We decided it would be a laugh to turf our man Alex C out onto the cold, mean streets of Shanghai to see what would happen… a kind of… social experiment if you will. We gave him a few suggestions of things to do and a couple of Suntorys and sent him on his merry way.
Turns out that 24 hours in Shanghai is enough to turn a man a little bit mental…
For Alex Clark to spend 24 hours out and about in Shanghai.
Spend as close to 247 RMB as possible.
No paying for cabs.
Scrounge as much as you can.
Keep moving (no more than 3 hours in one place).
Keep a ‘captains log’ of events so that we can laugh at it later.
Alarm just went off. Why, why, why!?
Sky is dark, light pollution giving off a glow. Unearthly.
Sank a coffee with a splash of whisky and brushed teeth like Kei$ha but without the auto-tune. Too early for auto-tune. Out the door by 5.20.
Walked along Nanjing Xi Lu to the Metro. No traffic bar a few taxis here and there. A few stumbling bodies walked in the opposite direction, likely coming from Eden.
There were silhouettes of people tucked up under H&M and Marks & Spencers. London calling - felt right at home.
Got to metro at 5.40 to find it still gated up. Checked my phone for timetables. No trains for 20 minutes. I weighed up 3 kuai for metro versus at least 18-20 for a taxi to get me to the Bund for 6 am…
Not even an hour in and I'd already fucked up my schedule.
Decided to wait and take the Metro two stops to Nanjing Dong Lu.
The Metro is sparse with a sporadic spattering of power suits and ladies with big bags of stuff.
The usually busy shopping street was dead. I felt like Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later but with more hair. I bellowed “Ni Hao!” in the hope of an echo and immediately felt like a tit. Early days.
Arrived on the Bund at 6.30.
The sky was dark and grey. Couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding.
I met up with a friend stupid enough to meet me at such an ungodly hour. He handed me a Kirin and we toasted my adventure.
'The Oriental Pearl Tower loomed over us in the fog like a big, shrouded cock and balls.'
I raised my Kirin to the statue of Chen Yi, first Mayor of Shanghai don't you know. Cheers. Didn’t get a reply.
My friend left to go back to bed. Grrr.
Walked south down the Bund. Joggers and old ladies passed me. The marina was dimly lit against the cloudy skies.
Time to head to Yuyuan Gardens.
Tantalized by the sound of music I veered into the park where I now sit.
I’m looking at an old man with white gloves slowly moving back and forth. I think he might be a time traveller that hasn’t adjusted to the present.
8.00 - I like dumpling lady. She gave me dumplings.
I headed for the market.
The steam and the smell of morning dumplings filled my nostrils. Stalls and stalls of dumpling makers chatted between themselves, not looking at the task at hand yet still finishing every dumpling to near perfection.
Large packs of children sat by market stalls eating breakfast as a big family. Ordered 4 rice dumplings and what looked like garlic bread. It wasn’t garlic bread.
I sat on the end of the table and wished the people I saw a good morning. They asked where I was from. I told them London. “Olympics!” they cheered and started clapping.
Were they clapping the hosts or their own success? It didn’t matter. I ran out of things to say, but smiled all the same.
I’m sitting in Costa, writing up the events of the day so far. Large black coffee. The Cure, Squeeze and Seal are blaring out the speakers. An odd contrast.
I think it’s time to get moving again. Shanghai waits for no man.
Just had to use a public bathroom. Man in suit asleep on toilet with door wide open. Wasn’t sure what to say.
Time to head to the Gardens.
I was immediately drawn to large Mitsubushi generator next to classical architecture.
Just started to chuck it down with rain. No umbrella.
I am an idiot.
Have moved into a room with seats all facing an odd, knobbly stone in the middle the importance of which is entirely lost on me.
Walked around the gimmick markets. Camera and notebook out became self-aware that this is the most touristy I had looked since being in Shanghai. This was further enforced by constant pestering to buy watches, jewellery and general tat.
Tempted by an umbrella but decided to punish myself for my idiocy.
I need to get out of central Shanghai for a while so am heading for the metro. The Zoo seems a good shout.
First time I’ve gotten a seat on the metro in a long time.
Must have fallen asleep. Miraculously woke up in time to get off at the right stop.
Weather is still grey. Zoo is almost empty as are many of the cages.
Families are strolling by and staring at me. They must be wondering what a solitary white man is doing at a zoo this early. The Suntory and big thick coat probably aren’t helping matters.
One can’t help but feel slightly disheartened here. Maybe I’m just a pessimist. Maybe it’s the morning beer.
As the only person in many of the exhibitions I took to talking to the tortoises. I got no discernible sense from our conversations. I don’t speak tortoise. I think they were probably asking for a spoon to dig a tunnel out ‘The Great Escape’ style.
Conditions were pretty shitty at best, Michael Bay at worst.
I’m sitting on a tour cart – just me and the driver. He clocked the Suntory and I received a nod of understanding.
Passing bears, wolves and tigers who are all either sleeping or taking shelter.
Walked a fair distance to see the Giant Panda. He/she sat curled up in a corner behind stained, grubby glass. First time I’d ever seen a Panda, and he/she didn’t want to be seen. Touché Panda… Touché.
Loud kids bashed on the glass trying to get the great bear’s attention. I was reminded of the bratty kids who distracted Shamu in Free Willy and fucked up his show. Dicks.
Passed more animals, all of whom were wet or sleeping, except the hippos who were having a blast in the rain.
Left the Zoo wet and miserable and go to some pet stores surrounding the area.
They had everything. Cockatiels, chinchillas, crabs(?), lizards, cats, dogs, turtles. I found myself tempted to get a turtle companion.
I spotted a potential pet, all grubby and arrogantly swimming on top of the other turtles (or humping them?) and thought to myself ‘I get this guy!’
But what sort of life could I have given Jeff? (His name is now Jeff).
I have little to offer him on my journey… a dwindling amount of money… lots to do that would exclude him… out late… wouldn’t talk to him enough. I’d be the worst turtle boyfriend ever.
If turtles had opposable thumbs I’d be the kind of boyfriend that would leave him with no choice but to bitch-text all of his turtle friends about how rubbish I am – he’d wear his thumbs down to little nubs.
I decided to spare Jeff this life filled with passive aggression. Even though the life he was living wasn’t that great, I convinced myself that It was better this way.
Plus I’d have to keep him in my pocket and he would definitely take a dump in there – and dumping in pockets is inexcusable in a relationship. Fuck you, Jeff!
An unrelated thought crossed my mind: I wondered if the caffeine was making me lose my grip.
Headed back on the metro, turtle-less. Man rolled up his shirt like Britney Spears. Dead noncelant [sic]. Couldn’t spell. Couldn’t sleep either as I had massively overcompensated with coffee.
WAKE UP YOU BASTARD!
I feel myself getting angry at the people around me sleeping. I just tried to make a loud noise to wake them from their slumber. No such luck. I’m a twat for trying.
Don’t think I have ever used the word ‘slumber’ before except when quoting Aladdin.
Got off the metro at Shanghai Library to familiar territory for sustenance, warmth and to rest my feet.
I’m in Casbah. Have ordered a cheese pizza (the cheapest thing available) and a tiny Americano – caffeine is my drug of choice and I’m itching for another hit.
Still raining outside.
Food just arrived. It is good. Coffee probably a bad idea.
Went to Lawsons for a cheeky Suntory to take the edge off and make the journey more interesting. Walked past American & Iranian embassy. Made a note to self: must find a bypass route should shit ever kick off…
Stay tuned for the second installment - shit gets weird.