The rest of my days in Shanghai passed in a contented, but relatively lazy, blur. I spent a happy morning at a famous tea house where QEII stopped when she was in Shanghai (I wonder whether she used the squat loo?), book in front of me but mainly engaged in my favourite past-time of people watching. I don’t know if I’m just an insanely nosy person, but I’m fascinated by other people – their expressions, their quirks, their dramas. I could (and do) watch them for hours.
Shanghai also has some impressive foreign concessions, a relic of the time when it was the most colonial city in China. I’ve already mentioned how it reminds me of Liverpool – you can now add Paris to that list, as well. I went on a (fruitless, as it turned out) search for a tailor who could shorten the jeans I bought in Beijing. So not only were they a completely superfluous purchase, now they’re being a burden as they’re too long, and I have to wear them with trendy turn-ups. Add that to the mix and match bikini for false trends I’m claiming in the UK at the moment as a way of explaining my fashion faux-pas. However, judging by the look of horror on these upmarket tailors’ faces when I pulled the jeans out of my bag (and yes, I had washed them, before you ask), they don’t ‘do’ jeans. Trousers, of course. Jackets, no problem. Kilts, plus fours, trilbies, naturellement. But jeans… heaven forbid. Anyhow, the streets where the posh tailors live are very reminiscent of the Paris boulevards, complete, evidently, with exclusive shots. I managed to get a few surreptitious photos for ideas of things I want to get copied when I’m in Vietnam. But that’s two countries in the future.
The rest of the time I just wandered, absorbed in the streetlife of one of the most populous cities in the world – 19million people, and counting. Truly, all life is here. I found a great restaurant – if you’re ever in Shanghai, go to Xinghoalou at lunchtime (preferably a rainy lunchtime when it proves a warm and steamy refuge from the deluge outside), and have beef noodle soup, with a side order of spring rolls. I was so absorbed in the yummy fare, I’m sure I must have been making little happy noises as I slurped my way to the bottom of the bowl.
Back at Captain’s Hostel (resplendent with bunk beds with portholes, and staff in sailor uniforms – as grumpy as you’d be if someone made you wear a sailor uniform for work. Unless you are actually a sailor), I met Chris, the first fellow Mancunian I’d bumped into on this trip (yay!). Turns out we’d been working about 5 minutes from each other, and had oft been standing at the same tram stop, no doubt cursing the same overloaded trams. With Chris, and other friends Clare, Louise and Katie (all stunning redheads from Ireland), and Americans Solomon, Matt, and Matt’s Friend, we headed out for a huge meal, involving many shouts of “More broccoli! We need more broccoli”, “That’s the biggest bowl of beef I’ve ever seen in my life”, and “Who ate all the pork?”. We somehow befriended the owner, or at least he said he was the owner, and they showed their cracking hospitality when they didn’t flinch in the slightest when Matt’s Friend went over the road for ice-cream – Chinese restaurants, as a rule, don’t tend to serve pud – and came back with six huge tubs (including my new favourite flavour, Green Tea). They even gave us bowls. And more beer, God love ‘em. On to a bar called I Heart Shanghai. Well, not really I heart, but that thing where they put the heart to show just how much you love Shanghai. Though I don’t love it enough to buy a t-shirt declaring it, as they were selling in the bar.
The next day, Chris, Clare, Louise, Katie and I had a lunchtime date. We were really slumming it that day, really enjoying the backpacker experience. We were going up to the 87th floor of the Hyatt Hotel, to a bar called Cloud 9, where a minimum 100 yuan spend got you an awesome view over the city. And what a day we’d picked – the sun had its hat on, for the first day in ages. Hip hip hip hooray. We had to go up in three different lifts to get up to the 87th floor, but boy, was it worth it. The views were fabulous, as were the cocktails. And at 8 quid a pop, they’d better be. We sat in a contented haze as we supped our fruit and booze concoctions. From memory mine was either called a Vega or a Veda. I actually prefer Veda. It was delish, a mix of vodka, cherry something, and ginger. To get our spend up to the mandatory 100yuan, and just so we wouldn’t keel over in the afternoon having had nothing but a cocktail to sustain us (how very Mrs Robinson!), we had small snacks as well. Pork and shrimp rolls were goooood.
All the others were heading off that afternoon, and I was the following morning, so I packed, had an early-ish night, and chatted to my room-mates. I was definitely sad to leave Shanghai.
On second thoughts, I might go back and get one of those t-shirts.