Throughtout my adventures in China, one thing has been truly awesome. That thing is meeting chill people, hanging out with them, and becoming friends. This has happened to me with my Alabama friends on the bullet train, Polish friends in my hostel, Virginia friends in Beijing, Allen in Huangshan, and others as well. So naturally I figured the people I who asked me to take their picture would be new friends as well. As it turns out, they were just trying to scam me. But the day started out pretty well!
Slept in for once and had breakfast without Chases (Michael was already at work), then had a great discussion with Heather about life as an artist for a solid hour. It was raining and would continue to remain for the rest of the day so I grabbed an umbrella and headed out to explore. A Finnish guy named Kari (met him a few nights back) told me about this place called Yuyuan Gardens so I figured I would check it out. Took the train to Line 10 where I got off at Yuyuan Station and took exit 1 to get to the gardens. Got a can of Caffe Latte for 4¥ and snapped a pic. Creative juices were flowing pretty well.
There was this girl. Just standing there on the subway and all she did was look at me and smile. A genuine, curious, happy smile. So I smiled back. The intercom announced my stop was next and I looked away, but I could tell she was still looking at me. I looked back up and there it was again. That innocent smile from a cute foreign girl. I could tell she wanted to say something but couldn't because of the language barrier. So she turned and leaned her head and arms up against the subway doors, deep in thought. The train came to a stop and I got off, but I realized what a beautiful moment this was and I turned back around. One last time, that smile was shining at me, through the crowds of people, past the subway doors, and right into my soul. And just like that, the romantic comedy of two people separated by language who communicated with smiles, faded away. I looked up to find my next stop, and she turned back to leaning against the door.
As I exited the subway, I crossed the street looking for the gardens. Finding out I was in the wrong place I had to go back to where I was. Right as I was about to start walking, someone behind me asked if I could take their picture in English. It was a Chinese boy and girl who were cousins. She was from Xian visiting him here in Shanghai. We started talking and they invited me to a tea ceremony. Naturally I jumped at the chance. We walked a few blocks and entered a mall that was so dark it could have been out of business. On the second floor was a small room where tea would be served. We chose 6 different teas because 6 means overall well being or something? The first was Ginseng which is good for kidneys and better for males. My new Chinese friends were surprised that I didn't speak any Chinese and that I knew very little about Chinese tea culture. The second was jasmine for women. Third was for fruit and the rest I don't really remember. 6 was expensive black tea at ¥128. It hurt to say yes but this seemed like a really cool opportunity. Overall I spent ¥400 on this ceremony (cringe) and it was absolutely fascinating. I had no idea about the amount of work, love, and meaning behind all of the teas. Each tea had different teapots made of different materials. I tried to take a picture but was scolded. They didn't want their tea making secrets to get out. This is the only pic I took. Anyway, it was an excellent experience. They showed me to the gardens, exchanged WeChat info and parted ways.
Now I had written that right after I met them and before I knew I got scammed. While it was fun and a little bit pricy (roughly $60) it could have been way worse. All of the stories I heard later were about people getting blackmailed and scammed out of ¥2,000 ($307) so overall not too bad. That being said, if someone in China asks you to take their picture, don't immediately think you could be friends and have a fun adventure. They may be trying to scam you. The rest of the day was really awesome though!
Wandered around the Yuyuan Garden and it was just okay. I feel like I've seem a lot of places like this already like the Forbidden City and Lama Temple. It closed about an hour after I got in which was the perfect amount of time for me to get in, snap some pics, experience the place, and leave.
I wandered around the city again and walked around trying street food. I tried 2 different places, the first was just a lady cooking up some chicken and squid tentacles which was delicious but left me hungry. I kept exploring until I found a place that cooked the whole squid on a stick. Naturally I got one and it was phenomenal.
Walked back to the Bund with a full belly to do a time lapse of the lights turning on at night. Super fun because I just listened to the new Beartooth album... again. Everyone around me is taking photos with their phones of the beautiful skyline. A couple girls came over and took pictures as well but we're taking pics in a different direction. They were taking pics with me in the background. Once I realized this I turned and smiled but the girl who was taking the pic with me didn't see. When she went to review the pic and saw I was looking at the camera and smiling, she giggled and was embarrassed. It was a cute and funny moment. From there, I walked back to the Chase's house where I was staying, told them about my adventures, learned more about the whole scam thing, and went to bed.