California really needs to change their rules about what time bars can close. 2:00am is way, way too early. I’m all for a 4:00am close time, though I would also be happy with 3:00am.
It seems like people here will try anything to scam westerners into spending money. One popular mechanism is what’s called a tea party. I had heard about these from other foreigners here; until today I had never witnessed one.
Jim and I escaped work for a few minutes while the building was evacuated for a fire drill. We went to the local park and played some hacky sack. Two locals approached us and asked to play, one spoke English and the other didn’t. We played hacky for a while and had a blast. But then it hit us, like a tree branch hits a snowboarder. They asked us to go to tea. We weezled our way out of it for reasons described below:
Often young locals will be very friendly with young foreigners. Sometimes this is honest. However, in the tea party case, the locals will say that they’re students or foreigners, etc. They’re very good at not letting you suspect anything, so most foreigners go with them to get traditional tea. Upon arriving, you will be presented with a menu. You’ll order a few teas, and the bill will be astronomical given the quantity of tea you drank. We’re talking 250 Yuan (~$35) or so for a few small cups.
Close call, but we survived.
It only took nine days. Jim’s bike was stolen off of the street in front of the Google office.
We’re going to go to the second-hand market today and look for it.
Today is a sad day.
Another photo update:
I tried to capture more of the street mayhem — red lights being run, drivers driving on the wrong side of the street, streets being shared by pedestrians, bikes, cars, busses, etc. I love it!
Also pictured are Jim and I at the Bund, which overlooks PuDong, the financial district, along with the torrential rain that shortly followed.
We’ve made really good friends with the staff of Bell Bar, a bar that Christophe stumbled upon and dragged us to. The guys and gals that run that place, Jimmy and HongMei and Amay and Jimmy’s girlfriend, are totally rad and really fun. We’ve been hanging out a lot with them lately. Jimmy whipped up some wild flaming shots, composed of Kahlua, tequila, and a Chinese liquor. We drank them out of a straw — totally delicious.
Lastly, I wanted to capture the resourcefulness here. Take a look at the photo with the tricycle stacked with cardboard. The streets are riddled with tricycles, which are essentially junk transportation that locals can hire. These guys are amazing at stacking their tricycles with more shit than you can imagine. It’s totally insane. But what’s more insane is that they hop on the seat and ride away. So cool!
Surprisingly enough, I tend to eat a few times each day. I make a point to explore new places; usually the non-English speaking places are the best. Street vendors are also good. Anyway, I got some new eats and stories:
I’ve talked about Noodle Man before. He’s got the best noodles in town. We’ve made pretty good friends with him; he let Christophe cook some noodles, mentoring him along the way. His buddy, Meat-Stick Man, is also doing well.
People don’t use napkins here, and the restaurants usually charge you money if you want them. Toothpicks are of the highest quality and can be found at nearly all restaurants.
WEIRD FOOD UPDATE: I ate pig intestine. Jim and I went to a hole-in-the-wall joint that spoke Shanghainese, which is much different than Mandarin, the dialect that Jim speaks. We pointed at a few different vegetables and got a stir-fry with rice. The stir-fry had some interesting meat that I knew was weird; I didn’t want to find out what it was. I speculated that it was octopus head or squid, but Jim realized it was intestine. I immediately agreed with him, when I realized the circularly cut, squishy meat completely resembled intestine. It was actually really good.
Also on the weird food update is potato with caramelized sugar. It was astonishingly good and unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s apparently very popular in the Northwest.
Lesson learned: don’t try to leave a restaurant with a beer. We ordered two beers and planned on finishing one on the walk home. The waitress grabbed us on our way out and told us in Chinese that they need to keep the bottles. I think they get a refund on them if they recycle them, just like in Berlin.
Jim and I, both having commuted on our bicycles while living in Seattle, convinced one and other that it was time to commute via bicycle in Shanghai. For various circumstances, I decided against purchasing a bike and instead renting one for the weekends, while Jim bit the financial bullet and bought a bike.
The buying process was fun; it started and ended on a Tuesday evening. We started by visiting a scooter shop in hopes of finding a bike shop. The owner hopped in a cab with us and drove us to a series of bike shops. He hung out with us while Jim and the salesman looked at various bikes. Jim purchased a bike and lock for 415 Yuan ($60).
For the remainder of the week, Jim would peddle the two of us to work, while I sat on the rear cage, feet slightly dragging, ass padded by a makeshift cardboard cushion. Bike parking at work is 6 Mao ($.08); everyone leaves their bikes outside with their back wheel locked to their frame — no one locks their bikes to stationary objects such as poles and fences. For a few days I rode my skateboard and held on to the back of the bike. Either one of these configurations — two on one bike and skateboard-dragging — made the locals stare and laugh at us. The ones that spoke English would ask us where we were from or what we were doing here. All at least gave us a smile and accepted us to their road. We’re just two white dudes on one bike, occasionally one skateboard and one bike, weaving around Shanghai.
Tandem biking may be fun, but it’s not so convenient. I rented a bike for a weekend, and Jim and I tore around the whole city. We found some great food that we would have not otherwise found, and smiled as a large city was tamed. As chaotic as Shanghai streets are, biking through them is actually easy. Everyone is good at avoiding everyone else, as long as you understand that cars and scooters have precedence over you, even if you have the “right of way” (ha, if such a thing existed here). Honking fills the streets, but the horn is used to let others know you’re there, not to tell others you’re annoyed. I almost felt safer biking in Shanghai because traffic moves slowly, drivers are all very biker-aware, and most side streets have very few cars on them. I would argue that at least 25% of all side-street traffic is biking.
Bonus story: Jim tried to get one of our local girl friends (friend that’s a girl) on the back of his bike, but she hesitated. She said that wealthy girls don’t ride bikes, only poor girls do. We thought this was interesting, because we each respect people who ride bikes in the US.
Advice: eating dumplings on the back of a bike can lead to dumpling shirts. See photos.
Jim and I went out once or twice this week to grab some night imagery. He’s working on a Shanghai video project, while I’m just taking a bunch of photos. Take a look:
The street food in Shanghai is unreal. You can feed yourself for easily less than $2, with food that is guaranteed to taste great: dumplings, fried bread, tofu, noodles, vegetable sesame bread, fruit, etc. Jim and I have wandered all over the place; we’re utterly amazed. I love street food, despite it being slightly sketchy. Check out some photos.
But before photos, I got a bonus story: Christophe knows a guy we call “Noodle Man.” Noodle Man has a little cart in a little community of other food carts. He serves up the best street noodles in town, and the dude next to him, “Meat-Stick Man,” serves some MONEY meat scewers. We had scewered chicken heart. Ewwwwww!
Jim and I went out one night to capture some imagery. As we’re hanging out doing this and that, a kid comes up to us and gestures that he wants us to take a picture of him. He’s carrying an empty cup, but we didn’t really think anything of it. We took some photos with him, showed him our equipment a little, and just hung out and talked. Jim speaks a pretty good amount of Chinese, so he was able to communicate with the kid.
Anyway, after about 10 minutes of hanging out, the kid decides it’s time to beg. He starts telling us how hungry he is. He starts grabbing our hands and hugging us. As he walks beside us we hear his money clanking around in his pocket, though he refuses to speak to us about it.
Lesson learned: if a kid is super friendly with you, get ready for some begging. We caved and gave him a few singles for the photos we took with him.
Alright, plenty of pictures and updates here. I’m just gonna knock them out one at a time.
The streets here are wild. Many of them have sidewalks, and many of them don’t. Streets are typically shared by buses, pedestrians, scooters, bikes, and cars. Motorized vehicles honk when they want to get through, and given that they’re all in such a rush, the streets are filled with honking. It’s rather chaotic, though also fun and exciting. Crossing the crosswalk pretty much means you’re signing your life away, because no one will stop for you even if you have the right away. It’s rather annoying, but there’s really nothing to do about it. When in Rome, right?
A vast difference between China and America is the gap between the lower class and the middle and upper classes. The lower class here is very, very poor, while the middle and upper classes are prospering. The lower class here is very, very resourceful, though. The locals are absolute rock stars at recycling old parts, stacking too many things onto too small of a bike, and running little specialty shops. I think America could learn a few lessons from the Chinese resourcefulness.
We visited a famous electronics store, which was a wild experience. The store was huge — many stories tall, consisting of small booths selling anything you could imagine. Everyone bargains for a price, making for a fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Oh and also, most items sold are fake. They have fake iPods that look identical but have different software. Very sneaky!
The Maglev, which is the train that takes you to and from the international airport, travels at 267mph. It’s NUTS!
The subway here is ridiculous. People pile on to the trains as if there were an infinite amount of space inside. Additionally, travelers entering the train don’t wait for travelers leaving the train to leave. Instead newcomers pile on as fast as they can, usually creating a huge pileup with the leaving travels. It’s pretty fun.
Workers work day and night on up-and-coming buildings. I’m sure there are different shifts of workers, though. Apparently PuDong, the financial district, was all rice fields 10 years ago. Now it’s all skyscrapers and suites.
More updates soon!