Tom Linnemann, the former St. John's quarterback, family man and business executive, is back in Asia, pretty much killing it. You are invited to follow his adventures on 1500ESPN.com.
TRAVELIN' TOMMY MAKES IT TO SHANGHAI
When sailors embark on journeys they look to signs to indicate how their travels will play out. As I left for Shanghai and the Philippines, I sat on the plane by my version of a red sky at night in the form of a tremendously interesting young woman from da Range,Virginia, MN.
Molly Bonner (twitter: @mollbon) was en route to Beijing to compete for the USA in curling. She is a 2014 Olympic hopeful in the sport for the Sochi games in Russia.
It was fun to talk about curling and the Iron Range over some sushi and Bloody Marys in the Toronto airport.
It's always great to meet Olympic-sport athletes because they have the best stories. I became a huge fan of curling and especially of this 5'2" red-haired firecracker from the Iron Range. As I said, good omen to open the trip.
On the plane I watched several indie-type movies: The Guard (see it now), Everything Must Go (see it soon), Margin Call (at some point) and the The Beginnings (never).
It's almost a 14-hour flight and I only got about an hour of sleep. I landed tired, but wisely listened to The Kooks "Junk of the Heart" album twice before landing to get my head right.
Landing in Shanghai was like landing on a stove in which you're cooking pasta. The smog was shocking--more than normal, my friend Josh said. Josh was my center at SJU and is a brilliant business tycoon who is pretty much killing it over in Asia.
When he asked me to visit him before he moved back, I told him that it's hard to just drop everything and fly to Asia. So he sent me a ticket.
And that's that.
I had to to negotiate with my wife for such freedom, so I'm definitely doing some shopping on this trip. Josh is one of the best people to travel with because he's up for anything and he's truly one of the most interesting and life-loving people I know.
If Martians ever land on Earth, whomever the President is should get Josh to talk to them and make friends.
We got to Josh's flat and immediately housed a couple Red Bulls. Red Bull tastes different in Asia but it has the same effect when you've had an hour of sleep in 40 hours.
I love street food so we went out to a place on the street. It was so small when I outstretched my arms I came within an inch of touching both walls.
We ordered these dumplings that were something like potstickers. They were a top five dish I've ever had in my life. So we ordered more. And more. We ate 7 pots. That's 56 dumplings.
They were extremely impressed and, when the bill came, the $4.50 it cost didn't exactly break us.
After eating, the first thing one should do in Asia is get a massage. It's a long flight and massages in Asia are super cheap, so it's absolutely necessary.
It was awesome as always--there is nothing like having someone artfully standing on your back.
We went out and got a couple beers after that--or I did, as Josh quit the sauce years ago. I drank some Tsingtao, which I thought was pronounced "Sing Tao" but apparently it's "Ching Dao". #noted.
This made me wonder what words in Mandarin I needed to know. Josh told me the basics: "Ha" means ok. "Zog wai" means turn left and "yog wai" means turn right. That's important with taxis because the drivers speak zero English and they're awful with charades.
You can point to a bag with the name of something in English and say "Take me here" and they bring you somewhere else. As for the other important words to know, "shi shi" or something like that is thank you.
But the most important term is "Nero Mien". It means more beef noodles.
In most countries the young people know English or at least you can get by. That's how it was in Vietnam and even Cambodia. That is not the case in China. It's frustrating and wonderful all at once. It's a communication game.
The night went on--as did my apparent disregard for taking care of myself, as I still haven't slept--and around 1 a.m. Shanghai time we went out for beef noodles.
I like noodles and I like beef, so it's natural that I'd like street beef noodles. I quickly learned why learning "Nero Mien" was so crucial.
We walked into an open air place with three tables of people smiling and saying, "Nero Mien".
What happened then was truly an Asian experience. No disrespect to Chinese restaurants in the USA, but they don't lop off a piece of dough and make the noodles in front of you.
The guy masterfully kneaded, separated, and created noodles. No machines. Just art. We took a video of it and I'll post that at some point, maybe after the trip. They were the best noodles I've ever eaten and this is a place that Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain need to see next time they are here ... if only I knew what it was called.
Finally slept and now we're heading to the fabric market in Shanghai to get measured for some clothes. One of my favorite things in the world is tailored suits and it's a must-do in Asia.
So we'll head down there, order some suits so they're ready when we get back from the Philippines.
We leave for Manila at 5pm this afternoon. We have no plans in terms of where we're going to stay or where we're going to go. That's how I like to roll when I travel. You never know which way the path leads until you see it.
I've heard the whale sharks aren't in Donsol because the rainy season is later this year, which is a shame. We might go surfing. We might go island-hopping.
Whatever...that's all to come. The plan is to pretty much kill it out here. And that's a guarantee.