Last night I visited Fangbang Lu, a street FILLED with delicious street food. When I say delicious, I mean delicious. My friend Stepho and I decided that it was one of the best meals we have had in Shanghai. Yes, we have both heard all the horror stories about getting sick from street food and stuff, but we stay safe! (for the most part) Don’t tell me parents though, they would freak.
What did I eat there… I WISH I TOOK PICTURES! Some things you can find there: Stinky tofu, skewers, noodles, fried rice, seafood, pastries… and every carby delight you can think of. I didn’t eat all of that, but I did eat great amount. Everything was absolutely delectable. I highly recommend checking it out.
Afterwards, we explored the area and ended up walking down a slightly dark, slightly sketchy alley. It was normal at first, just some questionable produce, food stands and restaurants in a relatively quiet area. Soon though, things started getting weird. The deeper we walked, the stranger the vibe. Suddenly, we spot these “shops” that gave off a strange pinkish tint, so pink you could spot it from afar. The first one we walked by, I observed random girls sitting on sofas, wearing skimpy clothing and smoking cigarettes. Then, we walked by another, and another, and another, all with the same strange vibe to them. My two friends and I were so confused and shocked and yes, it is exactly what you think. We walked by prostitution houses.
Still shocked, we kept walking and talking about what we saw. We then saw shop after shop selling washing machines.. then refrigerators… then other random appliances. If you ever need to find some hookers and home appliances, let me know. I know where to go.
Only in China.
As I sit here procrastinating on my 3000 word paper and going through pictures from my time in Shanghai, it dawned on me how quickly the end of my study abroad was approaching. For the last few weeks, my study abroad pals and I have been counting down. We aren’t counting down in anticipation of going home, but more so for the reminder that our time here is coming to a close.
Every Monday is Salsa night at Mural, one of the local bars in Shanghai. If you know me at all, salsa is definitely not something I ever dreamed that I would try, mainly because of my terrible dancing ability. Last Monday, a few of my friends decided they wanted to go to Salsa Night. Honestly, I wasn’t considering it. It was cold, I was tired, and I was sure I’d just embarass myself in public trying to salsa. One of my friends, the one who seems to always be able to convince us to do things, says to me. “THIRTY DAYS. Will you regret going or will you regret not going?” Still on the fence, I let that thought ponder as we headed home from dinner, some of us to change for salsa, and others to go home for the night. In the end I was like, fuck it, thirty days, I’m gonna go.
At first, I was a little self-conscious because there are literally people at that bar who look like they have salsa’d all their life. Here I am, struggling to learn the most basic of steps, courtesy of one of my good friends who had taken several salsa classes in the past. Soon though, I started getting the hang of it. Kind of. Also, I just stopped caring and started to feel comfortable just having my own fun. I ended up having such a great night. Salsa is so much fucking fun!
As ridiculous as it sounds, I felt like I took such a huge step when I decided to go to salsa. I forced myself to go out of my comfort zone and try something completely out of character, and ended up having the time of my life.
23 days left. Let’s make these last few weeks count!
If you are ever in Shanghai, I definitely recommend visiting some of the “Old Shanghai” neighborhoods. When you find them, it honestly feels as if you are transported to a totally different place. Each one of these lilong communities are a little different. They give off different vibes, and it is interesting how much they feel like a separate Shanghai, so different from the hustle and bustle environment of much of the rest of the city. Here are a few pictures I took at two lilong communities I visited in the past few weeks.
I wish I was able to capture more of these people living their every day lives. These alleyways were so small that it felt I was imposing if I took too many photos. I honestly wasn’t able to capture the beauty that resides within these communities very well, so I recommend ya’ll experience it first hand if ya’ll ever get the chance. I really felt that a strong sense of identity exists within each lilong and felt the bond that the residents shared with each other. People feel safe in these communities; they leave their doors and windows open and let their kids run around all over the place. There are small restaurants, convenience stores, barber shops, repair shops… These communities are basically self sufficient. As I walk through these places, I feel oddly calm and at ease. I especially enjoyed visiting these places alone because I was able to just loose myself in my thoughts as I observed my surroundings quietly.
At one point during my afternoon excursion, I walked past one of the alleyways to find this in the midst of it all. From far away, it just looked like a pile of rubble, but when I went closer I noticed that they were actually the remnants of homes. The contrast between the high rises in the distance and this pile of rubble is crazy, and a little sad. I am pretty sure the plan for this piece of land is to build up high rises just like those in the distance. I recently wrote a paper about these communities and how it is so unfortunate that they are disappearing due to the urbanization and modernization of Shanghai. They contain such vibrant histories and culture and I think they are worth preserving for the world to appreciate.