Foreign Devils Flee Asia
18.05.2009 - 26.05.2009
Forgive me, I'm nervous blogging - it's my first time, so be extra gentle...like you were that balmy summer's night back in '98 on my parent's pull-out couch.
Well, it's about 9 o'clock here in St. Petersburg, and the sun is not even close to setting...sitting here at a couchsurfer's named Semeon, trying to spit up a little milky note before we catch our overnight bus to Tallinn.
First off, Korea was a smashing little gem - our year in Busan was unreal. After a stay in Seoul, Lauren, her folks, and myself, we boated to Qingdao, China. The ferry was nice and slow and masculine, filled with Asian cig smoke wafting around. And it even had a jimjilbang (Korean bath house) on board, so me and Lauren's dad, Victor, got to stepping and got real honest with each other. We saw each other nude.
China, for the short time we were there, was a beaut. From seaside Qingdao, and the famous brewery, we made it to Shanghai to stay with family friends of Lauren's, Erica and Rolf Knecht. Well, let me tell you, they took care of us, like we were mini babies that couldn't do anything. The most memorable part of Shanghai was our first full night there: Rolf is the executive chef at the Hyatt Shanghai, (in charge of 16 nice, nice restaurants), and so he knows all these super talented gastrofolk around town, and we made it on to the guest list at the opening of the rooftop terrace at "the best restaurant in Shanghai", Stiller's. Stefan Stiller, the owner/founder/head chef, is a Michelin Star-awarded chef, and fed me 30 glasses of Veuve Clicquot and mini foie gras burgers. In the midst, we met a shiny-headed American family man who got so razzed up and excited about our trip, that every second he would cut me off and start talking about leaving Val and the kids and trading in the Toyota for a share in Hajji. He was a darling.
Here's the view from his terrace:
The second-tallest building, with the lit-up top, is the Hyatt where Rolf works.
After Shanghai, we scooted to Hangzhou, for a darling little bikeride around the West Lake. Hangzhou is a bit of a daytrip for Shanghainese, (it's not racist, it's what you call them...), and it was delightful...but too short - we left the next morning for Tangkou.
Tangkou is the closest town to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), and the first morning we were there, we climbed that craggy old wiener. It was a misty, rainy 6am wakeup, and a misty, rainy 2-hours of stone stepping, but we topped her, and passed like 40 sherpas on the way, carrying massive loads of linens and other supplies up to the hotels on the peak - they had good and nice calves they did. After making the top, we ate a banana and watched a million Chinese people smoke cigarettes, and then started the walk down the opposite side....the LONG side! I always thought that climbing up was the hardest way to negotiate stairs...I no longer feel that way. It took us 2 hours to get up, and over 4 to get down. There were bouts of madness where we felt like the stairs would never end, and the mist blocked them so there was no way to see past about the next 40 or so, so it honestly felt like you were walking downward forever. Near the end, we started warning, begging, people on their way up to reconsider...I hope they're okay.
Okay, gotta run and catch the bus. Have to stop here, but I'll hopefully have some time in Tallinn or Helsinki to keep on about our way so far.
12 more days till we meet Hajji...and though I've never ever laid eyes on her, I know exactly how I feel about her. She's a moist little darling, and I love her.
Like Keith Sweat said, "Ooh, you're the best thing in my world, The only thing in the world, I love you so."