Glenn Goes to Shanghai

Hello… Glenn here!

I went to Shanghai as part of the Yellow Sea Cup Rugby Competition that the Seoul Survivors (my team here in Korea) play in every year.

The trip started out being planned over a month ago, with it being on the schedule that it was our turn to go to Shanghai. To help set this up, the Yellow Sea Cup consists of 4 teams, where we’ll play each team twice, once there and once they come to us. The teams include, of course, us… Shanghai Hairy Crabs, Beijing Devils, and the Guangzhou Rams. So, for a little over 400,000 won (roughly $400) I got my round-trip ticket and visa to go. Unfortunately, lots of guys had other commitments/work, so we struggled to get enough guys there. We ended up having just enough with 15 going. The rugby itself was fun, frustrating, and as one player noted, not an overly physical match (he was the fly-half)… the rest of us thought differently! 😉 We did end up on the wrong side of the score, but all things considering, played fairly competitively. The Hairy Crabs were great hosts, having a beautiful pitch, fantastic club house, and 2 of their boys met us at the airport with the bus and a cooler of beer. They took care of the hotel accommodations, travel accommodations, which just made the trip that much smoother. (There is one hiccup that I’ll get to later…!)

We landed in Shanghai, meet the guys down at the baggage claim, where I was handed a beer! I love Shanghai already!

It was a 45-minute bus trip to the hotel, where we got to know Stefan and Jimmy better (a couple of expats who have been living in Shanghai for a couple of years now). We got to the hotel, got our stuff put away, we were able to just walk over to the pub across the street for a night cap, where we were able to relax and enjoy the thrill of being in Shanghai for the first time, and then we all went to bed.

The next morning, they treated us for only 50 RMBs to a fantastic buffet breakfast that hit the spot before we played in the afternoon. Got all dressed up, our kits together, and around 11am the bus took us to the pitch, which was about 50 minutes away. Once we arrived we were able to admire how nice the pitch was, and it was gorgeous weather… almost too hot to play rugby. Let me qualify that: when the warmest training day you’ve had in Korea has been 11 degrees Celsius, and you then play in 28 degrees, it feels REALLY hot! Before the match, they had a guest speaker, one of their old boys in the club, spoke about the history of the club. A few of us joined in and learned quite a bit about the history of their club going back to the 1870’s. This club, officially being started up in 1904, and learned quite a bit about some key players over the years and just what Shanghai was like pre-communism. How the bonds worked, how the port network worked in China, as the English came in the 19th century. It was just cool! And really informative. The gentleman had put quite a bit of time into researching the club’s history.

Then we played the game. For the first 25 minutes, we really took it to them, played aggressive rugby, and I really thought we had a shot at winning. Then we had a mental breakdown and in a 5-minute span, they put 3 tries up on us, which did put us behind the 8-ball. At the end of the half, I think it was 21-0, which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either… we weren’t happy about the mental lapse as a team. When we started the second half, we had a strong wind at our backs, and we scored first, which made it 21-7. So we felt good… we were in this, we could go! Then they kicked back to us, and with a slight mis-communication and a really good bounce for them, we blinked… they scored… and it was 28-7. After that, we did our best and we played but, unfortunately, little errors started to take their toll. A couple of injuries didn’t help, and we just started to break down and we kind of got thumped. The final score was something like 42-7.

At the after-match festivities at the club house, where they put out a fantastic spread of chicken curry and rice and free beer for the evening, we did our customary man-of-the-match exchanges, well deserved to both Jays and Robin for their efforts, and with a lot of laughs, a boat race, and more laughs… we were on the bus back in the downtown Shanghai. We were able to drop off our stuff at the hotel room, we were already suited up, let the shenanigans begin!

We started off at their team’s pub, and from there, they just showed us a couple of great clubs, which resulted in a great time had by all. I think I got to bed around 5am. Sorry… 6am. By the time a bunch of us woke up around 10:30-11am the next morning, we were able to do some sight-seeing. Coach and Kenny hit the fabric markets and got some knock-offs, while the rest of us checked out the bond in downtown Shanghai. Shanghai was not what I was expecting. For a communistic country, capitalism is alive and well. It wasn’t crowded, it was clean, shops everywhere… their downtown infrastructure was fantastic. It’s really a great city! After walking around, taking some photos, getting some lunch, as far as we knew, our tour was over and we were on the bus to the airport at 3pm. Here comes the hiccup….

Since none of us really knew where we were going – and some of us knew we were flying out of a different airport this time – those who saw the signs for Pudong but didn’t know we weren’t flying out of Pudong, and for the couple of us who knew we weren’t flying out of Pudong, and didn’t see the signs, because we weren’t paying attention… left us quite surprised when we arrived at the airport to discover we were at the wrong one! For 100 RMB each, and 2 vans, we desperately tried to get to the other side of Shanghai (which is 24 million people, by the way), during rush hour, to the other airport. I’ll save the suspense… we missed our flight. But, had a great tour of the city. 🙂 I did see a neighborhood, one of those rough street neighborhoods, where maybe next time I can find my scorpion on a stick (a Chinese specialty)!

We accepted our defeat graciously, all grabbed cash from the ATM, went back to our hotel, and made the most of a messed up situation.

We got back to the hotel, got settled in again, when Kenny was able to talk to the receptionist and find a great Chinese place right around the corner. We had REAL Chinese food. Things I crossed off the bucket list: pig intestine, donkey meat, and duck tongue. Donkey meat is delicious. Pork intestine is kinda chewy, but good… and the duck tongue, yeah… I probably won’t ever eat that again. The 3 I had were just OK. I think I got to bed at 3am.

Monday was definitely a travel day. We had cabs leaving at 7:45am and were at the airport by about 9:30am. Aside from an outrageously long time checking in dealing with our passports, it was an uneventful trip home. It was a 2-hour flight and took me another hour and a half via train and bus to get from Inchon Airport back to Paju, where now I have the rest of the week to recover from what was a very cool tour with a great group of lads! Trip of a lifetime!

Over and out.

-Glenn

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