Posted by: Megan | August 21, 2007

Our Quality Tea Lead to Relaxation

I have just (power) walked 30 minutes from my hotel to access the closest
internet. The heat and humidity (humidity estimated by my calculation at
150% and rising) outside (in Shanghai) is intense -even at 7.30pm. I
almost contemplated ducking into one of the department stores on Nanjing Lu
en-route here to make a splurge of a purchase – a cool cotton pair of PJs –
apparantly by the looks of things – they are all the fashion out there!
Along with (for sale on the streets) red neon devil’s horns on a headband
and, neon-glowing-sparkling skate additions to ANY pair of footwear
(according to the locals) – even Crocs! Serious fashion-goings on in
Shanghai these days! So I thought that a pair of cool cotton PJs be hand
really – given the heat and all! Just roll out of bed and start the day
leading as is and equally roll back into bed at the end of the day -as is!
With several 17 odd million people out there at the moment (no bloody wonder
it’s hotter than hot) I am quite positive that my choice in wears would be
of a considerable range – given the population, and all and their differing
tastes! Oh the temptations, the temptations … In the meantime my feet
feel like they are about to explode and grow further in size due to the
swelling … Cool cotton slippers needed to match any impulse purchase?
Hmmm …

So, I am not sure who has been reading my blog entries of late – and a
little spread out (sorry) due to Chinese technacalities – smoke-filled
internet cafes – lack of them (can see the need though to keep these places
at a minimum) – slow connection – noise level at higher than desirable
levels (often makes thinking even more blurred in the smoke) – etc …! But
anyhow, if you have, then you may remember that my last post talked about
how far looking puzzled gets me! Now then, let me tell you about how far
looking panicked got me yesterday, with my group in tow, and how I wished
that I had had prior to leaving the Yinbo Hotel (Shanghai) from their cafe;
“our quality tea lead to relaxation”!

OK so at 2.30pm yesterday (Monday) we were all on track – my group (12) and
I. To keep the group together I decided to arrange a local mini bus from
one of our operators to take us to the Bus Station – rather than 4 taxis. I
said “bus” station – NOT “train station. We had a scheduled public bus to
take us to Wuzhen (gorgeous canal town) leaving at 3.45pm. We left the
hotel on time at 2.30pm (group are great for punctuality) and like I said I
believed that we were right on track … until … we ended up at the train
station rather than … yes … are you with me now … the bus station!
Given I had never been to the bus station here before I did not know what it
would look like (just had faith in my organisation that we would be lead to
the RIGHT station) however as soon as we arrived I knew we were in (big)
trouble for there was no way that such a HUGE modern state of the art
looking station (better than Spencer St. in Melbourne, Victoria St. in
London and, Washington DC St in – well – Washington DC). I mean I could
have been wrong, and by god I had hoped at that point I was but seriously
… if such a bus station looked like that to take us to the little canal
town then I would have been impressed! With just 45 minutes to spare I had
to think quick smart … and with NO Chinese language skills my charades
were at their world champion level best … To add to my exceeding heart
rate one of my passengers was really ill and about to throw up in the midst
of my crisis (or was it hers?) – needing a bathroom desperately – as
desperately as I wanted to see a bus station appear before me! Keeping my
calm (because I remember in leading training to look like a swan and then
paddle furiously under water in situations like this (man I was a hot sweaty
bloody swan that was for sure then) I went for help. Before we knew it one
of the X-Ray women at the train station took us under her wing (she was a
fiesty swan) when I showed her my bus tickets and the time – no language
needed – the bus tickets at the train station about said it all really. It
is hard to ascertain at that point who had the best panic-stricken look
bestowed upon their face – me or her! At a speed I wished those on the
actual streets of Shanghai would walk, she hurried us throughout the
station. In the meantime Brooke was desperate to throw up and go find a
bathroom … but you can imagine MY desperation … “Just do it in the bag,
sorry, and follow follow follow” … The other 11 were just going with the
flow and now and then I turned to them with my fake smile (calm swan calm
swan) of re-assurance!

Fiesty swan lead us to the police station within the train station. There
was a loud clatter of conversation between her and the uniformed men. In
fact … seriously … she looked more panic-stricken than me come to think
of it! I then went into 5th gear leader mode and just grabbed the phone on
the policeman’s desk and called our operator to help – help urgently! There
was no time for the “sorrys” from her (I told her they would come later) but
for now we needed to get to Wuzhen – fast! And about at this time I wanted
another slice of what the Yinbo Hotel we had left had to offer at their cafe
– “Gracetul leisure with affordable price” – yep – some gracetul (I am sure
they meant graceful) and affordability … not the extra money I had to fork
out to get the driver who dropped us at the station to then pick us up again
and take us to Wuzhen – 2hrs away!

Miraculously at just 15 minutes later than when the bus would have left we
were on the road … not always at times though given that the driver had
never been to the tranquil gorgeous water canal town of Wuzhen and so at
times he was to be seen stopped in the middle of the intersection – with
traffic going different directions either side of us – whilst on his cell
phone ascertaining directions from … anyone really!

Finally at 6.30pm we arrived at the Ziye Hotel – Wuzhen. A gorgeous hotel –
even if Kenny G serenaded us into the reception area. Passports were
quickly flung over the reception desk, keys handed out at same speed,
English to Chinese – Chinese to English translated badly for help (me still
in Charades mode) all before dumping bags in the room and then bums on
rickshaws to head off to see Xizha – one of the old town sections lit up at
night – stunning – and most of all … calm and peaceful! Now then, I do
not normally drink beer but one sure slipped down well over dinner last
night within the old town – a local beer named “Swallow” – indeed perfect!

After exploring more of the old town in daylight today we finally took the
actual bus back to Shanghai (I was certain we would make it even if we got
there 45 minutes before it left in a close to a tin shed envrionment) to
leave behind the Ziye Guesthouse that tells you in the shower; “please pave
the rug well to prevent from slipping and showe on it” for yet again the
Yinbo that tells you along with the gracetul leisure that “if you have
affair please call housekeeping on 2730”! OK … will do … but in this
heat and my proposed purchase of some PJs – I think housekeeping safe from
hearing from me!!!!!

My group are out watching the acrobats at this moment. I will join them
back at the hotel soon for a much needed cocktail at “the” M on the Bund –
equisite establishment for drinks with a supreme view over the river. Not
normally for Intrepid Travel Basic style clientele but the best of us have
some swishness in us 😉 Right?

Tomorrow we take the train (not bus) to Xian. I’ll be in touch about that
journey … one day at a time … one day at a time … Thank god I told my
group in the initial group meeting that a sense of humour was required at
all times when travelling in China – or was I meant to say; “when travelling
with me”? ….

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