Shanghai

I just spent the past 8 days in Shanghai and enjoyed every day of it. I’m glad I’m out of southern China now as there’s been typhoons hitting some of the areas I was recently in/near. Luckily I’m just heading north, from Qingdao to Beijing and then home! My hostel was in a perfect spot, right on the main straight and close to a metro station. It’s also only about a 15 minute walk to The Bund, the most iconic spot of Shanghai, and it was easy to find as you can see the Pearl Tower the whole time. I walked there on my first full day- it was busy, but I’ve also visited at night as well which was even more packed! I asked a couple to take my photo and then the wife joined in with the photos too so I made a new friend there!

Talking of making ‘friends’, I almost had my first Teahouse Scam. Back in Beijing when we first arrived, we were warned about Chinese teahouse workers who will approach naive foreigners and get chatting to you, then invite you to go for tea with them. They will order expensive tea and after a while disappear, leaving you to pay the massive bill whether you want to or not. They usually target men as obviously if a pretty young Asian girl is saying you’re handsome and asking to go for a drink, they know they’re more likely to say yes! I was outside The Bund when two girls stopped me and started talking to me, which is quite standard as I’ve had this a few times before. They just ask standard questions like where you’re from, what you’re doing here, if you like China etc. just generally taking an interest in seeing a foreigner. Then they said they wanted to practice their English and if I wanted to go for tea with them… red light! I said no but they got pretty insistent but I managed to get away. After this I visited a market area and a small temple, and went out that night with the 2 German guys from my room and another British guy too. None of us knew the area very well so we literally just bundled into a taxi and told the driver to take us to a club, and he did us well!

We didn’t get back until 4am so safe to say the next day wasn’t very productive πŸ˜› Actually, the next morning I went in search of coffee, and had yet another potential teahouse scam. This time it was 2 men who asked me to take their photo outside the Rolex store- again, pretty standard. Then they said they were going to a Tea Festival and if I’d like to join them- it’s just annoying! We also had a crazy Russian girl in our room for a couple of nights, crazy is probably an understatement. She would randomly start laughing to herself and do yoga at 4am, and when I asked if I could look at her map quickly she thought I’d asked her for a quickie… then one day she suddenly dissappeared and we didn’t see her again! So although there’s plenty of nice people out here there’s still enough weirdos.

I also visited the French Concession Street, as I’d read online it was a pretty area and worth the visit. It was really nice, but full of designer labels so I did some depressing window shopping 😦 I then saw a street sign for Shanghai Times Square which I followed, but I never made it there. This was because I came across a vintage market instead! There were about 3 roads lined with stalls selling weird and wonderful vintage items and antiques. They sold old propaganda posters, Mao photographs, a few other items I’m sure were from the black market too. But it was just really interesting to look at Chinese history through such a personal level like that. I wanted to buy a children’s book that was filled with propaganda pictures but the price was too high and I don’t know if it would be offensive to haggle with stuff like that. Instead I left with a vintage bracelet/necklace, even though I’d promised myself no more jewellery… but now I have a piece of vintage Chinese jewellery, how many people can say that! There were also some cosplay photoshoots going on, good old random China.

One evening a few of us from the hostel went to watch a football match, Shanghai vs…. another team. Not good with names. We missed most of the first half as we went to the wrong stadium first, and then spent about 20 minutes haggling with touts for tickets until we got a decent price. We got there just in time to see a goal before half time, and then the rest of the match which ended 3-2 to Shanghai. I’d been to see a couple of rugby matches in Chengdu but these were just local teams made up of foreign expats, so it was cool to be at a proper stadium. I thought back to the last time I’d been to a football match… Frigby last May! Frigby is an inter-college football match at Roehampton University between two of the college campuses, Froebel and Digby Stuart. It’s every May and us spectators have a waterfight whilst watching the match. So yeah, again it was good to see something professional!

I also went to People’s Square by metro which was cute, even though I couldn’t find a way in to 2 of the museums there. I knew I was in walking distance back to my hostel but didn’t have a map on me. I could see the Pearl Tower which I knew was about 15 minutes from my hostel, so I made sure I navigated myself away from it. Then I saw a big building with a lotus-style roof which I know I can see from my window and so kept it to my right. And then I saw M1nt club, which I remembered a few of the others visited the other night and said it was a 10 minute walk from the hostel. So with these 3 points, I used the old school way of actually thinking about how to get back (who needs GPS) and successfully made my way back to the hostel, stopping off for a celebratory iced tea first of all though.

One evening we were all sat outside, and we could hear a cat constantly miaowing, but whenever we went over to where we could hear it, it would stop. This went on for a good couple of hours with us inspecting the plant pots. Then a couple of us saw the reception staff laughing inside, so we asked them and they had planted a prank speaker thing that plays cat noises! However the noise eventually lured over a kitten so we then had to go back inside and explain there actually was a cat there now!

Another evening, one of the Cambodian girls asked me to explain an e-mail they’d received in English about flight cancellations as it had been written in a really formal English way, so I explained in much more simple terms how for 3 weeks many flights would be delayed. As I don’t know much about the flights system they then asked one of the Chinese girls for information about that in English, but the Chinese girls accent was so strong they couldnt understand her even though she was speaking English, so I had to repeat what the Chinese girl was saying in slower and clearer English for the Cambodian girl to understand and then translate to her friend! I miss that dorm, it was so cosy and we made it like our own little home… by that I mean our stuff was everywhere. I actually met a ton of great, different people at that hostel who I got on really well with, so it’s sad to say goodbye to them 😦 But I guess that’s one of the perks of staying at hostels, getting to meet different people with different stories to tell.

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