My friend and I decided to take a trip to Shanghai to experience the big city. I have been to Shanghai about four or five times but my friend had never been. We planned a three day holiday to take in the sights, experience the night life and do some shopping.
Shanghai is a three hour bus ride from the town where I work and live. I usually dread bus rides in China. People play video games or watch TV on their phones and don’t use earphones. They talk on their phones at annoyingly loud volumes. I guess they think that because they are talking to their friend in Chongqing they need to talk really loudly because he is so far away. I often get my own phone and pretend to talk to someone in an equally loud and annoying volume while making eye contact with the offender.
Buying a ticket at the bus station is never easy. Aside from the perennial queue jumpers the ticket salespeople are nothing short of obstructive in their roles. I had an old lady step in front of me while I was buying my ticket. She laid her fistful of notes on the counter and started yelling at the salesperson. I smiled, elbowed the dear old thing out of the way, and swept her money onto the floor. She screamed abuse at me in Chinese. I smiled again and said “Ting bu dong, ting bu dong” in a soft and comforting tone. Sleeping on the bus is made hard by old men screaming into their phones and it is made impossible by the bus driver honking his “weaponized” horn at anything that moves. I’ve noticed that buses and trucks have horns that are significantly louder than that of normal cars.
Arriving in Shanghai is an assault on the senses. China is a vast smorgasbord of smells, few of them pleasant. Walking from the train station to the metro my friend and I were overcome by a powerful stench. “What on Earth is that?” my friend asked.
“Poo” I replied. I told him how Shanghai is the world’s biggest city and that when 26 million take a dump everyday it has to go somewhere and that what he could smell was just this. “There is a veritable river of excrement flowing beneath us right now.” He winced and said
“That’s a wonderful story. You must tell it to me again sometime.”
Our hotel was on Nanjing Pedestrian Street. Nanjing Pedestrian Street is described as a shopping mecca, which it really isn’t. Shops are polarized between boutiques that sell watches for 200,000 yuan and bargain shops that sell plastic crap that is punched out of plastic for 1 jiao a piece. It’s this plastic crap that the world seems hungry for and has made China the economic powerhouse that it is today.
Nanjing Road isn’t famous for the amount of touts that haunt it’s length but it should be. A tout is a person that solicits business in an annoying and unwanted manner. They follow you like the fart that you wished you hadn’t done. They sell roller wheels that you can attach to your feet, selfie sticks, plastic flowers and all manner of useless tack. If there ever was a sign of societal decay and a harbinger of the impending doom that will duly be meted out to humanity for its vanity and narcissism then it’s the selfie stick. A typical conversation with a tout is as follows” “You want handbags, watches? Come, come! Only look! No buy! Only look for free!”
I reply with “No. Go away. Bu yao. Wo bu yao. Bu yao. Bu yao. Bu yao.” This is repeated ad nauseum until they go away. A better tactic is just to simply ignore them. There are also many pimps that frequent Nanjing Road and many other places in Shanghai. I call them pimps but they are really criminals that lure unsuspecting horny foreign men into massage parlours only to rob them of thousands of yuan. Men lured by the siren song of cheap sex with young and nubile temptresses only to be tricked out of their cash by thugs, the original honey trap. I don’t have much sympathy for the poor saps that get caught up in this. China is a relatively safe place but if you go looking for prostitution, gambling or drugs then you will surely find trouble. I told my friend that anyone who talks to you in Shanghai is probably trying to swindle you in some manner. “You want massageee? Come look! Beautiful girls! Come look, only look, no pay!” Some of my favourite tactics are to offer them a massage before they offer you one or if it’s a girl I’ll try my Chinese and say “Me and you go to hotel and make farts together. How much?” None have them have ever taken me up on that offer, much to my dismay.
There are also all manner of other types of swindlers from the tea-house scammers to the come to the disco bar scammers. The tea-house scammers often start with asking you to take a picture of them. They pass you the crappiest cell phone you’ve ever seen and then smile like morons for the picture. They then ask you questions and try to convince you to come and see a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. My favourite tactic for this is to say that I am a policeman from New Zealand here for a conference with the Shanghai police. This often ends the conversation quite quickly. If you accompany the swindlers to the ceremony you get stuck with the bill which can range from 1,200 up to 5,000 yuan. All of this happens under the ever unwatchful eye of the police. If China wonders about its low numbers of foreign tourists then it should look no further.
The Bund has some impressive architecture and history to go along with it. I saved some World War II documentary footage on my smart phone and stood where the original cameraman stood as I watched it and compared the grainy footage with what was in front of me. You can see the buildings that still stand there today. It was chilling. Seeing the bodies of dead civilians strewn across the road and people carrying the dead and dying on stretchers as bombs exploded all around was somewhat haunting. It made me feel like Shanghai had more of a soul than its gaudy, flashy and neon-lit exterior portrayed.
The main reason I travel to Shanghai is for food, Western food. My town has a KFC and a Pizza Hutt and nothing else. I have nothing against Chinese food, in fact I quite like it. It’s just that after months on end of the same Chinese food I find myself longing for a hotdog and a chocolate milkshake. Munchies is good place to go if you’re looking for such fare. Bubba’s is also good if you’re looking for some deep fried goodness.
Nightlife in Shanghai is a bit of a let down. Yongkang Lu is one of the better places to go with reasonably priced drinks, good food and good service. Hengshan Lu is horrible. The bars are often empty and have typically awful Chinese service and overpriced warm beer. Myst is the hot place for the young, rich and clueless of Shanghai. It’s a super-club that’s all about face and how many champagne bottles you can fit on a table. I think of the many beggars that I stepped over on the way to the club and wonder if this is what Mao would have wanted. The DJ plays electronic dance music but few people dance. By looking at the punters I’m not sure if they are having a good time and I’m not sure if they quite know either. They know that having a good time looks like this but they don’t look completely convinced.
Another fancy bar is Bar Rouge. It’s situated in an old building on The Bund. It has an amazing view of the Huangpu River, The Bund and Pudong. The clientele are moneyed Chinese and jet set foreigners. Drinks start at about 100 yuan a pop. I used to know the barman who worked here. He made a great Old Fashioned (cocktail) and we would exchange cocktail recipes. He would often give me free drinks – which was nice considering how pricey the bar was. The only drawback was that he had a penchant for ladyboys and would tell me of his longing to meet one. I told him that I had no such desire. He scoffed and told me how beautiful their faces were and questioned how I could possibly resist their charms. I politely informed him how it wasn’t their faces that worried me. However he was a nice chap, with good English, and I wasn’t about to hold his desire to court pre-op transsexuals against him.
All in all Shanghai is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. It has all the things that a modern city has to tempt even the most discerning of travelers – for a price. Thomas Jefferson said “Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, until you know there is no hook beneath it.” I think this holds true for China and even more so for Shanghai.
Tags:Travel Expat Tales
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To Russian guest, How about you learn, how to spell refugee first? Haven't you probably noticed that the guy's from Poland? However I'm from Ukraine and I'll tell you, that one day you'll have as much mess in Russia, as you created in my country and in Georgia, Moldova and Chechnya. You're calling China a whore? One day this country will take back all of your far-east and the rest will be devided by other nationalities and minorities. Where will you flee then? Cuba, Syria, maybe Africa? Just know, that Ukrainians remember and will never forget, what you've done.
Nov 15, 2015 15:17 Report Abuse
Another stinky ukrainian. I would never call China a whore, it is with regards to ukrainians! Embrace Chinese freedom and normal earnings instead of spreading crap about PRC you unthankful looser. All ukraine belongs to mother Russia and you know it well. Ukraine is just an artificial country!
Dec 08, 2015 22:06 Report Abuse
Read the other comments - if you can. You are in the minority. I speak two languages at a conversational level, almost three. Perhaps you could write an article and then I could comment on it? Maybe just draw a colourful picture? No need to get angry. This is the internet and arguing about nonsense is a waste of time. If you don't enjoy what I wrote then downvote it and move along, or even better just don't read it. I can cook Chinese and Western food. I don't need to travel to eat what I desire. I even make a pretty good placki.
Oct 06, 2015 11:40 Report Abuse
I think it's a bit too late to deny what you have already written, you definietly have an issue with China and you definietely describe China in a bad light. You do feel superior over other people because you speak the language of the place where you were born and raised. How pathetic to see this as a skill. I just can hope you don't treat your students in the same way. Yes, I am a non-native speaker of English language, not a non-native speaker. I believe you could comment on my English skills if you spoke any language other than your mother tongue in at least conversational level, let alone the fact some people like me can speak a couple of languages fluently. I don't have a habit of checking every single letter I write but it seems you have understood everything I wanted to convey which was my purpouse. Do you really think I am going to believe you have swapped your extremely prosperous job in New Zealand in order to teach in'' dirty China'', in the town from which you have to travel for three hours if you want to enjoy a decent western dinner? I have been in Nantong btw. Nothing is there. Assuming I am a teacher just proves your limited way of thinking. I am not a teacher and I rather avoid telling how much I earn here. However, teachers are at the bottom of the earnings ladder when looking at the expat community in China. Finally, I do like reading articles but not something written on the level of a middle school essay. How lavish to call your scribble an article.
Oct 04, 2015 21:05 Report Abuse
When I read people like you I always wonder why you are still in China? It looks like you have made a deliberate choice to come and stay here for the second year. It's obvious China is a developing country in which environment is much different than let's say in New Zealand and actually this is quite interesting about this country in my opinion. There are many things I like a lot about China but I always struggle to understand why do people keep spotting and complaining about the same crap that Chinese spit (though it is not that bad), queue jump and stare at white asses. All of that one of average intelligence can notice after couple of weeks in China, I believe those a bit clever can understand what is going here and do not have to comment on that. But please tell me why you are still here? Let me guess, is it the easy life you have here? The job in which you speak your own language with no effort and get paid quite the same as back home? Chinese girls? Or is it the feeling of superiority over the Chinese? Or perhaps you are just a looser who can't handle his life in home country?
Oct 01, 2015 23:29 Report Abuse
Bravura. I will try and address your points respectively. I'm in China because I like China. If I didn't like China I would leave. Nowhere in my article do I complain about China. My comments are purely observational and all based on real experiences. I can't blame you for not fully comprehending my writing as your grasp on the English language seems tenuous at best. My life here is relatively easy. I am paid far more back home and I could go home to job that pays a lot more but I choose to stay in China for now. I am paid well in China, much more than a non-native speaker from Poland for instance. I put plenty of effort into my job. I have always worked hard and I consider hard work its own reward. Chinese girls are beautiful but I have never really had a problem finding female company. I don't feel superior over the Chinese. Loser is spelled loser and not "looser". I really hope you are not in China to teach English. My article isn't meant to be taken seriously. It was purely observational. If reading articles upsets you then perhaps you should stop reading them. I hope my reply has helped.
Oct 02, 2015 13:04 Report Abuse
When u say "When I read people like you I always wonder why you are still in China?" haha I feel like you are a Chinese that defend for our Chinese. But again when I see ur profile pic. Oh,you are not Chinese. Actually I feel the same as u do when I reading "nzteacher80"'s article. There is a article called 8 types foreigners in Beijing. And the second type is talking about foreign teachers.
Oct 10, 2015 10:48 Report Abuse