Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm sitting at my desk at work

I thought about this moment the whole trip. And here I am. My body's in the wrong time zone but otherwise it's pretty interesting not having to figure out what I'm doing today. Everyone speaks English here too.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I can't believe today actually happened. It was so intense the fact that I'm back at the same hostel I started at in China - in the same room - is kind of lost on me. I'm back. For the second time I can say I'm back in Shanghai. Incredible.

I shouldn't have made it. Taxi was picking me up at 4:30 AM in Saigon. Set my alarm for 4 AM and found an online alarm clock and set that too. My alarm is too quiet and only lasts about 15 seconds so I've only been waking up to it 50 percent of the time. So 50 percent of the time it works every time.

I woke up on my own and could tell it was the middle of the night. Looked at my watch. 4:26. Shit.

Somehow my computer shut off during the night. Still can't figure out how.

So much for taking a shower. I scrambled to get my things together and made it downstairs by 4:38. The driver was agitated for having to wait 8 minutes.

So I almost missed that flight. I got in to Shenzhen around 10:45 and immigration wasn't too bad. My big plan was to run into Hong Kong on my nine hour layover, so I started asking around for left luggage stations. Had to check all three terminals before someone could point me in the right direction. Then I had to figure out how to get to Hong Kong. Bus seemed to be the best option.

Hong Kong may be part of China now but crossing the border is a pain in the ass. The bus trip was about an hour and a half but half that was just standing in lines. But then lo and behold the buildings got denser and the bridges got bigger and I was in Hong Kong. Amazing!

The bus stopped in a mall. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to escape the concrete commercialism but could not FIND AN EXIT. Not even joking. I only had three hours in Hong Kong and I was stuck in a mall.

I finally got out after asking like five people and realized I wasn't where I thought I was. I had to walk a ways to a metro stop and after wasting one of my hours I was at the ferry terminal at last.

Totally worth it. I rode the ferry across causeway bay on a perfect day in Hong Kong. It rained most of the time during my first visit. I found a great kebab place in the ferry terminal on the island and ate at a table with a great view of the entire harbor. I did some writing. It was awesome.

I went to the IFC mall nearby and ate a McDonald's ice cream cone (it's only 30 cents!). Then I headed over to the old stomping grounds around the BP (not British Petroleum) Hotel where my Dad and I had stayed. The hotel was all spiffed up for Christmas and looked great. I got some photos of the surroundings since I had forgotten to do that the first time. And then I headed back to the mega mall via the metro.

Luckily I found the bus lounge (across from Starbucks) easily. But I didn't count on the buses being full. The next one available was at 6:15... my flight was at 7:45. They put me on a standby list and I got right on the next bus.

THANK GOD I DID. Exiting Hong Kong at the border was easy, but on the Chinese side they had one damn line for all foreigners. It took twice as long as it did on the way there, meaning I didn't get to the airport until 7:20. I raced to terminal B. I asked how to get to the arrivals level and found the escalator. I grabbed my baggage from the business center. I raced back up and couldn't find my flight listed on the board. I didn't know what gate I needed to get to since my boarding pass had been printed in Vietnam. A woman at information helped me. I had had to check my big bag on the flight to Shenzhen since - ta da! - I had bought a guitar in Saigon the day before. But I didn't have time to check anything. I just went through security which thankfully only took 10 minutes. I made it to my gate in time. I tried to relax.

The plane was boarding but when I handed over my boarding pass the girl told me there was a problem. "Wrong one!" I noticed everyone else had a different looking pass since they no doubt didn't have theirs printed in Saigon. "How do I get another one?" I asked. She didn't understand so I had to wait until every single passenger boarded before she dealt with me.

"Flight 1894" she said, pointing at a sample pass.

"Yeah, 1894, that's me" I said, pointing at the number on my pass.

She took my ticket, made a call, then apologized. She had looked at a different number and thought it was the flight number.

So I made it on that plane too and even found space for my guitar.

And then I was in Shanghai for the second time on my trip.

But this time the maglev was closed. So was the metro. It was only 10:15. What the heck?

I saw a sign for the airport bus. One went to LongYang road, which sounded familiar. It must be the one by my hostel.

Got on board and paid for travel to LongYang (although the woman couldn't understand me at all). I didn't have a seat but it was fine. Exited the bus and found myself in the middle of nowhere. This was not what I had expected.

Again I was lucky, and I was right next to a metro station. Should be easy enough. But as I was trying to buy a ticket a guy came over and told me the metro was - you guessed it - totally closed. Apparently it had been open late my first time here due to the world expo. Not anymore.

I was screwed, but I got lucky yet again as there was a taxi right outside the metro. He used the meter and I directed him straight to my hostel.

And then I went to bed. It was one of the longest and most stressful but greatest days in my entire life. I still can't believe I made it happen.

Boo ya.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Heading Home

Gotta wake up at 4 AM for a flight to Shenzhen China, just outside Hong Kong. I have a 9 hour layover so I'm gonna shoot for the stars and go through passport control, immediately exit China and enter Hong Kong, take the long metro into the city proper, have lunch and run around, have an early dinner and a drink, shuttle back to the border, exit HK and enter China and catch the second leg onward to Shanghai.

And I just bought a $25 guitar. No idea how I'm going to carry it around.

I get into Shanghai around midnight and have three nights total before I'm back in the USA.

Vietnam has been better than expected. I got a haircut and pro shave (in
cluding mustachio trim) for $1.50 today and the people there gathered around to watch because my hairstyle is a little unorthodox to the Saigonese. Saigoneers?

Found out I had the name of that hackey sack shuttlecock game wrong. It's da cao. Sounds like da gao. But I kind of like 'hackey sack shuttlecock'. Might be the name of the next album.

I taught a couple impromptu English lessons last night in the park. Afraid I don't have time for much more than a couple beers tonight. Three new videos nearly finished too.

The guitar is awesome. The guy I bought it from built it by hand.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Super Amazing Things

My girlfriend's blog and well worth reading. She's great.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This is my last new city. It started off perfect. Took a while to find a guesthouse but once I did I took off down the main boulevard. I was looking for a new guitar but didn't find much. Then I met a buddy of mine (who I met in Cambodia) and we set off for dinner. Stuffed ourselves on goat hotpot - very good - at an outdoor eatery as Vietnam pummeled Myanmar in the Asian Games on tv. 7-1 was the final score. We had our first green label Saigon beer there. Everything to thing point has been red label Saigon Export.

While walking back we came across some dudes playing... I think it's called Goa. It's like a cross between hackey sack and badminton. Like the sac crossed with the shuttlecock. All you do is kick it around like hackey sack, but they play a tennis version too. You really need to see a picture. Anyhow the things these guys can do with the goa is astounding. No-look behind the back heel flicks are standard fare. And they're kicking the goa 30 feet or more. You have to see it to believe it.

Anyhow... we stopped and watched and I started laughing when funny things happened and such and pretty soon we were invited to play. Invited to sweat is more like it . But my soccer skills kicked in and I did ok. We played a few doubles games, then headed off for frozen yogurt and beer.

I had bought a goa earlier in the day since I was blown away by the game since first seeing it in Phnom Penh near Wat Phnom. So after a couple beers - and after watching roughly 1000 scooters and motorcycles stream by with hammer and sickle flags celebrating the victory - we headed over to the nearby park where some real pros were kicking around the goa. It's like playground basketball here, everyone is doing it. We sat down and watched the greatest goa display we had yet seen and started 'talking' to three locals. Really just making gestures and pointing at the ridiculous displays of skill going on. A woman was trying to sell us another goa relentlessly. I kept showing her I already had one and then started gesturing to the locals and asking if they played. One asked in hyper-broken english if I meant 'did he want to play with me?'. Of course I did. The next 1.5 hours were some of the most fun ever. The five of us (4 guys one girl) formed a circle and within 15 minutes it nearly doubled. I think the foreigner novelty was a big draw. My buddy took off pretty quickly but I had an absolute blast. I finally had to end the game (since it was my goa to begin with) and get to my room (where I am now) to skype with family. And write this. But they talked to me a bit after playing and we all agreed to meet up again tomorrow at 9 PM. That's after we meet the first group of guys at 7. Saigon is awesome.