The waters rippled in unison over Lake Sluin that August morning. I was eight. I remember this lucidly because it was to be a day of celebration – celebration of my birth.
Now, in your minds, I can already hear the unvoiced thoughts. ‘Yes, yes,’ you think. ‘Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course you would remember something that, that vivid. Most children remember the events of their birthdays.’ In as much as I can see how you would come to that conclusion, there’s something I have not yet told you, and that is that I awoke that morning knowing I would die that day.
I am speaking to you now from a memory of my life then, as a child. I am speaking to you now, in fact, quite frankly, from the dead.
– fragmented inscription found on the tomb of Grimis IV, 16th Ruler of Mt. Shennal – Jupiter (3385 BCE)
You have not heard from me in about three weeks, right? ‘Tis true; I’ve been away. “Where?” you ask. Soul, China, HK, and back to the U. S.
Here’s the rundown of my past three weeks.
Time: 21 days
I had to.
Seoul – Wish I could have seen more here. But, I’m glad I’ll get to do that with Kerrie. The truth is we were in the hotel (a nice one) and working for two days straight before we had a little bit of time outside and in country. But, what we did see was pretty cool. Here’s a little snippet of that night. The bar was the major attraction of the evening.
Dalian – The next day we went to Dalian, China. It’s in the North of China. One of my impressions of the city was that it covered a lot of area. There was a lot of space, and things were full of surprises. On one morning, I had to step outside the hotel and see what was going on outside. I took a stroll and found something like these. You’ll notice the Convention Center of Dalian (a huge silver building, lighted up at night) which covered a lot of space. Overall, a nice town with good seafood.
Beijing – The Northern Capital is a place you have to see at least once, preferably outside the hotel. I was happy to meet up with an old friend of mine. Rui took us up an down 王府井 (Wang Fujing) road and I was able to procure and purchase a pair of swimming trunks in under a minute. We had a wonderful Hong-Kong style dinner and then just a few hours to chit chat. So good to see her. Oh, and I tried scorpion. Tasted like a potato chip.
Shanghai – We were in a beautiful area of the city. It was called the Bund. A usual spot for the foreigner, yet sadly an area where many people were trampled during the New Year’s celebrations. That seems like a nice lead into my next sentence. Shanghai – overall a pretty cool place. There are lights, nights, Chinese vibes, and a shit ton of foreigners who like to act like they run the place. We were only there for a few days, but were able to go out for a night or two and enjoy.
Shenzhen – There is a marketplace right next to the Hong Kong boarder called the Hu Luo Center. It’s just a large hollowed out building with shops filled in it from the floor to the ceiling. Once you’re inside, there are people trying to sell you everything from hats and wallets to manicures and faux crocodile handbags. Everything. They got it all, and it’s for a price. I’m not too big on the haggling thing, so I’m probably not the best kind of person to patronize these places. What did I start off with? Strawberries. My companions went on to purchase a whole heck of a lot of other things, but at the time I wasn’t really into getting anything. What did I really need?
I wish I could have seen more of Shenzhen, but we just weren’t there long enough to see some other parts. But, you know what? What we saw is what we saw and I was happy with it. There was a great pool in the hotel and I took advantage of it each morning for a nice refreshing swim. That’s really my only impression of Shenzhen – all I really have to comment on. The area of town in which we were situated surely wasn’t the best representation of the city, which itself is vast and filled with all variations of things that relate to things outside of the very Western-Hotel environment I was in.
Hong Kong – Simply stated, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I don’t say this merely because I have very close long-time family/friends there, but just because of the way the city works, and how it’s basically very different from much of the Mainland. It’s a beautiful bustling port city with all kinds of activity going on every day and every night. The city and the denizens thereof have long attempted to establish a culture and social design of their own, separate from that of China.
I had some time to get out and be a part of the city. We went out and had some lunch, toured a beautiful area of Hong Kong called Sai Kong (known by many as the last garden in Hong Kong). The drive was green, plush, and without the ubiquitous traffic jams that are normally a part of this region of the world. Barbecue grills lined areas of the street, dotting the foreground of the coastline that followed us. After we were done with that, the day was falling and coming to a close. Wai Wai and I headed back to New Town Plaza in Shatin and stopped by a music store. We lamented the fact HMV had sold out or been replaced with another sort of generic cd warehouse. Whatever. I was able to get a 3-cd set of Beyond. Love them!
Finished off the evening and the trip by spending time at the Chan house eating 上海麵 and hanging with my people.
Chengdu – this was my first time and I was happy to be there. The town was dark and full of a certain mist that I had heard is omnipresent in the city. Historically, Chengdu falls in a particular part of Chinese culture. One claim to historical fame is in the fact that Chengdu has never once crumbled since Ancient China. That is to say that many ancient cities are no longer, but Chengdu is still there. I think I have that fact correct, but I may be wrong.
Hot Pot is supposedly a big issue in Chengdu as it’s a part of Sichuan (四川省) province. And, guess what. It was the one thing I didn’t try. I figure I can get Shabu Shabu in Japan when I leave on Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure the food is great. Oh, also there’s this other thing that I thought was weird – rabbit head. They eat that shit. Yeah, they throw bunny heads into pots of boiling water and gnaw off the meat! Serious. The people were great. The city was really pretty, what I saw of it, that is. Other than that, there was one last thing I had to see and I made it happen – me and the Maoster.
And BOOM – that was it. It was over. In the blink of an eye it was like it never happened.
Whoa! What an experience.
Life, the Orient, and everything after – love this shit!
There’s a story of someone who was making $60,000 + per annum and, because he sold a short story, he was going to quit his job. After all, he was now a writer.
Yes, do what you love, but you may want to consider being comfortable as you love what you do.
“Next month, I’m quitting my job and writing for a year,” a friend of mine said at a party.
He’s not really a friend. He’s the husband of a coworker of my wife. I hardly know the guy, but I don’t have a lot of friends, so I just say he’s my friend.
Anyway, his wife is going to support him while he sits around and writes a novel all day every day for a year. It’s been a dream of his all his life to be a writer, and for a year he gets to live his dream. He says maybe he’ll be successful and get to continue living his dream. He has a good job now, and he knows they won’t hold it for him, so after a year (if he’s not successful writing), he’ll have to start sending out resumes and get ready for…
We’re staying at the Hyatt on the Bund in Shanghai and what a view! There’s a pretty nice bar at the top. Lights are dim, red and there’s always some degree of fervor created by the patrons there. Tables are taken up and, with the exception of the one or two lonely empty seats, most bar seats are occupied under either a dimly lit table or the more contemporary snazzed-up bar proper.
But then there’s a staircase. It curves around from the just outside the bar and winds in a curve upwards to another level – the highest. From there is where the view is panoramic, and Shanghai at night is a sight to see. You get to the top of the staircase and have to exit the bar to an outdoor patio. It’s nippy, but certainly bearable. There are tables and even beds out pushed up against the outside glass – the only wall between the top of the building and what would be a long, but eye-pleasing drop to the still ebullient streets of the metro below.
In the center of the patio there’s a circular hot tub.
Yeah, beds and a hot tub. I’m not sure what kind of environment they were all going for here when they designed it, but, it looks like they were satisfied with it.
The view is great here. There’s the radio tower (the one with globes of varying sizes as it rises), and other beautifully colored buildings surrounding it. The area here is called the Bund. There’s a river here and commercial buildings, shopping, and entertainment all along it for miles. It’s a nice walk, if you have the time.