Greetings from Shanghai, cultural capital of the Communist state of China, or more accurately the People’s Republic of China.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect here, but had recently cringed while watching Karl Pilkington suffer through China in the first episode of An Idiot Abroad and probably expected to have a similar experience. On the whole, I couldn’t be more wrong.
Staying in the French Concession with my amazing friend Phoebe, I have been living with a quirky group of internationals in an American, retro inspired apartment- decked out with a large cactus, a cowboy hat-wearing mannequin, a guitar, disco ball etc etc. I’m not sure if the overall theme was planned, but it kinda works. I’ve been drinking tea and enjoying the delicious pastries in the very chic cafe Baker and Spice, frequenting hipster hangouts like Bikes and Friends (a bar inspired by the fixie bike phenomenon), Mokkos (a Japanese style bar) and Yuyintang ( a grungy hole in the wall venue for (hipster?) bands). Naturally the means of transportation was also hipster style- riding on the back of a fixie bike.
I constantly run into other hipsters with chunky striped jumpers reading about the demise of politics on busy trains. We eyeball eachother in strange recognition of eachother’s foreigner status. There is no hiding amongst the locals like one does in Europe.
Despite all the hipster spottings, there is plenty to see in the rest of Shanghai (although I may be guilty of not having seen as much as I could have). On the way to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see the Pixar exhibition, Phoebe pointed out the local matchmaking market/meeting place? Here the parents of eligible, but busy young Chinese professionals gather to advertise their child’s many qualities ( such as height, ownership of property), in the hope of securing a date, and potential marriage. It’s quite sweet to see parents so concerned about their children’s future yet strange at the same time. While oogling at all their makeshift signs, a lovely Chinese lady chewing some kind of street food spat out the remains onto me. It seemed I got in the way of of her spitting.
I’ve seen fakes markets, antiques markets, beautiful shopping centres with only the best designer stores and there’s more to come. Stay tuned…