Shanghai in July
I left my bike at a hostel in Kashgar and flew here about a month and a half ago because Shanghai with its 24 million people has around 4 times more than the whole of Denmark. So it’s a real metropolis, a place where anything should be possible and you should be staying out most of the day and night to suck it all in.
That hasn’t exactly been the case for me though. Whatever I expected of the city before coming here, the heat has completely melted my brain and any motivation I had of sucking anything. Unless you were born in an oven, Shanghai is not the place to go in summer. Any effort of trying to blend in went out the window the minute I step outside and into the wall of heat.
I might as well have a drone carrying a big glowing penis over my head and it still wouldn’t make a difference in the number of looks I get walking around the city. It takes 30 minutes on even the coldest day, and I’m a ball sweat with a big stupid looking lump of hair stuck to my chin I for some reason can’t seem to mold into anything other than the white guy hobo look.
It’s the beginning August and the temperature still rarely goes below 30, not even at night, and in the daytime still dances around 40. Friends and family back in Denmark complain and says it’s been the worst summer in years – even though, I would trade any day of the week in Shanghai with the Danish summer, just to get cool and wash some of the chronical saltiness off my skin.
So what the hell do you do in a city that smells and feels like it’s been in the deep-fryer for long, and where almost only young people speak English.
Mix it up
If you live in one of the bigger cities in your country it’s quite easy to find places to hide and things to do, but first, you have to break out of your weekly routine for just an instance – and instead of already having mentally planned the next 3 Game Of Thrones marathons, the next several sofa-and-ice-cream bingings or whatever other repetitive plans you go through every week, try this. I’ve used Couchsurfing without actually surfing any couches for a while now, and I still do. But where Couchsurfing’s main purpose is to let people find somewhere to sleep, I found another app/website called Meetup where you.. well.. meet – up.
But my favorite “event” is with out a doubt the Tuesday night happy boardgame meetup. Which is basically just a mixed bag of regulars, travelers, expats and Chinese people getting together to play a bunch of weird games.
The favorite one for sure being “Run, fight or die“. Like most things today, the game has Zombie’s it, and you basically try not to die until you have enough people or “followers” with you. Enough followers that don’t either steal your loot, slow you down or turn into a zombie themselves. In the first game, I died the first round, and the then again in the third round in the second game. It’s probably the best game I’ve ever played, if I don’t count drinking games.
The second best is “One Night“, and it’s pretty cool because it gets people talking. It’s an obvious “party“ game because you can have extremely simple, very fast and can have up to 10 players in it. Basically, you’re trying to kill a werewolf, but out of all the people in the game, you have to guess who you can kill by talking to each other, while the wolf(s) are trying to convince you to kill the wrong player. And the best thing about it, there is almost no explaining because a mobile app does that to start the game.
An apartment in the middle of Shanghai
I rented my first apartment through Airbnb in Shanghai, which was a giant success… Kind of. It cost me about 6150 renminbi (785 euro’s) which is about half of what it would cost to stay in a hotel for a month and about twice of what it would cost to stay in a hostel. It was great… Or it would have been great if I hadn’t made of booking it in the hottest month of the year. Almost everything in China is cooled by air conditioning, including my room, which was the “problem” – because I would have absolutely zero incentive to open the door and walk into the wall of heat outside. Seriously now… I’ve walked into saunas been assaulted less than July in Shanghai.
If I had been smart, I would have saved the Airbnb stay for another month, and stayed in a hostel where I would have meet people without first having to struggle through the baking sun – and if I had been really smart. I would have checked the temperature before hand and traveled farther north, to Beijing instead. But still, it’s definitely not the last time I use Airbnb.
Covered in blood
One night I hear someone screaming their head off, so I stick my mine out the window and see this big hela expensive SUV still running, but with the doors open, and a crowd standing scattered around looking at a guy in the progress beating up a woman. The first thing I see is her sitting on the ground and him standing over her, pounding her head into the sidewalk. So I run down passed the pee smell on the stairs and out in front of the building. I don’t exactly know what the custom is here, and if you aren’t supposed to get in the middle of this sort of “stuff” or if people were just in shock. But I over run over and grab the guy, who looks at me very offended and shouts “SHE’S MY WIFE!“, like that was supposed to mean something. Custom or not, a half naked screaming blond dude is apparently enough to wake up the people standing around, and about 10 seconds later 3 – 4 guys jump in and now start beating the shit out of “the husband” instead. He very quickly realizes the “SHE’S MY WIFE!” isn’t helping, so he now starts angrily arguing with the other guys beating him up, but that just get’s them even more riled up – and one of them rips his own shirt at one point like he was in the middle of a wrestling match.
I back off of start shouting at the rest of the crowd to call the police, but since I don’t really speak any Chinese, it takes a couple of minutes of me watching them look back and forth at each other like:
“Are you gonna? Oh.. I thought you would call… Should I then?“
At this point there must have been 30 – 40 people standing around, so I go back to my apartment all the while people keep beating the now crying husband. And before you feel any pity for him – His wife – She was half his size, wearing a little tiny dress and was covered in blood, from top to toe.
It took the police a good 20 – 30 minutes before they showed up, which is weird for a country with as much police as China.
If you do dare to drag yourself outside in the middle of 40+ degrees, here’s a couple of other things you’ll have to deal with in Shanghai – First of all, the is a sound… I wouldn’t call it a humming sound, it’s more like a thousand king size fly screaming in selected parts of the city. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what it is, I’ve asked 3 – 4 different people living here, but they either haven’t noticed or don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. But it’s there, and I keep stepping on these giant crunchy sounding flies.
The whole blond bearded guy apparently screams “dumb money“, especially if go through the more popular shopping areas, because I have people running after me whispering:
“Massage? Hey hey – Sexy lady massage?“
“Watches, bags, massage? Hey hey, what you want?“
“Hashish? Hey hey, you want hashish?“
They’re all carrying around these little fold out paper shops with pictures of generic looking bags, watches, phones and a half naked lady. It’s both fun and annoying to go to the fake markets because you know 90 percent of the stuff you buy there will dissolve as soon as you sneeze on it. And the people in the shops walk close enough that you’re almost afraid you’ll get pregnant. But when you can buy 20 sets of fake Bose headphones for the same price as one real pair, you start questioning why the hell real ones cost that much.
If you’re tired of dating sites, just visit a park in China and you’ll probably run into a mother or a grandma who can help like the women in the picture here. They must earn something from doing this, but there are some people in the parks with whole catalogs of hundreds of single men and women there trying to “sell” as a good match when parents come by to find a husband or wife for their son or daughter.
Until now it’s been a while since I’ve had a good screw up
I had an idea about it might be fun to buy a scooter and ride it the 4 – 5000 kilometers back to my bike during August, instead of taking the train – but I had lost my drivers license in Uzbekistan. So first I had to visit the Danish consulate to get a new one. The guy working there told me it wouldn’t really matter if I had it with me or not because European licenses aren’t recognized in China. He wouldn’t be able to get me one in time anyway, but we agreed I should try and bring a temporary license with me, and he would make sure to give it a bunch of stamps (The police here apparently like stamps).
It’s been a while since I’ve had a really good screw up, so I guess my karma has been building up to this moment. When I left Denmark I thought I would travel through China, Tibet and into Nepal – but it turned out that the border into Nepal is closed from the Chinese side because of the earthquake 2 years ago, and then because of the rain last year – Or at least that the official excuse. So I’m trying to go through Pakistan instead – I say trying, because.. it’s right now the 14th of August, 3 weeks until I have to be riding across the border – and my bike is still a good 4 – 500 kilometers from the Pakistan border.
For my visa’s I basically pay a guy in Denmark to fix them for me, and 2 weeks earlier just before I was about to set out on my scooter adventure, I received an email from Denmark, saying the Pakistan embassy wouldn’t give me a visa without a Letter Of Invitation, and anyway it would be easier for me to apply here for the visa here in China. I then managed to find a guy called Kamal who was authorized to send me a LOI, so I went to the Pakistani consulate aaand got denied just like their website told me I would be because the psychical paper application has to be submitted in my native country.
Imagine living in a world where we would be able to send information back and forth in a matter of seconds, then there wouldn’t be any difference in where you applied for visa’s and passports and all that stuff because the information would be exactly the same. Wouldn’t that be nice 😉
Right.. So to manage everything in time I send my second passport back to Denmark because I figured my visa guy wouldn’t be able to make 2 visa’s in the same passport in this short amount of time. Turns out, he can – just not to Pakistan. Their embassy supposedly takes about 4 weeks to get it done.
So, to make a long story longer, there are 4 things that can happen from here:
- Everything goes smoothly and I just manage to get my visa in time to fly back to Kashgar and cycle into Pakistan.
- The Pakistani visa doesn’t get finished in time, so I have to cycle back to Kyrgyzstan and wait for a new visa for China as well.
- I don’t get a visa for Pakistan, but I managed to get a new one for China and now have to take the long way round to Myanmar.
- I don’t get a new visa for China or a visa for Pakistan and I have to fly to India.
The last option is obviously the worst one, I would hate to fail because of some stupid ass bureaucracy.
So at the moment – I’m stuck. Stuck in Shanghai until I get my passport back. All I need now is to be grabbed by the police again.