I try to take Owen out every afternoon, either to a playground, museum, playdate or on a short hike up the nearby pagoda-topped hill. Recently I’ve grown a little tired of the same rotation of 5 or so places, and so today I did a little research online to find a new destination. I happened upon a magical-sounding place called Funlandia, located in the big, fancy mall called MixC. It’s a little far away, but the place advertised a giant sand box, so it seemed worth it. Off we went.
We arrived as the doors opened and made a beeline to the customer service desk. I didn’t know the name in Chinese, so I just asked where the playground was. “Fourth floor.” Great. Up we went. On the fourth floor, I started asking around for the playground, but all I got were directions to the Toys ‘R’ Us. At Toys ‘R’ Us, they informed me that there is no playground in the mall, but there is one in a building just adjacent to the mall. Down we went, asking directions along the way (you can never ask too many people for directions here). We were guided out of the mall and told to “go straight, it’s not far.” But the exit pointed us down a long, straight road that ended in a very big building about a mile away. Not far? Oh well. We were here. Might as well just find the damn place. So off we went, trucking along in the dusty sun of the endless construction zone that is Hangzhou.
The building contained no playground, but I was directed to the left, towards an underground shopping center about half a mile away. Truck, truck, truck. Down to the left. Back to the right. Go straight. Turn around. I don’t know, is there a playground here? Do you mean you want to buy toys?
Finally, by some miracle, we happened upon it. O-Land, it was called, and it had fish tanks, a ship and a sandbox. It would do. I approached the young man at the counter.
Me: “How much to play?”
Man: “You and the child, or just you, or just the child?”
Me: “Um. Both of us? How can he go alone?”
Man: “So it will be two of you?”
Me: “I…guess…yeah. But he’s the one playing. I have to go with him.”
Man: “Right, so, two.”
Me: “Fine. Two. How much?”
Man: “Well, 50 RMB for one person. But you are two people, so it is the special rate of 90 RMB.”
I forgot to mention: at this point a friend who lives nearby joined us. She has a 15-month-old boy named Nico. I asked if she thought it was worth it, and we agreed that it was ridiculously expensive for what it was, but, y’know, here we were. So I said okay, fine.
Man [in English now]: “If the child is 20 months or younger, the child is free.”
Me: “Oh, that’s great! Mine is 19 months, and hers is 15 months.”
Man [switching back to Chinese]: “They both have to pay. They are older than 12 months.”
Me: “You said less than 20 months is free.”
Man: “I meant 12 months. But that one [gesturing to Nico] is small, so he is free.”
Nico and Owen are exactly the same size. But Nico was in a stroller and Owen was walking, so perhaps Nico appeared to be younger or maybe even unable to walk. I don’t know.
Me: “They are the same. They should both be free.”
Man: “No. You must pay for your child, but she only has to pay for herself. Her child is free.”
Me: “Ugh. Fine. Let’s do it.”
Man: “So, you want to pay, then? For two people?”
In we went. It was crappy and bizarre, a pile of playground equipment scattered around with unsafe slides and lots of plastic penguins. Oddly, every wall had inset fish tanks, which were extremely well-kept. The sandbox was fun. The standard-issue plastic play-house was unusable because it was filled floor-to-ceiling with foam blocks.
And that is the story of how we did not go to Funlandia.