This morning I had some citrus flavored jasmine tea before taking off to the train station. I grabbed my bags, walked to the subway, and was in the waiting room at the Nanjing Railway Station about thirty minutes before departure (i.e. 10:00). Fifteen minutes later they allowed us to pass through the ticket checkpoint and board the train. It was a bullet train that approached speeds of nearly 300 km/h (the fastest speed I saw the overhead message board report was 298 km/h). There were three stops along the way and we were in Shanghai in about ninety minutes.
I then located the nearest subway station to the hostel I had made a reservation with on the map and was soon off via underground train. I emerged from the station on East Nanjing Road; I oriented myself based on the street signs (north, south, east, and west) and then headed in a north by northwest direction to the hostel. I found it soon enough, dropped my bags off, and then quickly left to get lunch. I went back to East Nanjing Road since it was lined with fashion stores and restaurants. Well, this street is something else; I have never been accosted with offers of watches, massages, and sex so much before in my life. Unfortunately, many white male single-travelers in the past have ruined it for the rest of us decent folk; now when these Asian sellers of sin see a Caucasian guy, they briskly approach you and desperately try to appeal to your most base level – fortunately my base level is above all that. Although, from what I’ve read and heard, what I encountered today is nothing compared to Bangkok . . . I’m dreading going there now.
I chose a western restaurant for lunch and had a smoothie, beer, and spaghetti. I then headed west to the People’s Square, which used to be a horse racetrack before being turned in to a park in 1952. I then went to the Shanghai Museum where I spent a few hours walking through the various exhibits looking at the historic pottery, porcelain, bronze works, calligraphy, paintings, coins, jade ornaments, and relics from China’s native minorities. They had quite an extensive collection spread out on four floors, although the size of this museum never approached the size of the National Museum of China nor Korea.
After leaving the museum, I walked over to “Shanghai Old Street”(the historic district of Shanghai), which I imagined would capture that past of a city that was so notoriously dangerous at the turn of the last century that William Fairbairn, who was a member of the Shanghai Municipal Police in the International District and who had fought in hundreds of street fights during his twenty-year career there, was inspired to write ‘Defendu’ and numerous other books on fighting (that were later used to help the British win World War II) based on his personal experiences in this infamous city. Well, when I located the arch to “Shanghai Old Street” and walked down the street, I did not discover a dangerous cesspool of hardened criminals or historic dwellings of past criminals; instead, I discovered shop after shop of shitty souvenirs . . . on a positive note, these souvenirs are most likely all authentically “Made in China”; too bad other countries don’t produce their own crappy trinkets to sell and instead have to rely on China’s industry.
I then walked to the entrance of a temple where two scam artists asked me to take a picture of them, which I did, and then tried to get me to go to a tea ceremony with them; luckily a Uruguayan stopped us and notified me of their true intent. I wasn’t interested in tea, but they had bullshitted me about historic buildings being along the way; I should’ve known better than to trust any overly friendly strangers; after all, I watched ’12 Years a Slave’ and therefore know what can happen if you trust anyone (China is hardening my facial facade and bitterly cooling my speech; if this keeps up, then soon any social warmth I may have had will be iced over). Fairbairn wrote his self-defense book while in Shanghai out of necessity; now, out of necessity as well, someone needs to write a new book about spotting and ousting scam artists, deflecting peddlers of sex, ignoring all the overpriced gift shops, and avoiding the onslaught of cyclists and mopeds that travel across roads, sidewalks, and crosswalks even when they should be stopped at a red light – seriously, they drive everywhere at every time and don’t give a damn about anyone else; they just honk their horn and expect everyone to make way for their passage, even on sidewalks and even when they have their own special lane to use . . . this isn’t exclusive to Shanghai either, I’ve encountered this everywhere I’ve been to in China up to now . . . it’s more annoying than having to dodge the dog shit, child piss, and numerous slow walkers who take up as much space as they can . . .
Well, now that I’ve vented, let’s get back to the journal entry:
From “Shanghai Old Street” I walked to the Huangpu riverfront to look at the skyline of the Pudong district of the city; the most recognizable skyscraper to be seen across the river is the Oriental Pearl Tower with it’s two spheres. From there I walked back to East Nanjing Road . . . ughh, even more people approaching me to offer massages with sex now that the sun has set. I stopped at a pharmaceutical store to buy some cough syrup – yeah, I’ve been coughing nonstop in China; at first I joked it was due to the air pollution, but after going on for ten days now and after having read about similar occurrences online, I think it really is due to the thick layer of pollution covering most of the nation (on the train ride today, the haze never once let up, it was everywhere!). I then decided to have a low-cost dinner, which meant McDonalds. Afterwards, I went back to the hostel, uploaded the pictures from today, had some beer and typed today’s journal entry.