Saturday, October 15, 2005

shanghai nights

It had been a very busy week. Work started at 8, and ended at 6, everyday since I got here. Add to it the stress brought about by difficulty in communicating with a handful of different nationalities – Japanese, Thai, Australian, Korean, Chinese, and the French. I can feel the language barrier almost as high as the Great Wall. What to eat is a burden we face every lunch and dinner.

And then comes Friday.

For someone like me who is used to saying thanks to the Almighty for creating the weekend, this day was a much anticipated event. The day started with much hopes for a more relaxing night. After all, this IS Shanghai, nicknamed the Paris of the East. The Shanghainese must know how to party.

The night turned out to be a bore. From where we were staying, there wasn’t a bar for miles – the nearest cool place is 50 minutes drive away, and that’s far. With the way
Shanghai taxi drivers drive, that could take you halfway around the world! There were just some restaurants that serve almost inedible food from other countries, and a supermarket. All closes early. Thank God for the convenience store on the next block that’s up all night!


I hadn’t given up hope for the shanghainese. Probably they don’t go out much on a Friday, but Saturday couldn’t be an exception. So we went out, took a couple of pictures at Nanjing Road for posterity, dodged the ever persistent market hawkers at Xiangyang Market (hello! You wanna buy Rolex? Very cheap! What do you want? Come take a look, no problem!), and lined at McDonald’s because it’s the only place we know safe to eat without a Chinese guide. We were then taken to what they said was the nightlife district. So it was. Bars of all sorts lined up the street. But amazingly, so do the cops! Policemen in Chinese uniforms were everywhere, reminding us probably that this is still China, and not Amsterdam. We chose a bar, where Coca Cola was sponsoring. At the entrance, that communication barrier was up again. It took us about 30 minutes just trying to understand what was going on inside. Turns out, we paid 30RMB each for entrance, and 48RMB for a bottle of beer. Tables cost 480RMB to sit in, so we chose to sit near the bar. Inside, NOTHING was happening, just a thousand Chinese speaking to each other, and a couple of loud Europeans. I felt like the tower of babel just fell.

And so we went back to our hotel, dismayed and disappointed. I really would have half expected my first shanghai weekend to be more exciting than it was. I guess I was wrong.

I learned that to enjoy shanghai, you must have somebody with you who knows the place, and who knows how to speak Chinese. Come Monday, our hosts in the company said they’ll take us to Hooters. Monday. And we’ll be out on a party? Let it be. That’s the way the cookie crumbles here in China!