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Saturday, 01 May 2021

Hangzhou & Shanghai, China - Page 5

Written by Eric D. Goodman
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Where’s the Soup?

For lunch, we enjoyed a sort of Chinese fast food, highly recommended by our guide: Yang’s Dumplings. These “soup dumplings” were fried with soup inside the dumplings. Piping hot, they were tasty, but very sticky from the dough.

 

Our guide laughed as we tried to eat. “You have to take a small bite from the top to open it, then slurp the soup out before you eat the dumpling!” We did as instructed, and the soup dumplings were delicious.

 

Fortified by Yang’s Dumplings, as well as some sweets from the mall-like arcade, we went to the French Concession to explore the twisted side streets of old Shanghai.

 

Crowded with tourists and foreigners, it probably wasn’t much unlike China of 100 years ago, still filled with westerners looking for drinks, food, fun, and exotic goods. Yang’s Dumplings, being a modern chain, was not to be found in this traditional neighborhood. However, there were plenty of cafes and restaurants that sold soup, along with everything from duck to dumplings, ice cream to ice-cold beer. It’s easy to see how people get lost in these twisted side streets. I imagined the opening scenes of an Indiana Jones movie.

 

When we passed the location of Shanghai’s World Expo, our guide, somewhat in jest but seemingly serious, told us that even though most World Expos are intended for the nations of the world to showcase new technologies and innovations, when it was held in Shanghai, no countries wanted to bring their latest and greatest for fear that China would duplicate knock-offs overnight. Most displays at the Shanghai World Expo were focused on nature and tourism, not new innovations. A World Expo like no other.

 

 

Cirque de China

We spent our evening at the theater watching Chinese acrobatics and stunts. We went to see the ERA Intersection of Time show. We wouldn’t go as far as to say “miss it and you miss shanghai,” as their marketing copy claims, but it was certainly a worthwhile show with intense moments and dangerous stunts. In addition to illusions and impressive lighting tricks, the show featured jar juggling from the Han Dynasty, human sculptures and contortionists, hoop diving, performers climbing and soaring through the air on silk ribbons, even eight motorcycles racing inside one “ball of death” at the same time! It provided a flashy Shanghai end to a flashy Shanghai day.

 

After the show, we went back to the hotel to rest. Our adventures in China were coming to an end, and although we’d seen and experience so much, we felt as though we had so much more to do and see. It would take a troupe of Chinese acrobats to cover all the ground we wanted to cover in two weeks. We were tempted to dart out into the dense city of Shanghai. But being a daughter and father—a teen and a forty-something—we decided to brew a pot of green tea and talk about all we’d seen and experienced in China so far as we prepared for the coming day. As we sipped and talked, we spent some time repacking so we wouldn’t have to worry about it on our last day. After a long and exiting day, we went to sleep, ready for out final day exploring China.

 

 

Beijing Bookends

During our last drive through Shanghai, on the way to the airport, we took in the futuristic scenery and the historic architecture one last time.

 

The first leg of our long journey home would take us from Shanghai to Beijing, with one last overnight in the capitol city. Beijing ended up being the bookends to our China experience in more ways than one. We even stayed at the same hotel as our first night in China: the Four Points by Sheraton.

 

We decided to end our adventure the way we began it—with a trip to Tiananmen Square.

 

The last time we visited, it was bright and sunny, even a little hot. Now, the square was lit up and very pretty at night. We walked around the whole square and down some streets. Guards stood at attention in spots around the square, riot gear ceremoniously placed within reach at their feet. Although the Forbidden City was closed for the night, we could still see its beautiful buildings from the outside wall, where Mao looked down us in the night. We spent an hour or so walking around the world’s largest public square. Then, it was time to return home.

 

We had more trouble finding a taxi home, asking driver after driver and receiving only refusals. But we finally found one for double the usual price. Sometimes, even a short experience like a final look at Beijing at night is worth double the usual price. We arrived back home around midnight, ending our China tour where we began. Beijing bookends.

 

 

Experiences and Imaginations

We had an early flight out of China, waking at 5 a.m. to make it. Too early to take advantage of the bountiful buffet breakfast we’d become accustomed to, we instead were treated to a bagged breakfast (egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches, boiled eggs, apples, pastries, and bread). Early wake up, brown-bag meals in hand—it was feeling more like home with every passing detail. Once we boarded our plane we had a long time on it: fourteen hours. We spent that time reminiscing about our experiences, looking at books and magazines about the places we’d seen, watching Chinese movies and listening to Chinese folk music, extracting every bit of the Chinese experience before it subsided with our arrival in America.

 

 

China was all we anticipated and more. The best, well-planned trips to new places end with a completely different understanding of the place you thought you’d already learned about, and that’s a good thing.

 

That’s the evolution of going from a place imagined to a place experienced: what we plan for the world transformed into what the world plans for us.

 

We’re like the farmers who discovered the terracotta army while digging a well—one of whom we met. We looked at the calligraphy-brush autographed book we purchased about that amazing find, the farmers in awe of a discovery so enormous, they didn’t quite understand it. Likewise, our two weeks in China revealed much, but we know we have only scratched the surface of what awaits future exploration.

China 1 

 

©Eric D. Goodman with help from Nicole Goodman

 

 

Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, son, daughter, and Weimaraner. He is author of the new literary thriller, The Color of Jadeite, set in China. His other books include Setting the Family Free, Womb: a novel in utero, Tracks: A Novel in Stories, and Flightless Goose, a storybook for children. More than a hundred of his works of short fiction, travel stories, and articles about writing have been published in literary journals, magazines, and periodicals. When he’s not writing, Eric loves traveling, and most of the settings in his most recent novel, The Color of Jadeite, are places he has visited. Founder and curator of Baltimore’s popular Lit and Art Reading Series, Eric can be found at www.Facebook.com/EricDGoodman, www.Twitter.com/Edgewrite, and www.EricDGoodman.com.

 

Nicole Goodman, daughter of the author, helped with the notetaking and daily journaling for this travel story. Sixteen at the time of the travels, she is now a graduate of Towson University’s Honors College and enrolled in Towson’s graduate program for school psychology.

 

 

(Page 5 of 5)
Last modified on Saturday, 01 May 2021
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