put it simply.

Over the last year I've learned that there is more to being lost than the negatives. When traveling with Briana and Chelsea initially I was always worried and stressed when we got lost. As time has passed I've become more and more comfortable with it. Now, in China, where I don't speak the language and I couldn't tell you which way the metro is, I'm completely comfortable with being lost. Night time hours barred.

When I headed out for Yu Yuan Garden the other day I had no idea of where exactly it was, but miraculously, I found it. Well. First I found the City God Temple which I was not planning on visiting originally.

A road in the City God Temple area.
This was my first experience with a Chinese temple. I'm used to the general idea of how temples and shrines work in Japan, but walking into this one I found myself lost culturally. I had no idea what the different areas were for.

I had no idea what was in the red bags people were throwing into fires or why they were doing it.

Why are you burning the red bag?
I had no idea how to offer a prayer to the deity (or deities) housed in the temple. I gathered that the people with the incense were probably praying, but I still had no idea of how to go about it. So I stood back and kind of watched. It was really interesting to see, but I am still lost even now.

So that was one way I was lost on Sunday. From there I exited into a shopping market area that was impressively large and very traditionally themed. I can't tell you if was just themed or actually traditional. This was also the first time I experienced the people who look at you and say "Lady. You want (insert product here)? I give you good price." They are very pushy and very loud. I ignored them. I tend to have an irrational fear of pushy/loud people selling stuff anyways though. Generally if shopkeepers, etc. start calling out to me and telling me to come look at their goods I run the other way. Even if I had been thinking about looking at their shop. I did find this cute little shop selling hand made silk embroidery pictures though. I know that they were hand made because I watched the lady making them before I decided to buy one. Knowing what i know now, I could have gotten a better deal, but I didn't know about haggling at the time. The funny thing was was that this lady knew English and Japanese as well, so we had a full conversation that was half & half and we switched between languages so fluidly that it seemed completely natural and I didn't even realize it until afterwards.

I thought I took more pictures than this. Sorry folks.
From there I kept wandering through the shopping streets and found myself exactly where I had intended to be in the first place, the Yu Yuan Garden.

 Here is where I ran into an H.I.S. tour group. I was extremely excited because they were an all Japanese group and I could understand what people were saying. I hung out with them until they left the area. Here are some photos of the area.

From there I started walking North. At least I think it was north. The metro I arrived in the area from was the same one where the people I had met the previous day had dropped me off. I remember them pointing in the opposite direction as I had walked that morning and saying they were going shopping on a shopping street over there. So I started walking and found myself at East Nanjing Road. This is apparently a famous shopping street which I had seen on the internet previously. And here I was, stumbling upon it by accident. Being as it was daytime nothing was lit up, but it was still neat, if pricy looking.

 From here I knew that I wanted to check out the French Concession. However, I couldn't remember where it was. Nevertheless, I headed toward the metro and found a takoyaki stand (now I want to go to Osaka).

Once in the metro station I looked at the subway map, made a guess and headed over to Jing'an Temple station which I thought may have been the area. Long story short, I was wrong. But I did see this neat temple, but couldn't go inside because it was too expensive.

Then I got lost. For about an hour or so. I kept thinking, if I keep walking this direction I'll find another Metro eventually. It looked like there was one over here on the subway map in the station. I didn't find the French Concession that day. However, I did find these funny statues all over the place.

This one is my favorite.

I also found Shanghai No. 3 Girl's School. No. I'm not kidding. See for yourself.

I did find the metro station eventually. It was actually right near the school. I made my way home  and made it through to Monday.

After an admittedly late start my friend and I made our way over to the Science and Technology Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed. But there was a cool dragon statue in front.

I am a dragon!!!
For lunch we ate at a random Japanese place. I didn't even realize it was Japanese until we sat down and I looked at the pictures and then realized I could read the language. 

Not so yummy Chawanmushi.
Not so yummy Oyakodon.

The main goal of the day however was to buy a new suitcase at one of the fake markets since mine broke the day I left for China. I'm terrible at bargaining in English. Thankfully my friend is better. I got my suitcase for a cool 200 yuan (or about $35). Then for 140 yuan (about $25) I got a "Jimmy Choo" purse since I'd put a hole in mine the night before on accident. Whoops.

The thing about shopping in markets like this is you need to realize you can bargain. Hard. If you only want to spend a certain amount, start lower than that price and slowly make your way up in price. If they won't meet your price, walk away. Trust me. There are 10 other shops selling the identical product claiming they're worth varying amounts. My purse ranged from being "worth" 480 to 780 to 1380 at the high end. I paid 140 in the end. Slightly more than I wanted to, but I'm terrible at bargaining.

 Oh. And because I finally remember. Here is a picture of the inside of the train. This one doesn't have the bar down the center of the car though. Some of them also have round bars hanging down from the roof for holding onto in front of the doors to cover the big open area.

After dropping off my new suitcase we went out to the French Concession. This is just outside the station we ended up at and I couldn't resist. 

Deeper into the French Concession there were a ton of adorable fruit shops. This wasn't the cutest, but it was the best picture because night time photos don't turn out well. 

I also had warm bubble tea that *gasp* actually tasted like tea. It was yummy. 

When we reached our destination, an outdoor shopping area that was so adorable and was really cool, there was a restaurant called Not Just Toilet or something like that. Entirely toilet themed. It was a bit pricey, so we didn't eat there, but I am still scratching my head at it. 

Here are some pictures of the area. 

That's right. Not only do I have a coffee. I also have a restaurant.

On the way out we saw this STUNNING building. I'm in love with the architecture here. It's so gorgeous and varied. It really is rather stunning. 

Dinner was Korean food. Thankfully it was not spicy. Unlike 90% of everything else I end up ordering. >.<

Yesterday was more of a half day. After another late start (I'm noticing a trend here) we headed out to the Shanghai museum. We saw a man flying a kite and some people feeding birds.

There was also a fountain. Since I already felt like Mary Poppins was nearby this photograph occurred. I'm planning on photoshopping an umbrella into my hand later. 

From there we went and looked at the first two floors of the Shanghai museum. I was exhausted since I've been going non-stop for forever now. So after checking out the first two floors I went back to the hotel and called it an early day. One note though, photographs ARE allowed in the museum so I snapped a few for you all. 

Lastly there is today. Today is Christmas for me! Yay! How am I celebrating? Well, the plan was to play video games all day, but instead I've been writing this post. Merry Christmas to you all. From here, in the Japanese fashion, I'm going to the KFC just around the corner and that will become my Christmas dinner. The rest of the evening will be spent having a Christmas party of one one on either the Sims or Minecraft. I haven't decided yet, though I'm leaning towards the Sims at the moment.

So Merry Christmas to all of you. I'm not planning much between now and returning to Japan, but if anything does happen I'll keep you posted.


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