First there was Shanghai. Then there was the other Shanghai.
I spent a few days with my Aussie friends – Ross & Jonathon – and got to sample the expat lifestyle. It was… anything but Chinese really. It started off in their penthouse apartment with a view like no other:
On a side note, the blue sky in this picture was taken early the morning I left. It was the only blue sky I saw the entire time I was in China. Notice the dark gray/brown pollution in the background.
Expats can live quite well in Shanghai, as foreign companies often pay top dollar to move employees and executives out there, and rent often isn’t as expensive as it is in western countries. You have enough money left over to import some of the finer things in life:
Yeah, we’re not really in China, are we?
As expected, the weekend revolved around food and drink. Our first stop was a pretentious bar full of expats. There was a fat dude dancing in a bathtub in the middle of the bar (you read that right) and people were smoking cigarettes (they apparently still allow that there). Also, some French Canadian dude starting talking to me in line at the bar and told me all about how he cheated on his girlfriend but felt really bad and was going to make it better. Can I go back to the real China now?
But things got better after that. We wandered over to the French Concession the next morning. The French Concession is a part of Shanghai that was under French control for nearly a hundred years until right after World War II. Note that tense of the verb: was. It is no longer under French control and therefore it really ought to be called the Former French Concession. I refuse to concede anything to the French.
Anyway, point of the story: the Former French Concession is quite trendy and full of expats and there were lots of little cafes and such so Ross and I went for brunch and I found a Chinese bagel and cream cheese!
Yay! Except it was pretty much just a bread roll shaped like a bagel. But that’s ok. I still had a bagel in China.
And you know what else I had in China?
FUCK YES!!!! All day Mexican brunch BUFFET!!! This combines three of my favourite things in the world: Mexican food, brunch, and buffets. Love it! Now, I was a bit skeptical at first. After all, I was in China. Not Mexico or Texas. But it actually turned out good. They had a full buffet of tasty food for us:
And don’t forget dessert! Rice pudding and churros!
And of course, no Mexican meal is complete without margaritas. They were free flow as well, so I sucked down about eight of them I think.
And that was on top of the few glasses of horchata I had! How is it that a random Mexican restaurant in China has horchata but none of the Mexican restaurants I’ve been to in Australia do? Shameful.
Anyway, the owner came around took a photo of us and spoke a little Spanish and proved her Mexicanness. That explains it. The key difference: all of the Mexican restaurants in Australia are owned by Americans (except for the one that’s owned by some dude from Alberta – wtf?) but this random one in China was owned by a real Mexican! That’s probably why the price was so good: roughly $50 for all you can eat food and all you can drink margaritas and horchata! Though they may consider raising that price after seeing the amount we consumed…
Now, it wasn’t all western food all weekend. We had fancy Thai food one night and fancy drinks on a fancy rooftop that overlooked the river and the Pudong New Area and fancy drinks at a fancy hotel with fancy toilets that had tons of fancy buttons that would spray water from all angles at your fancy parts (hehe!) and there was the Sherpa – a fancy delivery service that delivers food from all sorts of restaurants to fancy expats in their fancy apartments (I had falafel) and of course we had to throw in one actual fancy Chinese meal so we went to a fancy westernized Yunnan restaurant in The Bund:
I say “westernized” Yunnan (a region in southern China) cuisine because the Shanghai Boys considered it westernized but it was way more authentic than P.F. Chang’s and not nearly as scary as dim sum (or yum cha as the Aussies call it) so to me it was the perfect blend.
Now, in the few spare minutes we had when we weren’t eating and drinking, we wandered around the city a bit and had the chance to snap some good daytime photos down by the river:
And we went back at night as well:
And our last bit of spare time was spent at Shanghai’s Aussie pub where they were showing the Rugby World Cup. Look around. Hundreds of Aussies and Kiwis watching rugby on the big screens.
Seriously – are we still in China?