It's been a while
Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
65Trip End Dec 09, 2011
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"for the next 8 months, every single person I'm going to meet, will be someone I've never met before"
A crazy thought... this was until I realised that I would at least have one contact to go visit at 7 and a bit months in. Min, Jianrong, Chris and Tom have been family friends ever since they moved in next door to my nan in Leeds. Now living in Shanghai, they are rather perfectly placed to put me up (read: put up with me) for a few days.
Unfortunately, I am unable to relive my two weeks spent here in 2006, as time does not allow. Instead I have to settle for a fleeting 24 hour visit
The train up is once again very comfortable and getting into the station I am informed that all the onward 'hard sleeper' tickets are sold out- contemplating the high speed train, I decide to leave it until I can make a proper decision on cost vs comfort.
Hanging around our pre-arranged subway exit meeting point, I'm early. This leads to some very excited taxi drivers and then an escalator mix-up; I end up going back down into the underground to see if I've messed up the meeting point only to see Min effortlessly gliding up to the surface on the opposite escalator. Well at least I know where she is.
I chase after her. Suitably confident that it's definitely Min, I produce one large hug and set to with the small talk. It's really good to see someone you know! (After bumping into fellow Haslingtonian Hannah O'Connell in New Zealand, it's only been 5 and a half months since I last met someone from pre-travelling life).
She somehow manages to book me onto a hard sleeper train and we go for some Taiwanese food
I find myself in the very alien setting of a family home being cooked for and looked after. This is amazing. I have a double bed, soft towel and a massive hot shower. Words cannot actually express how good this feeling is. With Jianrong away on business and Chris studying in the UK, I only get to see the youngest of the family- Tom. Applying for uni himself, he's slightly taller than when I last met him but equally engrossed in academia. He's been talking three languages since he was born and kind of makes me feel like a bit of a lay-about. Thanks Tom.
After having already seen Shanghai 5 years ago I feel like my visit is everything I wanted it to be. A rest and a chance to see some old friends. Min does her best to mother me and gives me a thick hoody for the imminent Beijing ice-box (I would have been prepared but someone ran off with my jacket in Laos).
The next day, we say our goodbyes and she drops me off at the market. This place is where I see myself picking up the majority of my souvenirs. Just travelling with hand-luggage has meant that I have been putting this off since I got to Asia. As a professional 'car boot-er' from the age of four I am in my haggling element. This entails me living out some supplier exploitation- which I was never to keen on in my university life- and coming away with some bargains. They wouldn't have sold at that price if they weren't happy.. right?
Shang-bye-bye. My last train journey awaits, this time to Beijing.