Zhoushan Trip No. 1

Friday at 4:00 I took off from work, backpack in tow, for the subway on my trek to find a way to go fishing in clean water somewhere near Shanghai. I was looking for a good place to fish in water where the catch can be safely eaten. My search took me to Zhoushan, where there is a series of islands to the southeast of Shanghai.

I do not own a private car in Shanghai so I opted to take line 2 of the subway, then changed to line 4 to the Luwan Bridge station where I bought a bus/ferry combination ticket to Shenjiamen, one of the main ferry ports of Zhoushan.

Luckily I was in time to get a bus leaving at 5:30 for the 4-5 hour trip (which actually ended up taking 6 hours.) Unluckily I had to change my seat because some families with babies had got the tickets for the front of the bus. I got seat 25, which was sandwiched between a mom and her 18-or-so month old girl in front and the husband/father seated behind me. This was the most talkative and energetic 18 month old I’ve ever seen. She was up bouncing around singing, talking and playing the whole time. It took about an hour to get to the edge of Shanghai. Then, freeway for a few hours until a rest stop. I had brought sugared walnuts, Japanese crackers and water to snack on for dinner.

On the final leg of the trip down there the bus drove onto a ferry. I was standing near the rail outside, enjoying the comfortable evening breeze and fresh sea air. A lady began a conversation with me, “You travel alone?” she asked. At first I did not understand her but I asked her to repeat herself. We began to make small talk. I found out she and some friends were getting together to go pray to Guanyin on Putuoshan as it was the first day of August in the lunar new year. She is from Malaysia and works in Shanghai too. Then we realized we were going to the same town to embark from in the morning and she invited me to share her room since she already had one reserved and it came with two beds. I said sure, I would just be looking for one by myself anyway. Then it was decided I would leave from the bus and go with her and her business friend who was driving a nice 700 series BMW. When we got to the town we decided to eat some fresh seafood at one of the night restaurants. There’s nothing like a fresh seafood snack at midnight in a seaport of China! Only the first dish that came to the table was what used to be one of my favorite things and now is one of my most feared things: oysters. I took a nibble and took some pictures. I will probably never forget the hurt look on our host’s face when I told him I was sorry I couldn’t eat that. He seemed happier when I was eating everything else though: razor clams, fish and crab.

Later in bed I lay there, hearing my tummy make a few sounds, scared of getting sick in my new friend’s nice room. But eventually I fell asleep and I did not get sick! Still, in the morning, I was a little nervous. Everything seems fine though. We grabbed some small breakfast items and soon parted ways.

I went to Mayi (ant) Island which is known for its fishing. After taking the ferry there and walking along through the town a moped carrying a gentleman named Pradeep joined me and seemed starved for conversation. Pradeep is working for a shipbuilder and apparently only he and a German and an Rumanian are the only English speaking people living there. I saw a lot of boats and miles and miles of net for commercial fish-taking but that is not my cup of tea so I just decided to go to the next island, “Peach Blossom” or Taohua Dao.

Taohua is a very clean, pretty and green place. The ferry terminal was almost finished. It was open but construction is still going. I got the feeling these 2 days I was away that Zhoushan is being developed as a tourist destination to be marketed heavily during the coming World Expo. When I arrived I just suddenly decided to book the return ferry but only gave myself a couple of hours on this island.

Just outside the terminal I saw a vendor with a lot of color photos of young people and fishing poles in boats with fish so I asked him where I could go fishing. He showed me a beach area on his map and told me which bus to take. I caught the bus and got out near the beach but I was really hungry by then and I decided to stop at one of the outside restaurants touting the fresh seafood. So I picked out some kind of crawly-creature and had it cooked up along with a dish of young bamboo. Really both dishes were delicious although I was not sure about how to de-shell the fish and eat it gracefully without wasting too much meat. I resorted to picking it with my fingers and sucking out the meat. This was fine until a tour group descended upon this small place and a group of about 12 hungry tourists at the table next to mine decided I would be their pre-lunch entertainment. One man gestured to me to use my chopsticks…duh. When the whole table was laughing (at him) and me I decided to turn away so that they could not so easily discuss and stare at my attempt to eat my lunch. Staring, by the way, is not considered rude in China. Perhaps I was rude in return but I felt better, anyway.

With my belly refueled I hopped back on the bus after learning that this restaurant also serves as a guest house. I would like to go there again and bring a few friends along. This island has a lot of things to do and see. Okinawa it is not but it definitely has an island feel and laid back way of being. All I need is more time to hang out there and relax.

On the ferry back to Shenjiamen I was sitting in the sun, enjoying the breeze once again and this time found myself slipping into blissful oblivion from the vibration and rocking motions of the boat. My eyes started to pop back open as we entered the docking area. Much in need of a nap after only having about 2-4 hours of sleep, I decided to just get the next ferry to Putuoshan where I could catch a slow boat back to Shanghai. I love the slow boat because you can get a bed and just rest. Or walk around. Another thing about the overnight ferry that I love is you can use the bathroom whenever you need to, unlike a bus. It’s also a gentle motion, you can breathe in the glorious sea air, and enjoy the mountains as you pass them by. This trip I was able to catch a great sunset. I ate some of my noodles and to be honest they were about the worst fangbianmian I’ve ever had and I couldn’t finish them. I hate to waste food but if I’m full it’s kind of a waste to keep on eating anyway so I threw the rest out. Then I went to wander around the decks for a while, finding a karaoke parlor, the cafĂ© area and a party deck for after 8:00 p.m. If I wasn’t totally wiped out I would have gone to the party deck for a while but as it was I went to bed at about 7:00. I woke up once at about midnight but went back to bed. I slept a lot and could feel quite a pitch during the night. Quite exciting, really, to feel thrown around your bed because of the waves. But mostly it was a gentle rocking. Then at 6:00 a.m. we docked.

I started up the road thinking I was walking toward the subway line that connects to my neighborhood. I saw some Expo construction going on. Then suddenly I realized I was lost. Nothing was familiar. There were no Bund landmarks around. So I gave up and hailed a taxi to take me to the nearest subway station. It turned out that the terminal had been moved when I wasn’t paying attention during the last 10 years and now it about 10 miles from where it used to be. I got to see a little more of Shanghai. Or a lot depending on how you view it. Sometimes it all looks the same. But I know there are many defining characteristics to those neighborhoods that you just can’t see from a train. What was so weird was I couldn’t even tell whether I was in Puxi or Pudong.

I had some grocery needs so I decided to get off at Zhongshan Park station and go to the hypermarket Carrefour as it was still only about 7:00 a.m. Suddenly I was starving and McDonalds was there, empty and a McMuffin was calling out my name…I think that is the only time of day McDonalds has few or no customers.

Then I braved Carrefour which was already gathering crowds. I like to be there at that hour because all the bakery items are being stocked and all the day’s fresh deli foods have just been prepared too. It was a maze but I managed to get what I needed. At the end I decided I would go for my fapiao which I found out the normal service desk was not staffed then so I had to go 2 flights back up escalators to another desk to get it. Fapiao is definitely one of the annoying pieces of dealing with living in China. I could just forget them and let China keep the tax but I feel morally opposed to paying extra tax here when I already pay plenty in tax into a system that I doubt I will see retirement from.

Finally I hailed a taxi to my home. On the way I passed by a new riverfront park not too far from where I live which is now being stocked with potted flowers to get ready for National Day holidays coming up in a few weeks. What struck me was this wavy art fence that goes for what seemed like miles. It is art, it is a fence and it is also benches to sit on in one design. One day I will get by there with my camera and snap a few photos.


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