A Meteor Garden (2018) pilgrimage: Finding Dao Ming Si in Shanghai, China

It took a big leap of faith for me to set foot in the “Land of the Sleeping Giant” and chase a dream of mine I know some of you might find absurd. In November 2017, it was confirmed that a Meteor Garden reboot is to be released in Mainland China by 2018. Angie Cai, the executive producer of the series and Barbie Xu, who played Shan Cai in 2001 Meteor Garden, announced on their weibo accounts that a reboot of the old series has been finalized, with a few tweaks and a new set of actors as well. Meteor Garden was huge in Taiwan and the rest of Asia back in the day, and in the Philippines it was a breath of fresh air in our soap opera and Mexican Telenovela dominated primetime. Hence, my enthusiasm for Asian entertainment solidified. Though I may have turned into a K-drama consuming ahjumma, 流星花园 will always have a special place in my heart.

Fast forward to July 2018, the reboot finally aired on China Hunan TV (Mainland) and through Netflix worldwide excluding the Philippines. Many were forced to enter the back door, thanks to the existence of multilingual stans who put in their love and effort to sub the series making us on a par with Meteor Garden 2018 enabled Netflix subscribers.

After two months of nostalgia and watching like Wang He Di crazed humans, two of my good friends ignited the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Shanghai. It remained a joke until our flight was booked and our itinerary drafted. Six months later, we all flew to Shanghai to “find” Dao Ming Si.

Now here is the lowdown on our Meteor Garden 2018 only itinerary in Shanghai from Day 1 to 3.

-Day One-

Location: Jiangwan Stadium
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai’s meets up for an epic first date (E06)

The Jiangwan Stadium

Location: Now Factory Creative Office Park
What happened here: This place became a widely used setting throughout the series and is known to be one of Ming De’s facades. Shan Cai and the F4 usually hang out and meet here. And for all you Hua Ze Lei stans, this is where all the rooftop scenes were shot.

Notes:

  • Getting here is quite tricky, just make sure you ride the correct bus to save time.
  • The Wild Cafe is closed so we only took pictures outside. You can easily find this in the area once you explore Now Factory further.
  • The Now Factory kind of looked deserted, but no one is prohibited from going up the rooftop and can stay all you want to take pictures and gush over the fact that iconic scenes from the drama were shot there. Yet, it isn’t polite to imitate Shan Cai’s shouting and swearing so leave that to your imagination.

Location: 上海保利大劇院
(Shanghai Polygrand Theater, Jiading Qu)
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai’s formal break up after the latter returns from hiding (E30) and also one of those places where Ah Si and Lei had their one on one talks about Shan Cai (E33)

Notes:

  • Now this place isn’t exactly free for all. You can take pictures outside the theater, but not allowed beyond that arc. Explore at your own risk. The experience has turned funny now that I think about it, my face was stiff in that picture cos everything was rushed and that this was the first time I tresspassed…in China.
  • Shanghai Polygrand Theater is one bus ride away from The Now Factory. If you know how to speak Mandarin, good for you. But if you don’t, be very patient. Or better yet, secure an address in Kanji.

-Day Two-

Location: 上海建桥学院 (Shanghai Jianqiao University)

What happened here: Again, one of the many Ming De University facades in the series. To be specific, it is the first thing you see in the opening credits.

Notes:

  • The weather was to our advantage the day we visited this uni, their garden still has Sakura blossoms… the first ones I’ve seen and touched in my entire life.
  • One bus ride from the station to get here, again you have to ride the correct bus to enter SJQU through the front gate.

Location: 上海市长宁区协和路 (Xie He Lu, Changning Qu)

What happened here: The iconic “bus” scene. (E32)

Zhu Jia Bang River

Notes:

  • We almost gave up finding this road because of confusing bus stops and bus routes but I’m glad we didn’t. I felt my heart race the moment I got off the bus and to very same bus stop where they filmed the scene.
  • We took pictures at around 2:30-3:00 PM and Xie He Lu didn’t look busy at all.
  • You may notice this isn’t a famous route in any Meteor Garden 2018 tours available online. If I’m not the first, maybe I didn’t search hard enough but this is a F.I.Y (find-it-yourself) location I am very proud of.
  • I took a picture of Zhu Jia Bang River too, backdrop to Shan Cai and Hua Ze Lei as the latter was walking the former on the way to her part time job at the tea shop.

Location: The Vue Bar, Hyatt on the Bund
What happened here: Dao Ming Feng humiliates Shan Cai in Ah Si’s party so they escaped and ended up here. (E19)

Notes:

  • We were almost discouraged from exploring Hyatt on The Bund since it looked like an exclusive place, but if you have 110 CNY to spare you are certainly welcome at The Vue.
  • Just across the street is the hostel were staying at and the night we arrived we didn’t expect for Hyatt on The Bund to be this close.
  • It was not possible to achieve the exact view captured during filming because the place has changed a lot, but Huangpu River and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower were both mesmerizing, nevertheless.

-Day Three-

Location: Three on the Bund
What happened here: Nothing much. Here, Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai came across Harlem Yu in the last episode.

Location: The Press Cafe
What happened here: Shan Cai pays after Ah Si found out Dao Ming Feng has cut off his bank account (E39)

Location: BMW Shanghai Experience Center/China Art Museum
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai were strolling down the street and accidentally tripped because the latter’s shoe is broken. (E46)

Location: Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (entrance)
What happened here: Another Ming De University facade. Dao Ming Si likes parking his car in this side of the university.

Notes:

  • I do not even want to remember this place because we got lost a couple of times! Please be careful in choosing the right station and exit point because this place is huge!
  • This is the ultimate souvenir shopping place for tourists. Haggling skills can be very useful here!

Location: Grosfairy
What happened here: Shan Cai brings Dao Ming Si to her favorite snack shop, Rabbit Hole. (E26)

Notes:

  • Grosfairy has the yummiest cupcake ever. Their price is high, but it met with the quality. It has a very unique texture I cannot describe. It refreshed me after the tiring walk through Nan Binjiang.
  • Their cupcakes are seasonal therefore we failed to order the ones Shan Cai did. I also forgot to ask if they still have the same pink cup Dao Ming Si used.
  • Did you notice that the shirt I’m wearing matches Grosfairy’s table cloth?!
  • Perhaps this is their answer to OG Meteor Garden’s P.S. Bubu scene. I love the face Dao Ming Si made when he tasted the cupcake. 😍

Location: 三两春 (San Liang Chun)
What happened here: “Wonton shop” where Ah Si coerced Shan Cai to marry him (E45)

Notes:

  • The restaurant only serve traditional Shanghai dishes and their menu contains no pictures at all. We were fortunate that a bilingual local happened to dine that night and explained to us the differences of their “noodles with soup” items. I was a bit embarrassed to have asked for some ramen while in China.
  • On our way to San Liang Chun, we saw lots of street food and eateries. Laoshan Lu has the same feels as the streets in Manila (where I studied for 6 years).
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A Not-so-Total Recall: ONE OK ROCK Live in Manila

First glimpse of my ticketJanuary 17, 2016

Tension headache now puts me in nocturnal mode. The first time since 2016 started 17 days ago. You should know by now. I’ve been counting it down since Amuse Asia announced ONE OK ROCK’S 35xxxv Asia Tour last August 31. I went through a lot since that announcement. PULP Royalty heartache was the worst part… I had unstable BP and appetite loss for a couple of days. After shedding a few tears, I was ready to move on and prepared for ticket selling day. Practicing the Art of War, I got my desired ticket. Much to the wonder of sales ladies that day, we looked like we were running after dear life just for VIP tickets. It marked another countdown… that’s about to end in two days as Taipei Arena experience their DAY 2.Come Monday… it’s going to be surreal.

 

Before I begin, credits/thanks to jpopasia & Mei for helping me remember the details for this entry. I am just a daydream believer, not a memory keeper.  

Present, February 19, 2016

My concert OOTDHonestly, I don’t know how to properly start this. My thoughts are really disorganized, and I don’t even know if words are enough to describe how I felt a month ago. What I’m certain about is that it still appears to be dream like, and there are moments when I close my eyes and still see myself being in MoA Arena, my ears ringing due to the noise we have created…all for the love of ONE OK ROCK.

For the longest time I only saw them either on YouTube or DVD; followed them everywhere via Instagram and Tumblr (through fan updates) and seeing the guys perform live is just surreal.

The night before the concert, as I packed my things I thought about the whole thing as an adventure since I don’t know what waits for me…who am I going to meet or what am I to gain from all this. Looking back on that day (or that night), the last question was answered. T’was the ultimate fan girl experience I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Even without the PR I have longed and almost died for.

Time of Arrival, MoA Arena: 5:02 am. I always tell myself , Remember the Art Of War.

Yours truly and Kumi-san from Japan :)Not the first one but proud to be one of the early birds. The first thing I looked for? Not the comfort room… but medics. I was really worried about my BP since it can potentially hinder one of the happiest days of my life. The day before the concert, my BP reading went 140/100 the moment I found out that ONE OK ROCK has arrived. (I found out after my check up the morning after the con that it is something hormonal. I concluded that excitement can be very deadly for me. XD) During the first few hours of waiting I saw and met the “coolest kids” who later became IG, Twitter and even Tumblr friends. Some I am yet to find though, like Kumi-san from Japan (with me on the photo). I was told she doesn’t know any of her SNS accounts because it was her daughter who made it for her. I also got to see P.O.O.R Admins, and wrote a message on the banner the boys were holding during “selfie time”. IMG_20160119_095415Every time I see my name I’m still… OMG. For the first time in my life I loved the name I hated for all these years of existence. You can’t imagine the feels whenever I look at one of those IG clips Tomo held on to one side of the banner and recognize my own handwriting. OMG. Oh, I also got to finally meet Mei… YES.. who doesn’t know Mei? You can see me here (click to open her post) since I was the first victim, literally. I’m proud to be part of the first batch of her Fans on ONE OK ROCK series which some of you might’ve read at one point. If you haven’t but you own a copy PULP Magazine December ish, you’ll see the excerpt.

First view of centerstage :)Now, fast forward to 8:30 PM! Waiting in line for 13.5 hours outside and additional 2 hours inside the arena  was all worth it. The moment lights went out and the boys appeared on stage one by one… I forgot my fluctuating BP, my calm, and all the waiting time didn’t seem that long. My fan girl dreams are finally coming true. The first sight of Taka got me totally mesmerized that I don’t remember screaming his name. I was just there standing in awe and staring at the person I refer to as my “wonder wall”. This isn’t YouTube. This isn’t DVD. He is right in front of me now, holding a red microphone, jumping, running about, screaming and singing his heart out.Then there’s Toru on the VIP 2 side whom I never imagined to be Prince Charming material irl. No, I’m not a convert.. Taka still holds my heart. I just can’t help but look at Toru that way. Ryota, on the left side of the stage, who was the reason I decided on VIP 1. And right in the middle, unable to move around like the other three, is Tomoya, who just looked so adorable in his bouncing curly hair.

P1130812After the 35xxxv intro, Take Me To The Top got us all bouncing energetically. Their next song, Memories, came in next and you can see several middle fingers in the air, my own included, as soon as Taka exclaimed, “Go on and f*ck yourself!” I was kind of looking forward to doing that after I’ve seen their Paris live last year. It felt good. Lol.

Taka-san asked if we are ready, before proceeding with Deeper Deeper. The arena was shaking already, moments before you even thought about asking, Taka-san! Another surreal moment for me, this one, because I finally got to experience that clap sequence for the song’s intro. In the MLF live, this song got the crowd hyped the moment Taka-san began to clap, then cleared his voice in preparation for the opening screamo. And yes. We never we never we will not stop!

In his almost perfect English Taka introduced themselves as ONE OK ROCK and said that it’s their first time in the Philippines.(He slightly stammered at “Finally, we made it… here.” but that’s OK.) Thus, the first memorable quote for the night was delivered:  “Alright, who wants to have fun tonight, Philippines?” That was before he asked us all to wave our hands, while saying, “Let me see your f*cking hands!”Seriously love, do you really have to reiterate? Because all hands are up to begin with! Stuck In The Middle began and upon checking, the lively crowd was singing along to all the lyrics we know by heart.

Taka-sanWhen you see Taka-san’s hands “tick” you know that Clock Strikes is up! It seems to be very popular among Filipino fans because we were singing along with him, in unison, even though the lyrics is not in second language. Another OMG-worthy moment for Taka-san’s perfect singing voice. You can just imagine the goose bumps, #TeamBahay. I was staring at his neck the whole time, a weird habit of mine. You know the expression about neck veins when singing? His neck vein’s perfect, even with effort. His vocals are soo powerful. *insert swooning expression right here tee-hee*.

Another ballad, which is a new one, got included in this set list. It isn’t exactly OOR style but it just kind of grew into me. This song, Last Dance signaled us to embrace the slight change of ONE OK ROCK. There’s no escaping change. I learned (after reading Mei’s recall) that this song was being perfected by Taka during sound check. Lucky PR holders. sigh.

I was clearly rooting for the very handsome Toru during his showdown with Tomoya and Ryota. But no, my heart only belongs to you ,Taka-san! After his short break he prepared the crowd to Cry Out. Another set of goose bumps for me. Cry Out is one of my favorites out of 35xxxv albums. I am now perfectly in the zone, head banging…I never stopped singing along.

Second memorable quote for the night came in before he introduced their next song, Heartache. “Oh my God I told you this is our first time in the Philippines. We feel really good and are really, really happy to be here.” He was saying thank you endlessly…just goes to show how overwhelmed he is for the response of the Filipino fans to ONE OK ROCK. To be honest, I got a tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t play guitar while singing this one for us, but to compensate for that they did the original version, in their mother tongue. An ‘ocean of lights’ from our smartphone flashlights spontaneously lit up the Arena, adding more feels to the already piercing ballad. It was very beautifully captured by @julenphoto and even became the highlight of Toru’s night, as depicted in his IG post after the show in Manila.

Next up, Decision. It was sang in English, and Taka pulled it off without the help of his friend Tyler. Taka is getting really comfortable with the English lyrics of songs from the 35xxxv deluxe. At this point we’re halfway through the show. I can’t remember well from this part, (after Decision, came Suddenly) until it was time for The Beginning. About time for my third and most memorable quote for the night. I know it not only applies to me but for the rest of #TeamBahay, #TeamArena, #TeamAbroad among others… their promise to return. And I quote, “We are definitely coming back here! That’s a promise Manila!” I think this part of the show was the most intense for me.  In my summary (that can be found on Mei’s Love for 10969 series), I mentioned that being able to hear it live and to sing along to it was nothing but surreal. The Beginning will always be my favorite song by them. Now I want to cry just remembering how it felt back then! *I miss you, Taka-san!*

VIP 1 view!As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Their final song on the set list was Mighty Long Fall. My energy was still high even at this point because I can’t wait for the encore! And now for memorable quote number four: “Do you still want a bit more? Me too” Taka-san said, teasing us more. Since I already researched on this I knew it’s going to include Wherever You Are. Replaying my live cam, I was surprised at how well I sang along, my Japanese lyrics were even perfect! I think this was the song where Taka held out his mic and let us all take the lead since we like to sing very much haha. He looked so happy. Even Toru’s smile was permanently plastered on that handsome face. My heart is right about to burst recalling all these. ONE OK ROCK made all the years of waiting so worthwhile. The satisfaction was two way though. Enter memorable quote number five (part of it): “You guys are so beautiful. Thank you so much!” They definitely loved Manila even more after that surreal number. To end the encore as well as the show, they played No Scared and 完全感覚 Dreamer. (The white balls are bouncing everywhere now)

I’m still desperately searching for a trace of me on the band’s “selfie” at the Arena, but the spotlight will forever be more dominant. If only it wasn’t there. Erasing those regrets now…at least I’m still there and it’s all that matters.  HAPPY MONTHSARY #ONEOKROCKLiveinManila. See you in part two, my dear reader! 

ONE OK ROCK's signature bow

 

                       Arigatou Gozaimasu, ONE OK ROCK!     See you soon, Taka-san...  

                       Arigatou Gozaimasu, ONE OK ROCK!     Arigatou Gozaimasu, ONE OK ROCK!