Just got back from a two-day trip that included Shanghai, Jiaxing and a village in the countryside outside Huzhou.
The order of the day in Shanghai was shopping. First port of call was the fabric market, where I got measured up for a suit. I went for a Ralph Lauren style in black, with white and grey shirts. The whole package cost £11o (with two shirts and two suit trousers) which for a tailored suit is an absolute steal. It takes a week or so to make so I will be returning next week to pick it up; they also tailor leather jackets and woollen coats so might get fitted for one of them when I go back. Next stop was to the fakes market, which is an indoor shopping area in one of the downtown subway stations. This really is a treasure trove of goods, from watches to Ipads to mountaineering gear. I picked up a really nice Mammut jacket, a new rucksack, a powerful mini-torch and some fred perry polo shirts (one of which I ruined falling in a bush early on Sunday morning) all for an outrageously low price. I overpaid on a couple of the first items I bought as I wasn’t sure how low to go, but it’s all part of the fun – you have to remember you are haggling over rather trivial amounts considering what you are buying. The trick is to have a laugh; this way I think you get a lot further (take note rude Americans).
After buying a mountain of stuff I then realised I had lost my bank card AGAIN, a mere 24hrs after receiving it. I know the cause. When you use bank machines over here, you receive your money before your card; back home it is the opposite way round. Thus, when I get distracted by other people – or in the previous case my own thoughts – I forget to press the button to return my card. Luckily for me the ATM machines just swallow the cards, so I lose £2 replacing the card rather than someone swiping the account. Lets hope it’s third time lucky. On leaving the market we took the train back to Jiaxing for another night out on the town. Cue baijiu, drinking games, taking our shirts off to dance in the club, and of course a lot of laughing. Quality night.
On Sunday Mr. Hangover and I returned to Huzhou to visit the countryside home of a Chinese teacher at my school. Due to the national holidays, the bus station was very busy and I was becoming quite annoyed at the Chinese, who unlike the British, do not understand queuing. A less patient man than myself – someone who is not so in-tune with the systems and practices of another culture – may have lost his cool; but whilst I remained placid on the outside, my rage inside was boiling over and I fought the urge to use the book I was carrying as a deadly weapon (Jason Bourne style). Luckily I made it back unscathed and boarded another bus to take me out to the countryside. The family I met were extremely friendly: they showed me round their house, the surrounding fields and then force-fed me until I felt physically sick. On the menu were the usual dumplings, as well as eel, shrimp, fish soup and a variety of vegetable dishes. As I was leaving I was told I was the first foreigner to visit the village, which is pretty cool.
Last day off today before returning to the grindstone tomorrow. I will spend it chilling out: I just bought The King’s Speech from the DVD shop so will finally get around to seeing that.