shang·hai (shăng-hī’, shăng’hī’)
tr.v., -haied, -hai·ing, -hais.
Def.: To kidnap (a man) for compulsory service aboard a ship, especially after drugging him.

This past weekend, I ventured south, to the city of Shanghai. Shanghai is the beacon of modern China with its modern infrastructure, skyscrapers and fast paced life. I knew before hand that the city was far more modern and busy than dreary old historic Beijing, but I did not expect it to be as westernized. The dominant architecture is western colonial and the way the city is laid out with roads and overpasses is typically western and very different from Beijing. My most direct comparison would be when I, who am from Montréal, goes to New York for a weekend. After such a trip to New York, you come back to Montréal to realize how impotent your city is. Don’t get me wrong, I love Montréal and I would much rather live there long term, but New York, Paris, and London exude a sort of air of supremacy, wealth and power that cannot be matched. Shanghai is Mainland China’s New York.

The quantity of colonial western building is astounding and as a fan of European architecture and art deco buildings I was very happy to see such beautiful structures. I love telling Chinese people that the coolest thing I have seen in China is the Bund (The bund is the part of Shanghai were all the colonial powers had banks and large western buildings). Of course, I am joking, but you know how I love to mess with the locals..

I went down to Shanghai with Jason, but he was staying with his girl and so I crashed with an ADP brother from Montréal, Matt. Lets just say that I may have gone a little over the top with the intoxicants this weekend. Thursday night was Bar Rouge along with too much everything, followed by getting drawn into hooker bars. The quantity of hooker bars in Shanghai is amazing, it far outstrips Beijing in quantity and lack of discretion. While at Bar Rouge, which is one of the “hippest” bars in town, I came to realize two things. Shanghai people don’t get enamored with white people nearly as much as Beijingers and I am a poor, poor, working student. As I stroll around this bar, I see jaded, but gorgeous, Chinese girls eying the Caucasians’ suits and trying to identify the corresponding wealth stature. To say the least, it was an uphill battle.

One thing that did happen and was rather weird was this seemingly rich and well-dressed older (mid 30s) white guy who hit on a couple girls standing right next to me at the bar. He was very direct, as in “lets go back to my hotel now”, and the girls then promptly blew him off. What these girls did not notice was that he had stolen their phone from the bar top. When they realized this a little while later, they gave the phone a ring to see who had stolen it. This white dude answered and told them that if they wanted the phone back, they should go to his hotel for some sexual intercourse. In shock, they did not think to ask which hotel and room, and then send the cops over, so they hung up and the phone was lost. (This story was told to us by the girls later in the evening.) This was a little weird, but hey, it’s Shanghai.

The rest of the trip was pretty reflective of the first night, except with more booze and less women. You know those nights, were things get carried away and you drink too much and are then socially inept and completely out of it. Well, that happened both Friday and Saturday night. I still had a great time and I was told that I was happily dancing in a torrential downpour on the terrace of Bar Rouge on Saturday night. Shanghai is a crazy place and short-term, would probably be a lot of fun to live in. Stuff is not that much more expensive than Beijing and it is certainly more lively, modern, and interesting in a different, more cosmopolitan way.

I only have one month left in China and I plan to make the most of it. That means going out at least 3 times a week, traveling and not taking a rest. Still trying to go to Burma in December before I return to the Great White North, but we shall see.

Published on November 16, 2005