The hostel in which we are staying, Rock 'N Wood International Youth Hostel has treated us well, so well that we keep extending our stay. The beds are incredibly comfortable - more comfortable than my own bed back home - there's food, a bar, a pool table, and tons of places to sit and meet awesome people. Awesome people like Kevin (the suave-as-fuck army guy from Rhode Island), Natalia (the awesomely down to earth California girl), Lynette (the bubbly and always entertaining Minnesotan), Sven (the incredibly intelligent and interesting conversationalist who hails from Germany), and Niclas (the super friendly, beer and whiskey loving Swede).
We've been here for five days - jam packed with stories and entertainment.
The SitesThe Yuyuan Gardens were a winding maze of beauty and mystery. The Bund was a pretty area, incredibly Westernized, but we didn't spend much time there because of the rain. East Nanjing Road is awesome at night, but all there is to do is spend money and people watch - the latter providing heaps of entertainment. The French Concession is perfect for wandering through and getting lost - I tried to go into this really beautiful, classic Roman church but it was gated and locked, so I went to a park and listened to my new knock-off Beats by Dr. Dre (big headphones known for their sound quality and bass) that I haggled down to less than thirty percent the asking price, or less than ten percent the cost of real ones. We also went to the Old Town, but it was teaming with annoying shop-owners - I did buy a painting there though.
The FoodImagine a place where you can get full for less than a dollar on deliciously spicy street noodles or dumplings so filled with delictable juices that they have to be eaten in one bite or the equivalent of a bowl of soup will scold your arm and leg (*cough*Michael*cough*). Why would anyone ever need to eat at one of Shanghai's incredibly overpriced and swanky (sorry for repeatedly using that word, but China exudes swank) restaurants??
The Bars and ClubsWe met Lynette, Natalia, Sven, and Kevin in our hostel's lounge area, finally finished our Russian vodka, and then decided to go out (Lynette and Michael stayed in). We first went to a place called El Coctel (spelling?) - a snazzy Latin American bar with Western prices. At the bar, Natalia recalled her thesis project about how to get Jessica Alba naked on a snowmobile in Siberia; Kevin, Sven, and I discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a strange Chinese woman bought Sven a tequila shot. Then we went to Club 88. Club 88 was flippin' packed on a Monday night, with no cover, semi-expensive drinks, and amazing decor. The music was great and the staff, with names like Devil and Island, really added to the atmosphere. Outside both the club and bar, we were offered hash, marijuana, and roses... the last of which the girls acquired. On Thursday night, with the original crew all gone, Karen and I sat around the hostel with Niclas, drinking for a few hours, before being joined briefly by Nana - my cousin's ex-girlfriend and a great family friend who teaches in Shanghai. Nana and I caught up before she ran - her life being consumed by work. Once she left, we went out to this club called Soho, where you pay 60 Yuan at the door for an all-you-can-drink extravaganza. As Niclas put it, "An open bar is like attempted murder" ... this coming from the man who broke a table, shattered our glasses, and was almost arrested unless he paid 150 Yuan upon leaving. Oh, the Swedish. Soho was a smokey, insanely loud, chic-ly decorated shit show of Westerners, Chinese prostitues, and shady locals. It was still tons of fun.
The Hostel's Lounge...has provided us with so many stories. There, countless hours were spent chatting with cool people, laughing at douche bags (like the guy from Utah who hates being American, so he talks in a British accent), reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, retelling funny stories, playing the ankle bone game, eating, drinking, listening to Gregorian Chant and Beyonce (what is my life???), and so much more.
So yea, Shanghai is pretty friggin' epic. But I'm ready to leave. Onward in the morning!
PS - and I need you now