So, we got lost this past weekend. We were attempting to find a place called Flower Town – a flower growing village that is intended to bring the rural and urban parts of the city together while helping support the local farmers. Sounds great, right? Yeah, we thought so too, but we never made it there. Instead, we made the eight mile hike into another kind of town.
While heading out of the hotel for the day, we googled the location for Flower Town and it returned one result on the map. It looked to be in the right area, so we hopped on the subway and made our way to the edge of the city. Once we made it to our stop, there were a line of tuk-tuks waiting for subway passengers, in hopes to take us to our final location. We decided we would give one of these three wheeled golf cart lookalikes a try and handed over our destination to the driver. He read the address, which came from a handy Chinese taxi booking app, and started yelling to the other drivers about where we were asked him to take us. All of them rushed towards us and read the Chinese characters over his shoulder. As they discussed the address we had given them, the conversation seemed to be intensifying as if we had just handed over the address for Mars.
Side note: Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers don’t like to read maps here. If you show them the address of where you would like to go, they know exactly how to get you there.If you show them your destination on a map, they’ll just look at it like a deer in headlights… and then ask for the address.
With their distaste for maps in mind, we hesitantly pulled the location up and showed it to the group of drivers. It takes them all a few minutes with one younger man, who is just passing by, to figure out where we’re trying to go. They finally hand us back our phone and tell us it will be ¥8 ($1.33) for the ride. We accept the price and nervously settle into the back of the tuk-tuk – we hope they figured out how to get there, no one ever gave us a reassuring nod that they had it under control. We make it about half way to the pin on our map and our driver pulls over and says something in Mandarin that translates to something like “we’re here!” or “ok, I’m bored now – get out”. Either way, we cut our $1.33 loss and decide to walk to the rest of the way. Once we hopped out of the tuk-tuk, we double checked the address we provided through our app and this is what we handed the driver –
Well, we’ve survived week one. Our journey started off with a 16-hour flight and an overnight layover in Hong Kong. When we scheduled this route, we booked a hotel about 30 minutes into the city, as we expected we would want to explore for a few hours before catching up on some sleep. In reality, this plan was completely unrealistic. We were running on fumes as soon as we stepped off the plane. I was so exhausted by the time we sat down at dinner, I thought I was going to go cross-eyed and fall asleep in our basil fried rice. We ate at a cute little restaurant called Namo Thai that was next to our hotel and right on the water. Why did we have Thai food for our first meal in China? I have no idea. I’ll blame it on the sleep deprivation. Our food was delicious and our Costa Rican server was hilarious (and thought we were Australian), but that place was hella expensive. I’m pretty sure we spent $15 USD on one sparkling water and a diet coke alone. Afterward, we made the daunting hike across the four lane street, on a pedestrian bridge, to take photos of the city’s amazing skylines. We were welcomed to the edge of the walkway with a little slice of home, in the form on a Texas sticker on the lamppost. After taking it all in, we hit the hay at the late hour of 9:00 pm.
Once we landed in Chengdu, we were finally able to start unpacking for the first time in a month. It feels so good to have a closet again! Living out of a giant duffle bag gets quite frustrating once you’ve convinced yourself it’s eating all of your belongings. That is the only explanation for not being able to find anything this last month! We have an apartment at the Shangri La hotel, just a 10-minute walk from the compound we hope to live in during our stay in China. Along the riverbank between the hotel and the compound, there is a center called Lan Kwai Fung, named after the infamous party street in Hong Kong, that caters to the international crowd. The area offers many restaurants such as chinese tapas, pho, ramen, german, latin, Hooter’s (that’s right), sprinkled with bakeries, coffee shops, bars and beauty salons in between. The architecture is a mix of modern with traditional Chinese elements that remind you that you’re not in
Kansas Texas anymore.
Our first weekend living in China consisted of phone plan shopping, two-hour massages and exploring a little place called Wide and Narrow Alley. Sadly, not being able to communicate with anyone back home once