*Apologies for the lack of photos, but they take so long to upload, it would be quicker to fly back and show you them on the camera*
So we have arrived in Shanghai and it’s a bit of a culture shock from Japan. We stayed in a hostel the first night, and there was a half naked man sitting on the kerb outside the hostel sharpening a massive knife. As soon as we left the hostel for a stroll down the Bund, two very innocent-looking Chinese girls tried to scam us with the hackneyed “tea ceremony” scam. Welcome to Shanghai!
We are being kindly hosted in Shanghai by my taekwondo friend Chris, who has worked here for about 6 months. By the time we’d met Chris, we’d nearly been run over about a dozen times. The traffic in Shanghai is completely bonkers. The first time we saw a green man at a crossing, we strode confidently into the road, assuming that green man meant “It is now safe to cross“. Turns out that in Shanghai, the green man means “You might as well try to cross now. This is as good as it’s going to get. Today is a good day to die.” The cars can turn on red, which is the same rule as in Japan, but crucially in Japan the motorists will give way to pedestrians on the crossing. I’m not sure that the concept of giving way exists in Shanghai. Then there’s the scooters, which go where they damn well please; on the road, on the pavement, against the flow of traffic. This means that you can be nearly run over at any time, including when you think you are safe on the pavement, and from any direction. Chris’ advice is to assume that you about to be run over at all times, and claims he was once nearly run over when inside a building.
Chris took us out on Friday night and we had a little peek into his glamorous ex-pat lifestyle. We had cocktails at a bar on the 88th floor of the Jinmao building. The views were spectacular, as you can imagine. Even the views inside the building were pretty cool.
Shanghai at night is like (Canary Wharf + Blackpool) x 1000. After that we met up with an international group of ex-pats, and the talk was of pool parties, members-only clubs and recovery Sunday brunches where the waitresses dress up as nurses and syringe champagne directly into your mouth. There might have been no language barrier, but this was a culture as foreign to us as street-level Shanghai.
Anyway, we never got to experience the excesses of the ex-pat weekend as on Saturday afternoon, first me, then Chris, then Mr Beet fell ill. This was bound to happen sooner or later, and thank goodness it happened while we were staying with Chris as it’s bad enough feeling poorly when you have your own space, but in a hostel dorm it would have been really miserable. And, as you may have noticed, it gave me the opportunity to catch up on my blogging.
We only really got to do the touristy stuff in our last couple of days. We went to Shanghai zoo, which was pretty depressing and we quickly left, then we went to Yuyuan gardens which was much nicer (you’ll have to do a google image search until I can get my photos on here) but seething with tour groups. My favourite thing was the trip to the theatre to see an acrobatic troupe. It reminded me that “do the splits” is on my list of things to do before I’m 30, and I only have 9 months left.
So we sort of run out of time in Shanghai; we stayed there the longest of anywhere yet, but saw a lot of the inside of Chris’ apartment and not much else. We got the train (not sure if it was one of the new super-fast ones – it went over 300kph) to Qingdao, home of Tsingtao beer, where there’s a beer festival at the moment. I’ll report back on that once we’ve explored.