I arrived in Shanghai a week and a half ago. And it is hot. Like really hot. Shanghai has been miserable this week with temperatures in the 90s and such high humidity that it actually feels like 100+ degrees. This afternoon it is 97 degrees outside, but feels like 112 degrees. What is this madness!!
Good news is that there has been a nice steady breeze that sweeps out the pollution meaning hello blue(ish) skies! Also, I found a way to stay cool(ish) and blend in around our very Chinese neighborhood! I have begun carrying around an umbrella like most women do here in the summer! It shields me from the unforgiving sun and unwelcome stares. Some people notice me anyways since I am ungodly tall for a woman, but mostly I am overlooked. It is brilliant.
Today I thought I’d share our trip to Zhoushang last weekend. This seems to be a thing that only days after my arrival in Shanghai, I am on a bus bound to random cities in China with Peter’s coworkers. Remember Suzhou three years ago? Yup I had just arrived in Shanghai for my first visit EVER and the very next day I was on a bus for a weekend trip to a Chinese water park. Here I am with Wade’s wife, who was also on the trip this year! Wow we were babies (and now she has a baby of her own! crazy!).
I knew that this team building trip to Zhoushang would be equally random, so I came prepared for anything and everything. And let me tell you, my expectations completely missed the mark… again. And it was awesome.
Friday at noon, I met Peter at his company and boarded a bus with the rest of his team and their families. Of course, Peter and I were the only non-Chinese people and I was the only person who can’t speak Chinese. Naturally. At 1 o’clock we began the 4 hour drive south. As we left the city, I leaned back in my seat, excited to relax for the next several hours. Except as time passed the road became bumpier and bumpier, even after crossing the longest bridge in the history of the world. Seriously, we were on this bridge for at least half an hour. It was amazing! By the time we approached Zhoushang, Peter and I were giggling hysterically as we were thrown around like rag dolls, while I was flung up and down with each drop because of course my seat lacked the ability to lock.
It was the longest 4 hours of my life.
By the time we arrived in Zhaoushang, I was relieved and yet bewildered when we checked into our weirdly sparse hotel that looked like it had been constructed the night before. Our receptionist was a plump teenager playing League of Legends on a desktop still wrapped in plastic and the air-conditioning unit in our small room seemed to pump out only warm air. Did I mention it was about 97 degrees and humid as heck outside? I was in hysterics over the lack of cold air until we figured out how set the unit to COLD air. Thank the lord… I cried happy tears at this discovery.
Soon we left for dinner and enjoyed a table full of seafood dishes that we shared family style, using chopsticks to grab bites from each plate on the turntable and quickly stuff them into our mouths or into our bowls of rice. I have to say, I am a fan of the Chinese style of eating which is all about speed and quantity. It is quite fun.
After dinner we boarded the bus to attend a show by one of the most famous directors in China. Whatever that means.
We walked through the gates and down a long pathway to an open amphitheater. Taking our seats, we waited for the show to begin in the sticky heat. Soon, the lights dimmed and actors began to walk towards the audience. Suddenly the stage was being enclosed by big walls projected by lights depicting a silk screen. The show began. All in Chinese of course. I gathered that the actors were praying to god, which would be the theme for the rest of the show.
And suddenly, we began to move. By which I mean that the entire audience and stage began to rotate as if we were on one big turntable. Once we stopped, the walls opened again and there was a collective gasp from the audience. The mountainside was lit up in a spectacular scene with an image of Buddha projected on a rock wall and dancers with spotlights moving up and down a staircase towards a temple. What happened over the next hour was nothing short of a miracle, with the stage rotating and opening to various scenes displayed across the mountain and illuminated in a spectacular light show.
At one point dancers dressed in orange monk robes alternated jumping on individual rocks to the beat of the music. Only when the dancers were airborne were they illuminated in a flash of light, their flailing orange robes resembling a jumping flame. I wish I could better explain this spectacular imagery, because it was breathtaking. Over the next hour we were spellbound by the story of a man who becomes monk as dancers moved their way through the shadows, manipulating light and our imagination with their bodies. Although I didn’t understand the words of the show, I was deeply moved and definitely shed a few tears over the beauty of it all. It was magical.
I realized that this must be a production by Zhang Yimou, the director of the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. He is truly the best. If you are ever in China, make sure you check out his performances which take place in different cities around the country. GO PLEASE.
We slept hard in our ice cold room and were up by 7:30am for an early breakfast of rice porridge, rolls, eggs and other random items at the same restaurant as the night before. By 8:30am we were hiking up stone steps behind a jabbering tour-guide up some mountain. I honestly have no idea what this mountain is called or why it is important. All I know is that it had a lot of small rock crevices we had to crawl through and some great views from the top. It was terribly hot and humid, even in the early morning, but we enjoyed the scenery anyways.
Yeah, we fit through that. I really don’t know how.
We climbed a lot of steep ass stairs while being jostled by impatient tourists from all directions. This is China.
But check out the view! The breeze was really nice too.
Smiling and sweaty.
After a solid hour and a half exploring the mountain, we walked back down to the bus where a random goat was waiting. I don’t know.
We then drove to a pebble beach and took a free boat tour around the harbor for about 1 second. It was totally unnecessary. But the big stones were cool. I mean hot.
With time to kill, we found the place where people were selling everything from ice cream to grilled seafood, fresh from the sea. I devoured an ice cream and hesitantly accepted a grilled squid from our friend Wade. I usually hate squid but OMG THIS WAS DELICIOUS. The squid was grilled in some spicy and savory sauce and cooked to perfection. Add that to my list of weird things consumed in China (horse ankle from Xiamen still ranks at #1).
We then walked down to a water pit by the beach to watch our friends attempt to complete various obstacle courses. Most people fell in the water quite spectacularly and we had quite the laugh watching.
After the pebble beach area we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a new place. The seafood was amazing and I was so happy to learn that we would be returning there for dinner that evening. Score.
We had 2 hours of relaxation at the hotel (thank god), before we left for yet ANOTHER beach, this time in an area right next to our hotel. However, these beaches are not just open access to the public. You must pay a ticket and walk down an absurdly long entrance walkway through various stalls and buildings before actually arriving at the beach. This makes sense in China because it filters the massive amount of people visiting and spreads them out to reduce a cluster-you-know-what.
Our group set up a few pop-up tents (which is an awesome idea by the way) and split up into various groups. Most of the ladies kept their clothes on and hid under tents and umbrellas to protect their skin from the sun while some of the men stripped down to their tight swimming trunks for a game of football. Peter and I immediately stripped down to our bathing suits and slathered on sunscreen before walking to the water with a few other people. And yes, I was the only woman in a bikini. THE ONLY ONE. Cue staring.
Swimming was allowed in a small roped off section that was absolutely packed with people and lifeguards. There were four lifeguards on each chair and they would blow their whistles at random intervals for unknown reasons. The current was crazy strong and there were huge waves rolling in from the sea. It was a little scary but the water was deliciously cold. MHMMMMMM. Peter and I swum out a little bit to tread water which removed us from most people who were stuck standing and rolling around in the surf. Haha.
We alternated swimming in the cold water and lounging on the beach eating endless amounts of sliced watermelon. After a couple of hours we were all totally exhausted by the sun and ready to leave.
But the day was far from over.
After the speediest shower in the history of the world (my second shower that day), we returned to the same restaurant for dinner and had a feast. We enjoyed steaming plates of clams, crab, lobster, noodles, cabbage and countless other dishes. Oh, and don’t forget the beer and rice wine which was consumed in exuberance as various people came over to cheers and drink shots with us. Oh dear.
After dinner I was so ready for bed…. except we were whisked away for yet another activity. Gahhhhh.
We arrived at what looked like a giant beach party with groups of people crowded around tents and personal grills, enjoying enormous picnics in the dark. Weird. Our group clustered around a pile of wood which a man soon lit up with a propane tank and hose. Standard procedure of course. With the bonfire blazing, we began an epic karaoke session with our very own microphones and lyric screen set up on the beach. Different people stood up to sing Chinese songs and even Peter sang a song which was… terrible. Haha sorry babe.
After a few horrible renditions of different songs, our friend Kevin led everybody in a funny game that had people clambering to form groups with certain number of people or else be eliminated. I just sat and watched, mostly because I was exhausted and also because I couldn’t understand what numbers he was saying in Chinese! Fail.
After a very long couple of hours sweating in front of the fire and laughing at people tackling each other in massive hugs, our group set off a pack of fireworks and released lanterns into the night sky. It took at least 30 minutes for people to get the lanterns up and going and it was terribly annoying to watch (mostly because I had to go to the bathroom so bad!). Let’s just say I was so glad for this night to be over. I was exhausted and needed yet another shower before bed.
Thankfully we were allowed to sleep in till 8:30am and were off again for more breakfast and another morning tour. To be honest I was ready to go home! It was hot and I didn’t think I could handle another Chinese tour I couldn’t understand. We drove around the coast and boarded another tour bus that I guess explained the island. Or something. The view was stunning nevertheless.
Then we had an hour to kill at another beach so we just hid in the shade and enjoyed ice cream and cold sodas. It was a marvelous choice. I was so over the beach. And really, it was like 100 degrees.
FINALLY, we boarded the bus and stopped for a quick lunch before heading back to Shanghai. It was another bumpy 4 hour drive home but I was not bothered in the slightest. Just let me get home and take another shower!!! (my 10th shower of the weekend just about).
Of course Shanghai was hit with a massive thunderstorm as soon as we arrived with epic black clouds spewing rain and lightning over the city. I have never seen that before here! And of course it started to POUR as soon as we stepped outside to get to the subway station. But whatever, even though we were wet and sweaty (per usual), we were back!
Zongshang.. you were interesting. There is nothing like a good old fashioned Chinese bus tour to welcome me back to China.