Exploring South Korea by bike in late winter was a different journey of sorts. Bicycle travel through a land deep in hibernation was filled with crisp foggy mornings, temperatures sucking the mercury down to well below zero Celsius that until midday, and minimal precipitation. Most days, the sun was bright, the air was cold, and there was no snow or rain to speak of — thank goodness. Being off-season, following the Four Rivers bikeways, I usually had the bike paths to myself. It was pure solitary cycling bliss.
One of the simple pleasures of living in Shanghai is taking a shower in the pre-dawn hours and gazing through the wide open bathroom window from our 22nd-floor apartment to the city streets below. Standing under the stream of hot water with the cool breeze blowing in from a tall narrow window, it’s almost like showering outdoors in the warm rain under an urban banyan tree situated deep in the vast expanse of an enormous concrete jungle.
Awake before in the fading darkness while the megalopolis still sleeps, I am able to peer through my little portal to the world and catch a clear view of deserted city streets trailing off into the myriad of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers that is Shanghai. A gentle wind whispers through the window. The misty scent of fresh rain touches my nose.
I’ve spent a lifetime traveling the world and perhaps more than taking in the beautiful exotic landscapes, I love to meet the people. Experiences and interaction with genuine locals are one of the greatest rewards travel has to offer and I relish the most.
Want to meet people? Just start brewing a cup of handcrafted espresso or Turkish coffee on a park bench or along the edge of a flower bed in a village square, and soon a steady stream of people will gravitate to you for about as long as you care to hang around and talk to them. Most locals are naturally curious of foreigners and have an intrinsic desire to see what you are up to, especially in China. And what better way to break the ice with your new acquaintances than over a cup of Joe?