Day 3: Shanghai

So much for being zen in China. Sadly the only photos I was really able to take were from the hotel room and the glass elevator before my travel partner decided to have a little meltdown, developing a case of 24-hr agoraphobia. So despite walking past what seemed like 100 photo opportunities, I suppose they are just going to have to be resigned to my memory, as a panicked friend darted off into Shanghai streets, all the while reminding me of how dangerous everything is.

The last straw came after a second attempt to head out into the city, when we decided to go after some of the Shanghai shopping we'd heard so much about. The main goal was leather jackets, though I wouldn't have sneezed at some Prada shoes either. As to be expected, someone greeted us as we got out of the cab (we agreed to the price in advance this time) and began to tell us all about the Louis Vuitton this and Rolex that. Now, anyone who's been to Mexico, Spain or Italy knows, when you get an aggressive street vendor, the only way to shake them is to just ignore them, walk up to what interests you and pretend they're not even there. After your first "no" just walk wherever you want and eventually they will stop wasting their time. It especially helps if you talk to someone else. However, even the slightest acknowledgment will keep them encouraged.

So mistakenly we followed the vendor into this large shopping plaza, where it became evident that we were being followed (that wasn't the paranoia talking, that was really happening). However, they were keeping something of a distance, and they weren't really freaking me out too badly. Honestly, I think they were just waiting for their turn at us. My friend however, was convinced that they had malicious intentions, and that getting the hell out of there was the ONLY solution. At this point, I would have been insane to argue, considering that it really IS better to err on the side of caution in a situation like this. Of course, the first guy that greeted us insisted no one was following us. This was obviously b/s; all Chinese people really DON'T look alike to Americans

I would have just begun snapping photos of them, then taking the memory card and putting in my pants or something. I figure no one would be dumb enough to try anything if their potential victim had a photo of them, especially since I've heard the penalty for mugging in China is...well, let's just say they won't mug anyone else.

I would have done exactly that, but I stupidly left my camera at the hotel because he was convinced it was going to be stolen. Again, I suppose erring to caution and crap, but a) I think it could have come in handy and b) these photos would have been priceless.

In any case, I knew there was no way to diffuse the situation. Both to keep my friend from having a stroke and to keep the street hawker from getting a black eye, we headed to the taxis. After 4 attempts, the first 3 clearly unable to read the address of the hotel, we got into a cab, and were on our way, a team of knock-off Gucci peddlers stuck to the outside of the window like Suction-Cup-Garfields saying "wait....good deals."

So long story short, I'm jacket-less, basically picture-less, and currently very restless. It's 3 a.m., and I'm sitting on the bathroom floor writing. Not because I'm jet-lagged, but because I've been "napping" since about 4:00 p.m., and can't sleep anymore. I'm really just hoping that a bright TFT screen in a dark room will cause enough fatigue to put me under till either breakfast or the fitness center is open. Not off to a good start in Asia.

Tomorrow, we head to the ship. It can only get better from here, yah?