Monthly Archives: August 2012

Luang Namtha for lazy cheapskates

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So, like I mentioned before when I was proclaiming my sartorial decisions to be the only legitimate ones, Luang Namtha is a quiet little place next to a big national park, and you go there to sign up for one of three things: trekking in the jungle, kayaking in the jungle, and/or motorbiking in the jungle.  But we had just finished our three-day trek in Xishuangbanna, and although that had been good, memorable, clean (though not in the literal sense) fun, it was hard to work up the desire to spend another few days in wet boots after they’d just finished drying out.

There was something else we wanted to try: Chartering a longboat to take us on a two-day river trip to the Thai border, with a family homestay at a village along the way.   This turned out to be twice as expensive as we thought it’d be, though, and seeing as how neither of us is going to be employed anytime in the foreseeable future (OH GOD)(it’s fine, it’s going to be fine), we gave it a pass.

All out of ideas, we signed up for the laziest, wimpiest (and cheapest) thing there was to sign up for: A one-day, guided bicycle ride around the outskirts of the city.

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ADVENTURE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

Our guide was a quiet fellow; when we met him, he introduced himself by holding up a finger and saying, “My name’s One.”  Since then, we’ve met a woman named Thu, pronounced “two;” now we’re on the lookout for Three, Four, and/or Five.

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So One took us in a big loop around the countryside.  We rode through tiny villages; we wandered through a market; we had an old hilltribe woman show us her indigo-dying operation; we watched a lady weave a new schoolbag for her kid; we drank home brewed lao-lao in a family’s yard; we visited One’s buddy from high school and had some iced BeerLao in his stilt house, looking out on workers in the endless rice paddies below.

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We could have done this loop by ourselves.  Our guesthouse had free maps of the area that marked all the villages and roads, and everywhere you go in Luang Namtha, somebody wants to rent you a bicycle.  Indeed, there was one moment that day when the three of us passed a group of other tourists on bikes — they stopped us to ask whether the road we’d just turned off was good enough to ride on — when I wondered, did we just lose the world traveler pissing contest?  I mean, now these Spaniards know we hired a guide to do the exact same thing they’re doing; they know we spent money to make things easier on ourselves.  Are they cooler than us?  They probably think they’re cooler than us.  God damn it.

I guess there’s this feeling (among all independent travelers?  Only in my own head?)  that the more people you employ to provide you services, the less authentic your trip is.  This is sometimes true.  I’m aware, obviously, that many organized tours can be terrible:  Air conditioned minivans crammed full of backpackers; vendors hawking trinkets at every stop; the whole thing seemly designed to ferry you from one souvenir-buying opportunity to another.  Things like that are pretty gross and yeah, they fill me with existential despair, too, like an endless loop of it, the kind where you go “I didn’t come on this vacation to feel guilty about how privileged I am” and then “okay that’s a terrible thing to think” and then “but seriously, what’s with all these poor people trying to get my money?”

In Ayutthaya six years ago, I remember turning down a tuk-tuk driver who offered to take us on a one-day tour of the town, because – and can I quote myself, here?  Ah I can, because I’ve been writing about myself on the internet for forever – “it doesn’t seem worth it to pay 600 baht just to avoid looking at a map for a few hours .

I no longer agree with this, for several reasons.  First, having somebody else handle the navigation is actually kind of relaxing?  I’m pretty sure that, if we had done the Luang Namtha bike loop by ourselves, our cherished memories of that day would not have included the many times we would have stopped to pull out the map and bicker about where we were.

Second, having a guide is nice in a lot of other ways, too, not the least of which is the language/social lubricant factor.  When we met those other tourists, we’d just emerged from a village where One had introduced us to the couple making moonshine and the mom weaving on her homemade loom.  These families weren’t stops on any kind of tourist trail; they were just people that One walked up to and asked, hey, can I show these fat sweaty falangs what you’re doing?  So when the other tourists turned down the road to the village, I kind of felt sorry for them – would they get to try some lao-lao?  Would they talk to the lady with the loom?  Or would they just ride through and gawk at people and feel like stupid asshole tourists?

I’m not saying we aren’t stupid asshole tourists, too.  I’m just saying that it’s nice to pay somebody to make me feel like a little bit less of a stupid asshole tourist.

It’s also nice to pay a local to ask people, for me, if I can stick my camera in their faces.  Every time One turned to me and softly said, “Would you like to take a photo? I will ask if it’s okay,” I wanted to fucking marry him.

And finally, it’s just nice to pay a local.  Especially when, at the end of a long day, he’ll take you to his buddy’s house for a beer.

So!  Our bike tour wasn’t especially adventurous and it did bust our budget for the day, but whatever, I’m glad we did it, and hooray.

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hooray I say

The other thing we tried to do in Luang Namtha was rent motorbikes.  Ha!  And ha and ha again!  I’ve told this story to some people already so I’m sorry if you’ve heard it, but you know how I like to document my humiliating experiences on my WebLog.

Okay well there isn’t that much to tell, sorry I’ve built it up, I am alone and somewhat drunk at a riverside bar in Luang Prabang right now and the place kind of smells like farts.

So there were guided motorbike tours on offer in Luang Namtha, and we looked into them, but they were also a little expensive (which, at this point in our trip, really just means “they cost more than ten dollars”) and while we were looking into them every citizen of Luang Namtha, man woman and child, zipped by on the street on a motorbike.  So, how hard could it be to ride a motorbike?  Is what we thought.  We don’t need a guide.  We don’t need anybody to teach us.  We just need to go for it.

I am pretty sure somebody is smoking pot in this bar right now.

The next morning, we walked into the closest bicycle/motorbike rental place and proclaimed that we would each like to rent a motorbike, please.  The owner, who had minimal English, indicated that we should choose what kind of motorbike we wanted; not knowing anything about anything, we pointed at some blue ones.  “We’ll take those,” we said.  The owner wheeled them out to the street and started them up for us.  Upon noticing just how intently we were watching what he was doing, he pointed to the bikes, then pointed to me and asked, “You know?”  I shook my head.  He turned to Ryan: “You know?”  Ryan also shook his head.  The owner made a skeptical noise and indicated that I should try to ride the motorbike down the alleyway.  I did this.  It was terrifying and about five seconds in I was like “NOPE NOPE NOT DOING THIS I CAN’T DO THIS OH GOD” and then the owner grimaced some more and said, “Maybe bicycle better?”

Yes maybe bicycle better.

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P.S. Do you like how my pants/flats combination makes me look like Calvin’s mom?

Because I do!

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Zai jian China, sabai dee Laos

I haven’t been writing anything in my notebook, and so the days are blurring together.  To the photos!

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The Mighty Mekong

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The Robust Ryan

Our last few days in China were pretty uneventful, for several reasons, some of which were weather-related.  I’m not sure I’ve mentioned lately just how hot it is in this part of the world right now, so, again: It is crazy hot.  Plus, we keep making the rookie mistake of heading out in the middle of the day, when any sane person would have her ass firmly planted in a chair under an air-conditioning unit.  Above you see a couple photos from one such blunder.  After we came back to Jinghong from our trek  I thought we’d spend an afternoon exploring the city, but it was all we could do to find the river, look at it for a second, and then drag ourselves to the nearest bar, drenched in sweat.

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Our midday exhaustion might be partly due to our malaria  meds, which can apparently increase sensitivity to the sun even for people such as us who were already pale, delicate, oversensitive flowers to begin with.  Here I am, about to wash down my daily pill with a beer, which was a pretty good idea I’m sure.

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When it wasn’t hot and sunny, it looked a lot like this.  I’m on my second poncho of the trip so far.

So, that was the end of our time in China.  Sweat, doxycycline, rain, and fried rice from this delightful man:

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This was the mom ‘n’ pop place across from our guesthouse that we discovered on our first day in Jinghong.  We went there at least once a day because their food was good, and because we were lazy, and because it’s nice to develop little micro-routines in a new city.  They were also very sweet and patient with us.  One day, while we were eating a late lunch and they were shelling peas at the next table, we speculated about how they would make a nice host family for a Peace Corps Volunteer.  We found ourselves doing that on our trek, too – walking around the villages, watching TV with the homestay families, and thinking about what it would be like to be a trainee in that place, with those people.  This is a strange new dimension that Peace Corps has added to our travels. I’m pretty sure that, the last time we were on vacation, we didn’t spend a lot of time wondering what it would be like to insert ourselves into peoples’ home lives.

I’m sure  we get a lot of things wrong when we look at the lady frying our noodles and picture her at home, but just conjuring that picture is easier now, after living with  our Mongolian host families and spending two years in Erdenet.  Basically I just hope we’re a little more empathetic than we used to be, and that much less likely to become raging sociopaths at some point in the future (I sometimes worry about becoming a sociopath).

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Hello, imaginary host brother

In case some poor sap Googles his way to this blog, looking for concrete information about how to get across the China-Laos border:

We didn’t need American dollars.  We spent a stressful morning in Jinghong trying to convince various bank branches to give us cold hard Benjamins (just one Benjamin actually), only to get to the border and see another American pay for his visa in Lao kip.

I’d been worried about being the only visa-less foreigners on the bus to Laos, and about how the driver and all the passengers would surely get impatient and abandon us while we waited in line.  But even though the ride started out with a bunch of locals on board, by the time we’d actually reached the border the only people left were us and a handful of other tourists.  The bus driver even disembarked and patiently shepherded everybody through both immigration checkpoints.

The disparity in infrastructure between these checkpoints was pretty crazy. Gleaming new glass on the Chinese side, dusty squat concrete on the Lao side.  It reminded me of the time we crossed the South Korea – North Korea border, except the Lao police officials looked a lot nicer than the DPRK ones.

Speaking of which:  We said our first “sabai dee” to the jolly Lao policeman who came on the bus to search (not very hard) for drugs.

Basically, everybody was very friendly and helpful, except for the ladies who came onto the bus to change our yuan to kip, who pretended to be very, very, very, very bad at math.

And then couple hours later we arrived in Luang Namtha, where our breakfasts stopped looking like this:

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And started looking like this:

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I ain’t complaining.

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Trekking, for real this time

When our guide told us that the second day of the trek would be a lot harder than the first, she was not, as it turns out, kidding around.

But we all started the day in jaunty high spirits, as you can see:

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Our guide, on an actual trail

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Ryan is either pointing a finger gun here, or reppin’ some kind of gang

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Me, about to have the shit-eating grin wiped right off my face

I do not have photos of the charming Swiss-Chinese couple who took the tour with us.  It was nice having them around, especially the lady, who was a native of Yunnan province.  Not only did she absorb the bulk of our chatty guide’s chattiness, but she also spoke some Thai (which is similar to Dai, one of the minority languages spoken in the area we were trekking) and she had no problem walking up to interesting-looking ladies and asking for their photos.  This was extremely convenient for me; I just followed meekly in her wake, camera in hand, like the parasite I am.

Oh speaking of parasites!

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Hello, brother

Look who hitched a ride on Ryan’s leg!  At last!  I have met one of my tribesmen (for Google/employability reasons I’ve never put my last name on this blog, but in case you didn’t know, it’s a homophone of ‘leech’)(and this is a terrible photo so if you can’t see it, it’s the little snot-shaped thing on the ground below the heel of Ryan’s sneaker)(EW EW EW).

Between those cheerful morning photos and this last disgusting one, our guide — who was fun, and informative, and on friendly terms with the families we stayed with, and a great guide in every other way I have to emphasize  — lost the trail.  And so the five of us spent at least two hours bushwhacking our way straight down and then straight back up the valley.  There was driving rain, and squishy mud, and gushing streams, and waist-high weeds, and face-high thorny branches, and corn stalks that sliced at you if you rubbed them the wrong way.  By the time we found the trail again we were soaking wet, covered in filth, and bleeding for various reasons.

“Well, we have earned our lunch today!” declared the strapping, unflappable ur-Aryan Swiss dude, as he strode up the path in his Gor-tex hiking shoes and moisture-wicking zipoff cargo pants.

“Fucking god damn mother fuck,” muttered Ryan and I, with our wet cotton socks, our sneakers with very little grip, and our butts covered in mud.

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I guess here is where I should eat some crow. I’ve never bothered to hide my contempt for Westerners who, when on vacation in a country populated by brown people, think it’s appropriate to dress like they’re on some kind of hobo safari. And I stand by that judgement, I mean I absolutely do. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer — especially being a PCV in a country where nice clothes, shoes, hair and makeup are of significant cultural importance — has only hardened me on this front. If we are in Erdenet, or Beijing, or Luang Prabang, or Bangkok, or Mandalay, or any other place on this earth where people live and work and manage to look nice every day, then you will pry my dresses and my makeup bag from my cold, dead, judgmental hands.

But I do have to say that it might have been nice to have worn slightly more outdoorsy gear on that trek.

Okay? I no longer judge sporty-looking tourists WHEN THEY’RE TREKKING IN THE HILLS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA. All right? But that’s it. And, in fact, as I write this in a backpackers’ cafe in Luang Namtha — a town where all there really is to do is sign up for treks — I am still managing to judge the sporty-looking tourists at the table next to us, because the womenfolk are wearing strappy tank tops and short shorts, and that is not appropriate for Laos, because I am an expert on these things.  In conclusion, I am better than them, and everybody.

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Whew!  Glad we’ve got that straightened out.

Once we arrived at the village and cleaned ourselves up (again: hot running water!), the day got significantly better.  We ate some delicious food, we found some beer at a tiny store, and we drank on the rooftop of our photogenic host’s home.

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The third day was easier.  We only walked an hour to the local market, where there were lots of colorful Aini ladies and tiny delicious fried potatoes.

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We were supposed to walk two more hours after that, but the four of us and our tired legs mutinied, and we took a bus home instead.  “I hope you enjoyed the trek!” our guide said, once we’d arrived back in Jinghong.
“It was an adventure!” Ryan replied, and he was not wrong.

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The Deep South

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Before we begin, may I just say that I rediscovered this song about five minutes ago, and it is SO GOOD.  Just as good as it was in my fourth-grade soft-rock days.  Ooh girl, ooh.

Megan: Please make sure the 80’s band plays this slow jam at your wedding.  Thank you.

August 14, 5:15 pm

We got into Jinghong yesterday evening, via what may be my new favorite mode of transportation: Sleeper bus.  Fainting couches for everybody!

Once in the city we confirmed our reservations for a three-day trek, I bought a backpack, we grabbed some dinner at a mom-and-pop place that seemed to magically intuit that we wanted vegetarian versions of their seafood dishes, Ryan made impatient faces at me because he hates me, and then we called it a night.

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The trek so far has involved the following:

1.  A stop at a market where our guide bought vegetables for lunch and I, in a panic over not having brought anything long-sleeved (we were at a high, misty altitude at that point), paid $20 for a crappy windbreaker.  I talked the seller down from $30!  But lo,Ryan still has not forgiven me this expense.

2. Walkin’, lookin’ at views:

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3.  Eatin’ some AVOCADO

4.  Terrifyin’ some buffalo:

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5.  Taking shelter from a biblical downpour in a ‘tea factory,’ where tea leaves were scattered across a vast concrete floor to dry and then be swept up by the women working there

6.  More stinky tofu for lunch

7.  Stopping in a gazebo in the middle of some tea fields and meeting two women from the Bulang tribe.  They were awesome, they seemed like real jokesters, they shared some homemade chili snacks with us, and they even let me take a photo:
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Now we’ve arrived at our family homestay for the evening, a big wooden house on stilts, with pigs and chickens below and tea fields and clouds above.  Nothing much to do besides wait for our hosts to get back from the fields (and take photos of ourselves).

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Lazy days

Saturday, August 11, 4 pm

We’re on hour 17 of our 36-hour train ride from Hangzhou to Kunming, and I gotta say, my H&M harem pants with their massive elastic “I’ve given up” waistband are coming in pret-ty handy.

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So comfy

When I was uploading photos to Flickr the other day I looked back at my Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam  sets from our last big trip, curious to see how many photos I took, then versus now.  It looks like I averaged 7 photos per day then, whereas now I’m rolling along at 4 per day.  I’ve also noticed that, last time, I probably took three times as many photos  — all the time, of everything, fueled by my anxious need to get really really good photos for posterity goddamnit — and then I edited things down later.  This time I’m carrying my camera around less, and when I do, sometimes I just take a picture of whatever we’re eating and call it a day.

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yum

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big yum

Ryan has also noted that, this time around, he hasn’t been spending nearly as much time standing around on sidewalks, waiting for me to finish taking a picture of whatever stupid thing.

All this may be due to simple lens choice.  Last time I had a telephoto with me, so I  could stop and spy on people from across the street, like this:
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But this time I only have the 50mm and the 24mm primes, and so I must spy on people from up close and on the move, like this:

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Either way, I am a scumbag who takes photos of people without their permission.  Oh well.

But also, like I’ve said a million times already, I see this trip differently.  The last one had a “We are EXPERIENCING THINGS and DOCUMENTING THESE THINGS, GAAAAAH” vibe to it, whereas this one has a very distinct “We are rewarding ourselves, ooooo” vibe.  I like this vibe.  This vibe means I can ask myself, “Do I feel like carrying around four pounds of camera right now?” And then I can say “no I do not!” and go have a beer.

[Editor’s note: As I’m typing this Ryan is sitting across the table from me, trying out a Lao language app on his iPhone; one of the top phrases is “these drugs aren’t mine”]

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We went a little too far with rewarding ourselves in Hangzhou, though.   Once you’ve wandered around the UNESCO heritage part of the city with its pretty old alleys and ye olde tyme tea shops, there is essentially one thing to do, and that one thing is to rent bicycles and point yourself in the direction of the hills and villages southwest of the lake.  “We’re here for a week,” is what we thought to ourselves, “so, no rush, we’ll get around to biking, and stuff.”  But then we spent a lot of time lounging around, and I spent a day or two trying to find some danged pants to wear cycling (thank you ugly H&M harem pants), and there was that typhoon that rolled through (I suppose this wasn’t our fault).  So, all in all, we spent maybe four hours on bikes.  And half of that time was spent on the traffic-clogged roads around the lake.

I felt like a pretty big idiot for seemingly squandering a whole week of our trip just loafing around.  But let’s look on the bright side.  The countryside we did manage to see was pretty, and we sure looked goofy in it:

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The lake was beautiful, too, although holy cow was it ever crowded.  The photos I took don’t really capture it, but walking around West Lake reminded me of the Tidal Basin in DC when the cherry blossoms are out. So many people.  Not very many obese people in motorized scooters though.

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We also ate well in Hangzhou, not only because of the aforeblogged-about street food ladies but also because of Weiwei:
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Friend of a friend, writer of the invitation letters we needed for our visas, and über-host who squired us about her fair city for a day and didn’t let us pay for a thing.

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And finally, our guesthouse was photogenic and populated with three groggy Siamese cats who let you manhandle them however you wished.

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So, Hangzhou: Not so bad after all!

P.S. There were also some hash browns.
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5 pm

So we’re riding 2nd class on this train, which bears a lot of resemblance to the 2nd class trains in Mongolia: Lots of snacking and card playing.  Just different snacks and different card games.  Plus the compartments are three bunks high instead of two.  Oh and there’s motherfucking air conditioning.

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The landscape is starting to look more like Southeast Asia outside.  Lots of rice paddies, a few karst-lookin’ things, water buffalo.  It’s nice to be getting out of big cities for a while — did you know Hangzhou has SIX MILLION people? (we didn’t)

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Food ladies we have known

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Here we have the proprietress of a hot pot restaurant in Shanghai.  There wasn’t any English in the place, or any photos; after we sat down at a table, she handed us a piece of paper with a list of ingredients on it, and a pencil.  “No problem!” we thought.  “This is what it’s all about!  Adventure!  Also, this lady hovering nervously over us right now seems real nice.”

And I mean, she was real nice, but she had this baffling mix of behavior: On the one hand, she was constantly laughing and smiling and clearly desperate to help us (to not lose face?); on the other, she absolutely refused to help us in any real way.  Ryan has some Chinese language apps on his iPhone, so first he called up “We’ll take your recommendation.”  She read this, laughed,wrung her hands anxiously, said some things to us, and gestured vaguely to the menu.  We pointed to another table and tried “We’ll have what they’re having;” she looked at them, looked back at us, laughed and handed us the pencil.  All out of tricks, we smiled and shrugged and handed her the pencil back.  In a frenzy of (insert whatever emotion that our cultural/language barriers were keeping us from understanding), she ran to the back of the restaurant to find her son, who then spent a solid five minutes trying and failing to translate the menu for us.  The poor guy was even more nervous than his mother; sweat poured off his face as he sat hunched over his cell phone, looking things up in his dictionary, muttering things like “These…vegetables.  And these…meat?”

The spectacle didn’t end until we actually got up, retrieved another table’s receipt, and copied their order onto our sheet.  When we handed it to the lady she was visibly relieved.

In the end I have to say her hands-off tactic was a good one, because we had no one to blame but ourselves when we got our dinner: A soup of pickled kale, chicken feet, and some kind of goddamned melon.

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(This is either Ryan’s “It’s not so bad!” face or his “You win this round, hot pot lady” face)

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THIS woman, though.  What a gangsta.

LADY
You want some dumplings?

RYAN & KATIE
(smiling)

LADY
Yeah you do.  Go sit over there.

RYAN & KATIE
(sitting down, continuing to smile)

LADY
Here’s your dumplings.  Do you want some beer?

RYAN & KATIE
(smiles faltering)

LADY
Beer.  Beer (points to a pony keg).  Do you want some beer?

RYAN & KATIE
OH BEER! (nodding enthusiastically)

LADY
Haha.  Here you go.

RYAN & KATIE
THANK YOU

LADY
Haha.

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And then she brought us some deep-fried croquette things, on the house.  I will love you until I die, dumpling lady.

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We had no meaningful interactions with this lady. I just wanted to show you that we ate stinky tofu (hot tip: it only smells like garbage!)(or maybe anything tastes good smothered in chiles and cilantro?).

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Lessons learned?

July 30

Today we did a stupid thing: We got off our train to Shanghai too early.  In our defense, it was 7:30 in the morning (which is when the train was scheduled to get into Shanghai), lots of other people were getting off too, and the train station sure looked big and impressive.

“What have we learned today,” Ryan asked later, after we’d wandered around the station and its environs for an hour, sweaty, bleary, hungry and burdened by our bags as a) it slowly dawned on us that we were not, in fact, in Shanghai, and b) we tried to figure out where in the g.d. hell we actually were (answer: Wuxi, about 140 km off the mark).

“I have learned that there are other big cities besides Shanghai on this train line,” I said.  “And I have also learned that it’s important to ask people where we are before we get off the train.”

“I have learned these things as well,” Ryan said grimly.

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But here we are safe and sound in Shanghai, only a couple hours late and about $7 short.  Our guesthouse is in a quiet, unfashionable part of the city with not many things to do or see, which will probably suit us just fine as we continue our busy schedule of sitting around all day.

Our rejection of sightseeing is starting to be influenced by our budget, and how we went w-a-a-a-a-a-y over it in Beijing.  This was partly due to  touristy things and travel (the Great Wall day trip wasn’t super cheap, especially after I insisted on taking the $6 per person cable car, up AND down the mountain, like a fatass)(also, by the time we got around to booking our train to Shanghai the only beds left were the super nice expensive ones, with soft mattresses and private TVs and blind masseurs and chocolate fountains and free drugs), but it’s also due to me and the crap I buy.  I haven’t yet looked at the budget spreadsheet that Ryan has put together but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a category called exactly that: “The Crap Katie Buys.”

So, we could use a couple days of nothingness to bring us back into the realm of financial responsibility.

Right after I go to the fabric market and get some dresses made for myself, I mean.

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August 7

Well that sure was the last thing I wrote in my notebook and so here we are, all caught up in the present day.  Hello!

Although I risk making this travel blog even more boring than it already is, I feel like I have to explain my ridiculous gripe up there about how a $6 ride on a cable car can send our budget into a tailspin.

See, our daily budget for China is $100 a day (“…but we’ll definitely be able to keep it closer to $80 a day,” is what I used to say to Ryan before this trip started.  Ha).  Once you factor in the guesthouses (around $40/night in both Beijing and Shanghai) and how much our danged Chinese visas cost ($340, so, about $11 per day for the month we’re here), we’re down to a cool $49 of walk-around money per day.   And so now you see how Ryan and I can come to be standing at the top of a mountain, wondering if we deserve — really deserve — the $12 ride back down to the parking lot.
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One other thing I feel the need to follow up on (read: publicly shame myself about) is my misadventure with tailor-made clothes.

I didn’t bring a lot of things to wear on this trip.  Like most Peace Corps volunteers at the end of service, I could not get rid of the contents of my sad, run-down wardrobe fast enough.  I’ve spent the last two months either throwing away the grody things or giving away the things that were still presentable but that I never, ever wanted to see again. “No matter!” is what I thought every time I got rid of another bag of pilled shirts and holey jeans.  “I’ll get new clothes in Shanghai!  They’ll be TAILOR-MADE just for ME and they’ll be PERFECT!”

This is the third time I’ve had stuff made for myself — once in Korea, once in Vietnam, and now once in China — and the third time said stuff has come out wrong in some way.  At the market last week I had a skirt copied, and that, at least, came out fine.  But the pants I had made were about two sizes too small; the dresses, two sizes too big.  I took the pants and the dresses to another tailor to get them fixed, and now everything is about one size too big.  So.  Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, you won’t be fooled again.  Fool me three times and Ryan smothers me in my sleep with tailored clothes I don’t want to wear.  I think that’s how that saying goes?

Anyway, if i wanted to spend money on ill-fitting clothes I would just go to H&M and buy myself some off-the-rack harem pants (which is exactly what I did this afternoon).

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