Sunday, January 15, 2012

First day in Shanghai

I woke up in China. I smelled the Chinese air and washed my face in the Chinese water and went downstairs to have some Chinese breakfast. Which meant bacon. Delicious non muslim bacon. I sat with a latte and read and wrote and waited for Kiira, a friend working in Nanjing to meet me at the hostel.

I was expecting her, but she was the last person I thought to see walk through the hostel doors in Shanghai. But she did, and me and the Blonde Baltimore Kiira went off on an adventure into the city.

We stopped into a delicious little place to have a quick lunch of rice, tofu, tomato and egg all scrambled together in a light and fresh but filling dish. We went to the Shanghai museum and saw a “knife with four holes”, a “blade with three notches” and a myriad of other age old treasures with English tags more amusing than their objects.

Like it’s literal English translations, Shanghai is a city which looks like it took an architects “make it look futuristic—modern, cutting edge” very, very literally. The skyscrapers are topped with flying saucers. Subways look like portals. The effect is mesmerizing and completely dwarfing. And I grew up in New York City. I was born in the Cup O’Noodles in sign in Time Square. But Shanghai is the kind of city that you look up and feel like you could fall backwards.

We went to the soft fabric market. In the middle of an industrial park, the “Shanghai Soft Fabric Market” was grey and 7 stories high. Each vendor had a stall and each stall had a style. Cashmere coats or wool dresses or silk suits, pashmina scarves, leather bags. The real stuff. You could get measured and have a complete outfit made for you overnight. It’s Chinese magic or
Idon’twanttothinkaboutwhatkindoflabor. Kiira and I were fitted for Cashmere coats. I ordered a black one modeled after an Armani Jacket Ah-thankyou. I had a wool navy dress made. And am officially ready to take over the Madison Avenue of Bangladesh.

When we got weary, we sipped on bubble tea-a concoction so sweet it would make Indian Cha taste bitter. It literally gave me heart palpitations.

At night we walked along the famous Bund strip. A clean brick strip with bright lights and sweets and smells and all sorts of good wholesome things. Chinese music was playing on loudspeakers and young men and women danced in the streets. I felt like I was in a propaganda clip waiting for Mau to rise over the buildings like the sun.

We went to a sweet market and picked out chewy sweets filled with red bean paste or black sesame. They also sold flattened pigs heads and pickled and assorted feet. We took our sweets to the Peace Hotel. A hotel made during the height of the Art Deco era. It was lavish and all kinds of sexy. We walked around and saw a dimly lit jazz bar filled with swanky people doing swanky things and I promised myself I would go there before I left Shanghai.

But tonight we were so heavy so we pulled up a chair at the bar downstairs in the hostel, ordered a round of beers and let them rock us to sleep.

Zai Jian,

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