See what I did there?
Last weekend I popped over to China for a couple of days.
Never thought I’d say that.
Someone mentioned a while ago that flights had recently started between Tak and Shanghai and they were pretty damn cheap. I hadn’t really thought about it at all, until I spoke to Sam who told me that she would be living in Shanghai for a month.
With Leandi, who also has a friend living in Shanghai, I managed to book tickets to Shanghai and get Chinese visas (though they were a whole other story of difficulty), and we were totally stoked.
Thursday was a national holiday here in Japan, so we took Friday as nenkyu and flew out at midday on Thursday.
Everything was going very smoothly, we even made friends with a nice lady in the airport, until we landed in Shanghai.
That was when I discovered that my cellphone, which I had turned off to be flight safe, wouldn’t turn back on.
Nae bother. I used Leandi’s computer to mark my hotel on a map I picked up and I was set.
It took us a long time to get from the airport because the metro we were on randomly turned around halfway to the city and went back to the airport. It took me two stops to notice, and Leandi another stop to believe me (after all, she knows my sense of direction).
By the time we finally made it into the city to the stop we had picked, it was full dark and our first view of Shanghai was from the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower.
It was really foggy (or smoggy?) and the tops of the skyscrapers around us were disappearing into the mist. Closer to the ground, the lights and colours and noises were a bit of a shock to the system after being in Tak for so long.
We wandered around randomly for a little while, got some food in the mall and got our bearings. Leandi was meeting her friend earlier than I was meeting Sam, so she took off and I did some more wandering, checked out the giant Apple store then got myself on the metro.
I got myself to the metro station closest to the dot I had marked on the map and followed the map to the dot. I was really proud of myself for reading a map up until the point that I realised I hadn’t hit the hotel yet.
Nae bother. Google maps has been known to be a little off, I figured I’d just check out the streets near it.
I walked up and down all the streets near the intersection I had marked, then started asking people for directions. I asked in conbinis, hairdressers, hotels and taxis. Everyone I asked either didn’t speak English or didn’t know where my hotel was.
It was now the time I had said that I would be at Sam’s hotel, and I had been walking for an hour and a half.
Nae bother; it was last resort time.
I walked into the police station I had walked past (three times, I think) and smiled my nicest smile.
“Hello, do you speak any English?”
A long awkward pause followed, during which I surmised that they spoke no English. I pushed on anyway.
“I really hope you can help me. I’m terribly lost.”
At this point, the man who was sitting at the counter and didn’t appear to be a policeman, jumped up and yelled “LOST!” followed by a stream of Mandarin.
Well, that got them into action. Slow, vaguely resentful action, but action nonetheless.
One took my passport and started tapping into a computer. One started making phone calls (presumably) trying to find an English speaker. One drank what looked like pickle juice. And I just sat there and smiled at everyone.
After about 20 minutes of this, and some incomprehensible questioning, a woman walked in and said very slowly:
“I hear you have lost your way.”
I just about hugged her. I explained my situation to her and she, too, took my passport and the name of my hotel. She asked me for things like the hotel’s address, and my friend’s phone number which I obviously didn’t have.
Even the police didn’t seem to be able to find my hotel. Though, to be fair, I don’t think they’d actually Googled it.
I asked if I could charge my phone as I thought there was a slim chance that might kick it into action again, but I pulled out the charger to find that one of the prongs had been bent 90 degrees during the flight.
No luck there then.
I was pretty close to giving up hope and setting up camp on the police station floor, when the woman walked back in and said “Please follow me. Our car will take you to your hotel.”
I have never been so happy to be inside a police car. This one even had seat covers with little penguins on them.
We got to the hotel and I was lucky the woman offered to walk me in because it turned out to not be the hotel.
Apparently there is another one around the corner with the same name.
By this point the surly policeman driver was either getting bored of playing cab to a lost foreigner, or really getting into the spirit of the adventure. We had the lights on, he made security guards raise barriers for us, and at one point, he even drove along the pavement.
When I found Sam in the lobby of the second hotel, I tackled her as hard as you can possibly tackle someone in a moon boot.
I thanked the woman profusely, and she left, at which point Sam looked at me and shook her head.
“Where have you been? And who was THAT?”