Lost in Translation

Day One:
It’s 2am on Tuesday morning, and I’m currently lying in bed on the top floor of a swanky 4star hotel in Guangzhou, China.

What the fuck.

Let me start from the beginning.

Kuala Lumpur was rad. It was only a one night short trip, but I had an absolute blast – stayed at a funky hostel called “Reggae Mansion” (and a mansion; it was), and was welcomed by an incredibly friendly staff. I spoiled myself by having a private room.

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My flight arrived in to KL at 4.20pm, so I didn’t actually get to Reggae Mansion until close to 6pm, so unfortunately didn’t have time to do very much at all. However, my spirits cannot be defeated! Asked the reception staff for a recommendation for dinner, and dined on tofu, shrimp and coconut rice at Precious Restaurant, before having a look around China Town and trying different local foods and fruits.

20150524_191509 This was China Town

IMG_20150524_194424 And my gorgeous meal at Precious Restaurant

20150524_201715 Waffles and Nutella are totally a thing in Kuala Lumpur

20150524_202857 But I prefered the local fruit.

So good.

Headed back to the hostel and tried to track down the rooftop bar – and by “track down”, I got lost a couple of times before someone showed me where to actually go. Got chatting with a Welsh dude for a while before we attracted another solo traveller; a guy from Russia! By the end of the night, there were four us (a Korean girl joined the troop. She was lovely, though I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw one of her tattoos: a single word in English “Brave”), and we were all drinking ridiculously bad (yet ridiculously strong) gin and tonics, and discussing everything from education to feminism to travelling and picking up chicks/dudes. It was a good night. There was also shisha. And bubble blowing. I didn’t take part in the smoke, but damn straight I blew some good bubbles! Because bubbles are pretty much happiness.

Woke up far later than I intended, and decided to walk into the city to discover more about Kuala Lumpur. I’m sure the locals are convinced that tourists are lazy; they couldn’t quite comprehend why I didn’t want to take a taxi or bus to get around. Probably didn’t help that I was wearing high heeled boots – but hey. These boots were made for walking?

The architecture in Kuala Lumpur is rather stunning. There were gems of street art boldly presented on the sides of the road, and while I received a few strange looks from the locals, I met their gazes with a smile, and they (mostly) grinned back.

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I made to the Twin Towers, but unfortunately couldn’t do the Sky Bridge (as luck would have it, they’re closed on Mondays), but I was able to marvel at the pure magnificence of the buildings, and even stumbled across a metal café on my way back to the hostel.

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My taxi driver to the airport was awesome. I have no idea what his name was, but he took some time to explain a few things about Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia as a whole to me. The government buildings were incredible; the stadium where the 1998 commonwealth games were held was crazy impressive, and the motorway to the airport was purposely built to accommodate all computer-, and internet based businesses. It’s pretty much called “Cyber Highway” – and it’s freaking long. There are A LOT of businesses in KL dedicated to anything, and everything computer.

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There were also a whole bunch of palm trees along the motorway – specifically planted forests so that they could farm palm oil. From seedling to the time that palm oil can be produced takes approximately four years. I told the taxi driver that there’s huge moral implications in New Zealand around the consumption of palm oil, and he said most of it comes from Indonesia now, which (he thought) was why it wasn’t as eco-friendly, as it once was thought to be. He was also confused as to why New Zealanders don’t use palm oil when cooking – it appears olive oil isn’t much of a thing in Malaysia.

We drove past a Nirvana building too – which I thought was pretty hilarious when the taxi driver told me it’s a chain of morgues throughout Asia. That’s rock and roll.

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The music in Kuala Lumpur was amusing – all the same Top40 songs that are playing in New Zealand, except most of the songs are sung by different artists. It might be Sam Smith “Stay with me” for example, but instead of being Sam Smith singing, it’ll be someone else completely. There was one song playing on “Kuala Lumpur: The Hits” station that was a female singing a cover of UB40’s “Baby I love your ways” with The Eagles. What the actual. One thing that really DID stick out to me about the radio in Malaysia, however, was the number of advertisements about teaching children to say “no”, and to avoid stranger danger as much as possible. The taxi driver told me that child abduction and child trafficking is a huge issue in Malaysia. Not cool.

Anyway, the airport was very airport-like – except in Kuala Lumpur there are two airports: KLIA 1 (for the more expensive airlines) and KLIA 2 (for the cheaper). Both airports are surrounded by jungle, and are rather impressive – not to mention enormous. China Southern Air departed from KLIA 2, but because the airport is so big, we had to catch a tram from the gate in order to get to the actual boarding gate.

The airline itself was lovely – comfortable and friendly. We took off without a hitch, but when we got to Guangzhou, the weather was so terrible we couldn’t actually land. It was at this point that I remembered reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers”; particularly the chapter based on different airline carriers, and what actually happens behind the scenes when it comes to whether a plane malfunctions and crashes, or not. I was hoping like fuck for the latter.

So we ended up rerouting to Gui Lin airport, and waited. And waited. I assumed that because this was a connecting flight, the aircraft would be held up on the other end – even though we ended up waiting for three hours on the ground. The weather was terrible.
But no. As it turned out, the weather WAS terrible, but the minute it cleared up, our connecting flight left Guangzhou without us.

Hours later, and here I am – on the top floor of a beautiful hotel complex, with complimentary rooms, free WiFi (though it’s pretty shoddy, and apparently Facebook and Gmail are illegal in China?), getting ready for a day of Chinese exploration tomorrow! Because hey! A free random day in China! Why the fuck not.

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It’s funny, actually. While this might have stressed me out before, I’m in the middle of reading a whole bunch of books on philosophy, and mindfulness, and developing a deeper sense of self. The Happiness Project talked a lot about embracing these hurdles, and turning them into opportunities for adventure and exploration. I’m currently reading The Monk who sold his Ferrari, and it mentions a similar concept. There are no regrets; only lessons from our past. Similar thing. This isn’t about having a schedule fuck up – this is about embracing the fact that I’ve been given a FREE night in a random country that I know nothing about – complete with free meals, and that I have the opportunity to discover this new culture tomorrow!

I’m not lost. I’m exploring.

Day Two:

Potentially due to the lack of honking motorbikes, but I feel like I had one of the best sleeps this whole Asia sector of the trip. Just as I was tucking myself into bed, one of my co-stranded passengers called me to ask if I wanted cuddles (awkward), but nonetheless I slept like the dead, and woke up at 6.30am to hit the treadmill: which wouldn’t turn on. Ok. Step machine it is!

Worked up a good sweat for 10-15minutes before getting ready for an amazing buffet breakfast of EGGS, and BACON, and VEGETABLES and FRUIT, and everything I’ve been craving for the last couple of weeks. Heaven.

Though I realized this morning, while chatting with some of the other passengers that a lot of what we experience really IS down to our attitude. I remember last year, while in Fiji with my Crossfit Godmother Issa, an older gentleman commented on me being overly positive. He seemed confused about my happy state, and almost accusatory. I responded “of course I am – I’m alive and in Fiji; what’s not to be happy about?” It’s been similar here. Granted not everyone has a schedule as easy going as mine, but I’ve (and I partly blame these books I’ve been reading) decided to look at this overnight stay as an opportunity; not a pain in the ass.

One couple commented that the hotel isn’t as good as they would have liked. However, I kind of look at it as this
a) It’s a free overnight stopover in a completely different country and culture
b) We were given a massive buffet breakfast, a delicious lunch and will be given dinner as well
c) We’re here for 24hours, where we can explore, relax, sleep in a comfortable bed… a good way to break up being crammed on an airplane together

Another couple were pissed off that the previous flight took off without us; but again I’d rather look at it as
a) Missing the flight ensured that no one else on board was held up longer than necessary waiting for us
b) We’re alive! If we’d risked landing in the storm, there is every possibility that something could have gone wrong. No thank you!

Another person was annoyed that the staff of this hotel don’t speak fluent English.
a) Dude. We’re in China – and not Shanghai or Hong Kong; we’re in a less popular area of China that probably doesn’t get many overseas tourists. Embrace the differences.
b) They’re trying!! All staff have been really helpful when they understand what we’re requesting; patience is a virtue!

I don’t know. I just think a whole bunch of stress and annoyance can be avoided by choosing to look at the positives of a situation, as opposed to the negative.

Anyway, I’ve made friends with a guy called Michael, who’s originally from Kenya, but has been living in Canada for many years, and we decided to go for an explore this morning. We found a beautiful water park, and I discovered the bathrooms in cafes are RATHER different from the ones in the Western World. Not awkward at all. Found ourselves in the middle of China Town (bad pun, Michael. Bad pun), and had a nosey around the four story mall, the local shops, and the street food stalls, before heading back to the hotel two and a half hours later. It was another two and a half hours of charades (which I’ve become relatively okay at), and exhausting humidity, but it was awesome to see a bit of China that I didn’t think I’d ever get to see.

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Silver lining, baby! 😀

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