CHINA Day Two
March 15th - Arrive around 1pm - 2 hour train to Nanjing
Nanjing - Castle Bar - 6pm sound check / 9pm show
March 16th - Morning do a little sightseeing
Evening take the overnight train to Beijing
March 17th - Morning sightseeing - Forbidden City, Tiananmen
Beijing - Yugong Yishan - 6pm sound check / 9pm show
March 18th - Afternoon leave for an overnight train to Wuhan
March 19th - Morning - Wuhan sightseeing, etc...
Wuhan - Vox Bar - 6pm soundcheck / 9pm show
March 20th - Morning - train to Changsha (Chairman Mao's hometown)
Changsha - 4698 Bar - 6pm soundcheck / 9pm show
March 21st - Morning - flight to Shanghai
Afternoon - sighseeing
Shanghai - Logo - 8pm soundcheck / 12am show
DAY TWO NANJING (Or Nanking, or whatever) AND BEIJING
So late that night we get to our first hotel of the trip, which ends up being pretty nice and costs about $20 American per room. We wake up kind of early when Abe brings tasty buns to our beds - these dim sum looking buns that don't seem cooked ever because they are pasty white, but filled with either spiced vegetables or I guess also meat. We'd find more types in Shanghai at the markets later that week that were so meat-juicy they needed straws, and little orange ones that looked like mini pumpkins. Today is our first day off (after a grueling one day of touring) so we're ready to go see what China is really like. Josh gets a drink from the fridge in the hotel lobby and breaks the lock, at which point all the porters and bell hops start to flip out..its like a small almost plastic lock, but we give them money to buy a new one anyway.
It's like 11am but Abe thinks it's time for lunch, so we stop at a restaurant almost as soon as we leave the hotel. The thing with eating in China is that we don't speak Chinese or have any idea what any of the food is going to be like, so meals are always us sitting around while Abe orders all these different plates of stuff for like 10 minutes.
One of the first things they bring out for us today is fish-head soup, which we all assumed would be like something out of Indiana Jones where you just get this murky bowl of liquid where these eyes roll up to the surface and startle you. Instead it's this mash of cartiledge and sauce and ends up containing only two eyes, which Ben and Damian spend the entire lunch rooting around in there for. I guess they were full of grit or something. I ate white rice and boiled spinach stalks, a local delicacy that would be mine to enjoy for almost every meal for a week. The other thing about us eating food in China is that we are 8 white people, so after the staff brings us our food, they kind of hang around looking at us and taking pictures, because apparently it's that crazy that we even exist, let alone want to order fishhead soup from them ("want" being a relative term for some of us, obviously).
After we eat we take cabs (30 minute cab ride is like $7) to the Nanjing Massacre museum, but it's closed (it was supposed to open like the next day...) so instead of learning something we walk around and watch babies pee onto the sidewalk and look fat, which is still kind of learning something I guess. We learned that in China, your baby has a slit in the back of its pants instead of a diaper, and that if you are baby, it is cool to just pee anywhere you want. Also, if you want, you can have your dad aim you at a garbage can on a bus, and poo in that, it's no big deal, thats what the garbage can is for. But seriously, a lot of people were killed in the Rape of Nanking, and now Japanese and Chinese people hate each other. Now YOU have learned something.
We go to a convenience store nearby (not sure if they are actually called that, I do know they are called "Party Stores" in Michigan) and gawk over the strange and wonderful flavours of chips they have - Mango, Blueberry, Cucumber. We can't believe it, but also don't get any of them, cause that is gross. The chocolate chips ("crisps", not the good kind of chocolate chips) in England were bad enough.
We get in another cab, at this point we feel like rockstars (oh wait..) cause we're jumping in and out of cabs like they are bumper cars (which they kind of look like, and also we can't believe we don't see more accidents than we do cause driving here is ridiculous) and take it to some mall so Damian can look for Pepsi shoes. I know that sounds ridiculous, but on the 3rd floor of some shopping mall we find the Pepsi athletic goods store. What a confusing country. Also I have in my notes that this mall contained "more babies".
Next on the list is some temple. We'd visited some temples in Japan, and if you ask me, if you've seen one temple, you've seen them all. This one was up a really steep hill and overlooked the back part of Nanjing. It was very peaceful and I think had a large bell at the top. There were a lot of suspicious looking monks ambling around, and I say suspicious only because they were all taking pictures of us with their cell phones. and smoking cigarettes, which kind of makes us feel like we're actually the monks, and they are the tourists from New Jersey, but I digress. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down long stair cases, sitting in those chairs that look like hands, ringing bells and then Sandy got kidnapped by King Kong. We're ready to leave, so we order like 50 cabs and just tell 48 of them to just hang out and be cool cause it's so cheap, and we head off to Thinkpad town.
I've just learned that Lenovo is 27% owned by the Chinese government. Notebook computers are very popular in China and the district we arrived at had about 50 stores in a row that just sold them (and one men's fashion store that featured "Acrastutum" brand clothing). I go into one store to inquire about and compare prices (having just purchased my own notepad computer specifically for this trip) and am greeted with a round of "Welcome to Acer Store" from all the employees inside, but immediately turn around and leave, because there isn't a computer in the entire store. We then watch a woman trick a baby with a remote control toy car that has lasers coming out of it. The baby chases it for a while (almost onto the road at one point) and then pees onto the sidewalk.
We make our way to this massive fruit and vegetable market, which is one long hallway full of dozens and dozens of stalls almost half a kilometer long. We see stuff we've never seen before in a market, like buckets full of eels, (according to my notes, "tons of eels") fishheads everywhere (ok we saw a bunch of those in the morning), lots of turtles, stalls that seem to only sell impecable livers, mangosteen (the Jewish mango), etc. Everyone gets these weird crepe-like things. The street food in China is often so different from western food in conception but so close in nature that it's like the gourmand version of a bad translation. You can imagine buying crepes on the street in Paris filled with meat or sweets (like I did in a giant arcade in Osaka the previous week) but in China they have these bizarre street crepes that have coriander and an egg on them, some sauces and then they break a weird cracker into it, and then fold it up and give it to you. As if they are just making it up on the spot.
We all want to use the internet so we can wikipedia "chinese crepes" so we go to this strange building where in the lobby the two security guards are huffing glue. We take the elevator to the 4th floor and after using Abe to negotiate our way through the most Kafkaesque login process on the planet, use the internet surrounded by one hundred Chinese guys playing warcraft, and the alarming smell of paint thinner. We manage to get ourselves out of the building before we pass out from the dangerous fumes and go to do like the 10th thing just during this one day.
It's almost time for dinner so we take the presidents cab to the train station and stop for more food. It's dark and dusty and we imagine ourselves in the bad part of town. Abe tells us, as he will tell us a hundred more times this week, to watch our pockets at the train station because of pick pockets (and presumably, Ninjas). We all do, especially me, because my pockets are full of dried kiwi that I don't care to lose. Again, our meal is comprised of 100% things we've never heard of, and the entire staff laughing at us and taking pictures. Occasionally a fireball from the kitchen. We saunter across the street to the train station and almost miss it. It's a sleeper car, because we've got a 12 hour overnight journey to Beijing and it's full of guys and families and everyone has this crazy tea thats hot water and like so many herbs. My bunk is about 9 feet off the ground and like 5 inches from the roof but it's cool. I try to sleep comforted by the soothing sounds of adult contemporary communist Chinese elevator music for about 2 hours until they finally turn the lights off and we can't wait to wake up in Beijing.