Shanghai, a city like no other that truly never sleeps. This past weekend Alaina and I found this out the “hard” way, as in work hard, play hard.
Eat, drink and be merry.
Alaina arrived at 2 p.m. on Friday, and I went to the airport with Wendy to pick her up. It had been so long since I’d seen her since she spent last semester in Spain. When we got back to the hotel, I moved into a double room with her and soon after heard Joey and David knocking on the boys’ door across the hall. We talked them into grabbing a bite with us down the road (it’s never too hard convincing guys to go eat). We shared a delish meal down the road before we parted ways since they were leaving the city for the weekend and had an early morning ahead of them.
Alaina and I looked at the clock, realizing it was already 10 p.m., and we were told never to try and catch the subway any time after 10:30 because it closes sometime around 11. We threw on our shoes and hauled ass to the nearest metro station 15 minutes away and hopped on line 2 despite the fair warning. We wanted to explore the French Concession I’d heard so much about, which is full of expat nightlife.
To get to the general area of the French Concession, I knew we had to jump on line 1 and generally what stop to get off at. Upon exiting the metro station, I was so lost. The road was dim and quiet, but luckily we found a kind group of students who led us in the right direction. We stumbled across a large club, which wasn’t our intended scene for the night, then followed a few westerners into a four-story building with a glass elevator leading us who-knows-where.
An Australian on the first level asked us, “You going to Perry’s?” To which I didn’t know the answer. We jumped in the elevator that carried us to the third floor, opening up to a golden hookah bar with a mix of expats and locals, blowing rings of smoke and drinking cocktails out of stainless steel buckets. It was noisy and packed with people in groups, not very welcome to two stag American girls.
In the meantime, we were entertained by Sharpie graffiti covering every square inch of the place - floor, walls, ceiling, tables, benches. People from all over the world left their mark on the wall for others to see for years to come. If, or when I return, I plan to leave my name on the wall, too. Maybe next to “PUKE MO” or “BRA” up there on the ceiling. Bro, Do you even lift? quickly caught my attention and made me feel right at home.
We soon moved on from Perry’s, strolling down the street where I could hear Heart’s What About Love? blaring from a bar called Oscar’s Pub. I recognized the song, a common cover by my uncle’s band back home, and was drawn in. I soon realized it wasn’t just playing, but was being performed live. This girl could sing anything (despite fudging a lot of words). She went from singing Heart, to Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of, to Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe (above).
Although the place was kind of a dive, it led us to meet some new friends. Tristan, a fellow American, has spent the past few years in Shanghai and led us through the French Concession to places we’d much rather go. We went to a sports bar called The Camel, then to a triad of bars that offer great deals for ladies’ night on Wednesdays. We had fun dancing at Zapatas, which we returned to the following night with Julia and Kelsey. Tristan offered great advice and shared the must-know Mandarin phrases phonetically with us. We now have two words of the day we try to use in context to order food or guide a taxi. It’s quite fun with words ranging from [jully] (here) to [jigga] (this) and [woo foo en], which means waiter and you can yell it anywhere in a restaurant and they’ll come running. Also, [my done] means bill and is easy to remember since you’re done with you’re meal and want to pay.
After lots of dancing and meeting various expats, we ended the night/morning at a dive bar called Beaver - how could we not? Chauncey T. Beaver would be so proud. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we walked out of the Beaver to see the sun was coming up, and we walked to the metro which was reopening at 6 a.m.
Once we slumped back to our hotel through a light morning rain, my feet were blistered and I was parched. And I used my first squatty-potty since being in Shanghai. Oh, how I missed those (not!). We were so tired, Alaina and I didn’t get out of bed again until late in the afternoon. We woke up starving, and craving waffles. Thank goodness for Google maps and keyword: waffles. We found Mr. Pancake not too far from line 2, and didn’t hesitate. I ordered a spinach and mushroom omelet, missing my morning eggs I commonly prepare back home. The pink drink is fresh squeezed watermelon juice! Like most beverages in China, it was served at room temperature though, which made it less appetizing than it could have been.
After having our fill of American food, we headed to meet Julia and Kelsey at a cafe named Barbarossa near People’s Park. We decided to take a taxi this time, but had to ask six drivers to take us to “People’s Park” with no success before running into more students that helped with the translation. For such a touristy destination, I can’t believe they didn’t recognize the landmark. All taxi drivers here are rated on a 5-star system, and the driver we ended up with only had one star, which made us laugh.
Since there aren’t many other nightlife venues around People’s Park, we took the girls back to the French Concession for another fun night at Zapatas. We threw in the towel at 2 a.m. so we could try and wake up at a reasonable hour today and prepare for work beginning on Monday.
Today, Sunday, Alaina and I had breakfast with Parker, Ryan and Donny before catching up on some homework. In the late afternoon we got a great lunch at Mr. Shen’s Coffee around the corner from our hotel (beef in lotus leaf with cabbage and kimchi), then headed to the Bund for some shopping at the Super Brand Mall.
I also got a chance to Facetime with some of my favorite people back home today, which made me wish I wasn’t so far away, but I am really starting to enjoy Shanghai and excited to begin work tomorrow. After talking to all the expats that have spent a number of years in this city, I could too see myself spending time here in the future. We shall see.