As y’all may know, I had three friends from England visit myself and another home country friend here in Shanghai. I have been friends with these guys from as far back as primary school, which, thinking about it, could be as long as 20 years.
Needless to say, they could stay at our respective apartments for free, on the promise of British cheese, gravy and Ribena. They did not disappoint.
Now, I don’t remember every detail of every event of every day for 2 weeks, and I highly doubt anyone would be willing to read much further than this very sentence, so I have written a summary (by the time you read this anyway). You can find more in-depth posts here (our 2 day trip to Wuhu) and here (the surprise appearance of three newborn kittens)
So, here are some highlights in no particular order.
Nothing actually happened out of order, nobody got arrested or strip searched, nobody lost anything. Shocking stuff, honestly. James (home town friend) and I got up nice and early to meet the guys at the airport, when it turned out while ordering our McMuffins that the plane was due early, and we were due late. Stupid Virgin Airlines.
We arrived, waited around quite a while, they turned up.
There were many nights of food exploration, which they very much enjoyed, but there was one particular night which involved some heavy drinking. Things got chaotic pretty fast.
With two of the three repeatedly losing themselves, it was the job of James and myself to make sure they didn’t end up under the wheels of cars or behind bars. Remember, these guys had only just arrived and had no way of communicating with us and by extension, anyone else in the world. We were left with just the one who could actually handle his drinks. I don’t think we could have managed all three going haywire.
The first to go was simply a sleeper and a vomiter, with a tendency for apathetic roaming. The second was persuaded to chug half a bottle of China’s infamous Baijou; a mistake of the same gravity as accidental genocide. Needless to say, he became a vomiting machine and sentient zombie.
In a relatively nice but unfortunately full bar, I would repeatedly find him sitting with strangers, bobbing back and forth in his own world, trying not to headbutt the nearest pink elephant. Those he intruded took it in good faith and I was able to snatch him back trouble free. He somehow managed to make his way to the bathroom, but couldn’t for the life of him return fully dressed.
While James was outside trying to find the first drunk, the second one turned out to have left his shoes under/in the urinal, and upon collecting them, was unable to put them on or tie them up. That was my job. Very wet, they were. I can only hope the liquid was booze.
By the end of the night I had to take the two of them home to my place given that I was due for an early night anyway, and the others had their way with the rest of the night.
The next day’s evidence of the night came in the form of mysterious scratches to wrists and cuts on the head. A coat and beanie was lost. The first of many losses.
Drinking to a view
We thought it would be nice if we could go to the top of the world financial center of Shanghai, aka the bottle opener building. Unfortunately this was pretty damn pricey and we found that it would actually be cheaper to go just a few floors lower to a posh bar and buy a couple of beers, getting the view for free.
Instead, we decided to splash out on a single cocktail each, setting us back about 110RMB/ £11/$17 each. They weren’t all great but a couple came out pretty nice. The atmosphere was mostly nice if not for some European guy working there who made us feel inferior to him and all dining there. One made the mistake of ordering water, setting them back a further 70RMB/ £7/Whatver dollars.
The view was nice, though.
To make up for it, we went for some local noodles and rice, which combined cost about as much as a single cocktail.
Chinese New Year
For official celebration, we went to a friend’s house for a dinner party, which, in terms of food, was absolutely fantastic. I had no idea I knew somebody who could create such wonder. I am a better person for it now.
The party itself was cool although a loner introvert such as myself found it excruciatingly loud as the evening went on, so it was with some relief that we headed toward another friends apartment to set off our ridiculously expensive fireworks.
Despite the level of drunk of those prepping the fireworks, it was an overall success, although we may have given a family a few floors down a few heart attacks, and one friend may have lost all hearing. He never used it anyway.
Within Shanghai, there is an ancient city called Qibao, meaning Seven Treasures. Nobody knows the official history behind the name but the folk tale behind it is pretty interesting, involving seven treasures:
…these were an iron Buddha made in Ming Dynasty, a bronze bell also dating from the Ming Dynasty but said to have mysteriously appeared from nowhere, a Gold Script Lotus Sutra written by an imperial concubine of the 10th century, a one-thousand-year-old Chinese catalpa tree, a jade axe, a gold cockerel and a pair of jade chopsticks. Actually of these seven treasures, the existence of only first four can be verified while only the Scripture and the bell have survived to this day.
I don’t take many pictures nowadays since I lack a proper camera, but you can find some good photos on this other blog I arbitrarily searched for. The proper historical insight you can also find yourself, or better yet, go there. I’m not a tour guide.
Anyway, It was phenomenally crowded with Chinese tourists given the time of year, mostly I imagine from the countryside. I was told everything would be empty in Shanghai because everyone would be returning to their home towns for the New Year, but it turns out they are just replaced by country folk coming to Shanghai for a holiday instead.
Long story short, however, with a boat ride, a series of 8 miniature museums, tea setting one of us back 120RMB and lovely architecture, this was one of the highlights of the trip.
To top it off, we took it a step further and visited a nearby golden temple we saw in the distance. It was almost closing time so we rushed it but this also meant it was practically empty.
Suddenly the birds were out, the Buddhas seemed more majestic and genuine and the park areas were so very peaceful. An overall great day.
On the final evening, we took a trip to People’s square, a very Mall-filled, westernised place not dissimilar to Leicester, Nottingham, London or any generic British city. However, it was much bigger in scale.
We got a quick drink from starbucks and sat peoplewatching for a short while before roaming down the very long road of glorious golden and neon lights that took us to East Nanjing Road where we got on the train to West Nanjing Road for some Vietnamese cuisine.
Chinese food is great and all, but Shanghai is a very multinational city of multiple influences, so it was a cool idea to embrace as many cultures as we could during our time here. Overall we tried British, American, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and even made some Mexican at home.
The Final Night
The final hours utterly sucked, for me anyway, since it turned out literally everyone i know is apparently massively into wrestling, one of the worst thing i’ve ever had to sit through on multiple occasions. Given it was the last night, I figured I was outvoted and did my best to tolerate it for as long as possible, but it being a 3-hour show they were all dedicated to seeing the end of, my headphones were not going to cut it and I had to give up and go home.
I said by farewells and that was that.
I decided to get up nice and early to see them off to end things on a proper note, say, D.
Unfortunately, just before I arrived, it turned out that one of them lost their car keys, of all things. They returned to the apartment with James to hunt for it, to no avail. Meanwhile, another had to re-pack his entire luggage, unaware of the fact that his litre of baijou, cans of beer and bottles of soju were liquids and banned from hand luggage.
I found them the right bus and sent them on their way. The next thing I knew, they were home all well and dry, after a lot of hassle with the car, RAC and a locksmith.
It was truly fantastic to finally have somebody visit me from home. It took 4 years for anyone at all to visit me, So thanks, guys, for the effort in my 5th year abroad. I don’t know when I’ll see them again but with friends like this, it doesn’t really matter.
Next up, my mum comes to Shanghai in May 2015. (Don’t expect a link here since she isn’t here yet and I doubt I can be bothered to update this post when the time comes)