Monday, May 13, 2013

Cowgirl in Asia

Last week I returned from my second trip to China. The first time I went was in December of last year.

In case you are not aware, Asia is insane. Or at least China is. Or at least the parts that I went to are -- Shanghai and Suzhou.

What is the population of Shanghai? Closing in on 24 million. As a point of comparison, the population of New York City is around 8.5 million.

When people find out you went to Asia, they are most of the time impressed. I am not sure why. Invariably, if they haven't been there, they want to know what it's like. I say, "It's like New York City on steroids," but that doesn't really cut it. It is massively busy, a completely different world, hyper-capitalist and deeply old school.

My favorite things are: Pudong, with its wacky skyline; the antiques market with busts of Mao at every turn; the food, especially the crispy duck at 1221; the animals and insects market, where the frogs are rainbow colored and the crickets have a fight club; the marriage market at People's Park; the golden temples populated by saffron-wrapped monks and surrounded by skyscrapers; the sensation of being a stranger in a strange land.

At one point, I was meandering around a park in Suzhou, camera in hand. I thought, There is nothing here to photograph other than trees and bridges. A minute later, I rounded a corner to find a statue of a little boy bent over, his pants pulled down, a sculpted dog sniffing his butt.

That's China for you.