Keeping the Rabbits Out

Day 193 (19th of September, 2016) – Beijing, China

Dan and I woke up in our Beijing Hutong to the sound of a trickling waterfall and of chickens in nearby homes, presumably for cooking at the local restaurants. It was 6:30am and we were planning to head off early in our bid to do a day trip to the Great Wall of China. The first roadblock to our plan came upon me briefly checking my emails to find that my attempted reschedule of our train tickets had failed. Due to a changed time of a breakfast on Tuesday in Shanghai, we had to book a train which arrived a few hours earlier. On the way to the metro, I rang Ctrip to work out why my request had been rejected despite tickets not having sold out. It turns out that since we already printed our physical tickets back in Shanghai that we would have to go to a station in person to swap them. Seeing no other choice, we rerouted to Beijing South Railway Station. Despite arriving at around 7:30am, the line at the ticket changing booth was still monstrous. We bit our tongues in an effort not to openly complain about the blatant queue-cutters walking directly to the front of lines, and eventually we found ourselves at the front.

The ticket change went by without a hitch, and we didn’t even have to pay an extra fee. We continued on the subway to Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station, suffering through a painfully crowded metro on the way there.

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It was such a rough journey, in fact, that it had us reconsidering whether we would go to the Mutianyu gate of the Great Wall at all, and instead we began considering going to closer and more convenient gates so that we could comfortably make the evening’s train back to Shanghai.

Mutianyu gate is a part of the Great Wall which I have visited in the past. It is by far and away the best part of the Great Wall that I have been to. It is a couple of hours out of Beijing and therefore has a much more rural feel to it. Further, it’s the least crowded part of the Great Wall in the Beijing region. This is largely because it’s quite difficult to access. Busses there are slow and confusing (you need good Chinese to navigate your way onto one), and the bus driver who runs the route is infamous for tricking tourists into being dropped off around 12km before the final destination only to be duped into an expensive taxi ride the rest of the way there. After looking at some pictures of alternative parts of the Great Wall (Badaling and Juyongguan being the other two options), I was reminded of memories of disgust at abhorrent crowds and pollution. A brief internet search brought up dozens of photos like this.

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I vividly recall arriving at this section of the Great Wall during the Chinese Bridge Competition. It was my friend Angus’ first time visiting the Great Wall, and I remember being quietly embarrassed while we pushed through what was meant to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I had spent our first few days together hyping up the experience of visiting the Great Wall and instead we were treated with a section of the wall with a congested highway running directly underneath it.

I realised that Dan and I needed to go to Mutianyu whatever way we could. We exited at a random subway station and began bargaining with taxi drivers to see who was willing to drive us all the way there, wait for us and then drive back. We eventually found someone who was willing to do it all for AU$100 (AU$25 per person each way). We took the deal and were at the Wall within 80 minutes.

It was a good decision to make. It meant that we would comfortably be back in Beijing with a few hours to spare before our train and we avoided the hassle of transport scams. The taxi was willing to wait three hours, so we decided to relax in the sun at the base of Mutianyu and share a meal before heading up to the Wall. We bought some bamboo rice farming hats and donned the sunglasses while we sat and ate some sweet and sour pork as well as zhajiangmian.

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Being in Huairou County, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is naturally hidden atop the mountains. It once served as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs, and therefore is densely ridden with watchtowers. There are two stages to reaching the Wall from the base: a bus and a cable car.

After taking the shuttle bus to the cable car stations, we were faced with two choices: the toboggan cable car, or the regular one. Naturally, we chose the toboggan one. Despite having visited Mutianyu before, i have never actually done the toboggan ride down. As a fun fact, my friend Luke O’Brien’s grandmother is the oldest person to have ever tobogganed at the Great Wall.

The toboggan cablecar isn’t a gondola like the main one, so it feels much more rickety. This didn’t help with Dan’s fear of heights. I tried to cheer him up with a few pictures.

The ride on the chairlift revealed some of the most spectacular deep shades of green I’ve ever seen in this country. The bright blue sky created a stark contrast. The scenery rivalled that of Guilin earlier in the year.

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Reaching the top we took an immediate right, trekking up the part of Mutianyu which I had never been to before.

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If I were to return here, this is the part I would do again. It’s shorter, just as steep, less crowded and offers more breathtaking views of the main part of Mutianyu.

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We began the trek up to the top watchtower. It’s hard to show on camera just how steep some of the gradients became. Hopefully Dan’s struggle says it all.

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We stopped at each watchtower along the way, taking the necessary moments to cool down and appreciate the view.

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Reaching the top watchtower was very satisfying. Peering out from the rooftop gave the most spectacular view of the wall as it wound its way over mountains, poking out occasionally in the distance. This wall stretches 21,196.18 km if all the dynasties’ contributions are counted.

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By the time we made it to the top of the toboggan track our legs understandably felt like jelly. It seemed only natural that we would roll the 1.6km back to the base.

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Dan and I’s intentions were to speed down as fast as we could. Luckily, we met some students from New Zealand who intended on doing the same. We grouped up and aimed to delay our departure from the starting gate as much as we could without getting in trouble so as to increase the gap between us and the next rider.

Within 10 seconds of going at full speed, I slammed straight into the back of a European girl who was going at a snail’s pace.

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For the next few minutes, I stopped on the track until I had clogged up too much traffic at which point Dan and I continued speeding down. We still caught up to her in a matter of 30 seconds, though. Dan, wanting to go faster, was slamming into my toboggan which was making me launch forward into the girl. This continued for most of the way down, and by the end we had a very angry girl on our hands lambasting Dan, the New Zealanders and I for our recklessness. Definitely worth it.

Just before we reached the entrance to Mutianyu gate I called the taxi driver who met us there as planned. We had a great chat on the way back to Beijing and I donated my rice farming hat to him to give to his son.

We entered the Beijing proper at about 4:00pm meaning that we still had a few hours before our train back to Shanghai was leaving. Dan and I figured that instead of ticking one of the overrated tourist attractions off the list (think Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Confucius Temple), we would prefer to do something much more local.

And how does a local Beijinger get around? E-bikes. What I previously dismissed as suicidal I was suddenly prepared to try as long as I was wearing a helmet. I think my weeks of riding a pushbike has made me far more used to Chinese traffic laws.

We instructed the taxi driver to bring us to an e-bike rental shop where we payed for two hours of free riding through Beijing. We inspected our new darlings.

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Let’s run through the specs of these bad boys:

  • ½ Twist Throttle
  • Disc Brakes
  • Brake Inhibitor Kraton
  • Conti Town 24 x 1.9 Tires
  • Giant 48V 9Ah 24 Cell Battery
  • Rear Direct Drive 500W Motor
  • 20 mph Speed

She was a beauty.

They were incredibly easy to ride. It felt absolutely no different to a bike. We followed instructions on a physical map to Beihai Park, my favourite place in Beijing for a stroll. During the journey there we quickly become practiced in our use of the electric horn. As long as we were vigilant and fitting in with the flow of Chinese traffic, nothing seemed too ridiculously dangerous.

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We were the only guys on the road with helmets.

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Beihai Park was stunning as usual.

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Following our brief peek at the park and lake, we experienced what I’d have to rate my best experience in Beijing to date. We threw away our map and dedicated the next hour to riding through Beijing’s local suburbs and still-used Hutongs. We quickly become lost in the maze of streets, and we witnessed a transition from commercialised and tourist-filled Hutongs to genuine, smelly, good-old Chinese shacks. We started getting a lot of odd looks and pleasantly surprised looks from the locals who weren’t used to seeing people of our kind in the area. We enjoyed every minute of feeling out of place.

After heading back to the main road in a failed attempt to find a decent looking restaurant, Dan snapped this video of me shooting past a rookie on a pushbike.

After returning the e-bikes, we descended into the Beijing subway system one last time on the way back to Beijing South Railway Station.

Upon arriving, we finally found meals which satisfied both of our appetites.

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I could tell that Dan was getting nervous about the prospect of an overnight train. He had been putting on a good poker face so far, but I could tell that deep down he thought that my insistence on boarding a full sleeper train was unreasonable.

But, as with everyone who I’ve brought on these trains, his facial expression changed markedly when boarding. We entered the cone of silence that is a Chinese train. Four beds neatly stacked in a comfortable, air-conditioned room awaited us.

 

And unlike in some hotel rooms, Dan could actually fit in this bed!

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The both of us were occupied by our computers for the next few hours as we churned through movies and blog-writing. Dan whispered to me that he was going to the train’s bar to buy some snacks just after midnight, and it was after two minutes that I suddenly realised something: Dan wouldn’t remember where our room is. I’ve made the same mistake on many occasions. You leave the room without thinking and then upon returning you realise that the train consists of sixteen identical carriages with absolutely nothing except a number to differentiate each room. I began the trek down to the other end of the train hoping that I would run into Dan. Luckily, a hundred or so metres down the train, we did cross paths. My guess had been right – he didn’t know where to go. Thank God! I have bad memories of awkwardly knocking on dozens of doors in the middle of the night trying to figure out which room is mine while on intercity trains here.

We ended up hanging out on the hallway seats for the next hour. Eventually, Dan needed to go to the toilet. He had avoided the squat toilet experience until now, but like everyone who visits China, I knew that it was something which he would inevitably have to experience. He strapped on the ill-fitting train slippers and played some calming music in preparation for the traumatic experience.

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Before long we were tucked up in bed for what would end up being a surprisingly sound sleep.

Day 194 (20th of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

We awoke at 7:30am to the sound of a train announcement. One of our roommates had left during the night, likely disembarking at either Nanjing or Suzhou (or Xuzhou, who knows). We made use of limited resources to dress in our best attire for the morning’s breakfast with Buck Rodgers. Buck, a close family friend, was in Shanghai for negotiations to do with his Boost Media business. We emphatically accepted his suggestion that we join him for breakfast at his hotel.

The metro to Xintiandi was in peak hour. It was the worst crowd we had ever experienced on a metro. I was devastated that the “pushers” weren’t being utilised this morning. It would have been a great thing for Dan to see.

The scrummaging on the train rivalled that in Dan’s QLD schoolboys career. This was as much as I could stretch out my phone to get a photo.

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At one point, the woman in front of me started panicking and crying from seeming claustrophobia. It was an awkward few minutes while we waited for the next stop.

Arriving in the Xintiandi area, we transitioned from the most densely crowded area of the trip to the least densely crowded area in the restaurant of the Four Seasons.

The breakfast was incredibly enjoyable. In classic Buck fashion, he rocked up hair slicked back after a morning swim. It put my Beijing-smelling bed hair to shame. It was great to catch up with Buck again, especially since he has just moved to New York. He works in an area which really interests me – it combines my passions for business, travel and Chinese. We talked in great length about the work opportunities over here and the quirky characteristics of Chinese business before also catching up about news in our families. I’m hoping to be able to catch up with Buck again when he returns to the city in October.

Immediately following the breakfast we returned to the SISU Guesthouse to wind down from the chaos of the weekend. I left Dan in the room to freshen up while I went to the ICBC bank to quickly pick up my new bank card. As expected, the process was anything but quick. Two hours later, I was back in the room and ready to soldier on for the afternoon’s activities. I elected in the itinerary to spend the afternoon and evening exploring the French Concession. It was a good choice which suited our slightly depleted energy.

We aimed to explore two main parts of the French Concession: Xintiandi and Tianzifang. Xintiandi was first. It is the affluent car-free shopping, eating and entertainment district of the city. The area is consists of reconstituted traditional mid-19th century shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys, some of which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping centres. Xintiandi was also the location of the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party which occurred in July 1921.

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This was Dan’s favourite part of Shanghai (largely because of its hygiene… Dan’s true neat-freak is coming out this week). What struck him most though was the sheer inequality between a district like this and ones just streets away which contained much poorer housing.

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A 20-minute walk away is Tianzifang. This is a neighborhood of labyrinthine alleyways off Taikang Road which is known for small craft stores, coffee shops, trendy art studios and narrow alleys. What’s most interesting about Tianzifang is that it’s all contained within one huge block. It actually grew from the inside of the block outwards, meaning that some of the laneway entrances require walking through some truly local life to reach the gems on the inside. We didn’t get time to fully explore the district, so I’ll surely be back within the next few weeks.

The whole afternoon had me regretting not properly knowing the French Concession before bringing my family to the area. To Mum, Dad, Bianca, Annie and Aimee, I wish I could show you all of this again. We’d do this part properly this time around! Next time…

The evening ended with exploring the now much quieter Yongkang Lu bar street before settling at an Irish pub for a few drinks and some darts to celebrate Dan’s final night in China.

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Day 195 (21st of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Short travel trips don’t leave time for sleep-ins. But when you’re as flexible as Dan and I, it seems they do. Before long, though, we had moved off to the metro station. We hadn’t yet decided on our exact plans by the time we reached the train. We decided to stick with my original plan of having this last day dedicated to modern art and visiting some of the concept galleries and districts of Shanghai.

I’m glad we stuck with that plan, because we ended up at what is my new favourite art-house of Shanghai – 1933 Millfun.

The Hongkou building, which used to be the Shanghai Municipal Council Slaughterhouse, is an architecturally Art Deco building with a far more Brutalist vibe to it. This perception largely stems from the fact that it is constructed completely from raw concrete.

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In the centre of the building are stacks of confused stairways and the odd glass elevator. As Dan noted, it seems like you’re walking into the Tardis from Dr Who.

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My favourite part of the complex was viewing it from the top downwards on the inside. The different layers colliding reaches a visual cacophony.

Inside the complex were design studios and galleries.

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We settled in for some double espresso rocket fuel.

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Once we’d had enough of 1933 Millfun, we caught the metro to Nanjing West Road where we wanted to explore Huaihai Lu. This street is one of the main commercial centres of Shanghai, but I was particularly keen on going there because I was sure that it was the location of one of my fondest memories from a high school exchange when we were exploring the city at nighttime. Although we didn’t find the exact scene that I remember, we still had some fun exploring.

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The amazing thing about Shanghai is that not only does the city have its own characteristic cuisine, but each of its districts actually has specialty foods. I came across a shop on Huaihai Lu which sold food unique to the Hongkou district which I live in. They were all special types of glutinous rice cakes.

Huaihai Lu contained a few nice shopping areas which offered some of the cleaner hot pot options which we had come across on the trip.

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I figured that it was my last opportunity to share a hot pot meal with Dan. For just over AU$20 per head, we could enjoy as much food as we wanted.

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This was by far and away the best hotpot restaurant I have ever been to. The BEST. I’m salivating just writing about it. It was a fusion of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cuisines. Their recommended hotpot flavour was a sweet and sour one after which you were told to dip your food in raw egg. Dan couldn’t stomach it which was probably fair enough given his flight in the evening, but after a brave few bites I found the meal to be one of the most scrumptious things I have had on the trip. I’m yet to have had a negative experience with raw egg when it is served at nice restaurants. I’d like to challenge the Western concoction that it is “abnormal”. Raw egg is great!

The meat was extremely high quality too. It passed Dan’s “Billy the Butcher test”.

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After lunch it was time to return back to the Guesthouse to gather Dan’s things for his flight home. Being the horrible person that I am, I parted ways with Dan at the hotel because I had a tutoring student whose session couldn’t be shifted. I contacted him once he was at the airport to check that he made it safely.

It was difficult under the surface saying goodbye to Dan. Parting from familiarity is one of the toughest challenges of this trip. By now I expect the feeling to go away after a day or so, but the first day is always tough.

Needless to say, I was in for a pretty homesick evening. Sleep is always the best remedy for that.

Day 196 (22nd of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

The early wakeup was exactly what I needed to launch myself back into the routine of being away from family. The day’s two classes went by without too much of a hitch. It turns out that I do another subject which I wasn’t aware of: Chinese movies. This class is lots of fun. Its aim is to make students familiar and comfortable with watching Chinese entertainment. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

I awkwardly avoided a topic test in the first class and completed the rest of the class without too many troubles. Just had to keep my head low.

I came out of the classes realising that I wasn’t enjoying uni as much as I hoped that I would have been by now. I was enjoying the city of Shanghai itself much, much more. I guess this was to be expected. I started drawing up plans when I came out of class of alternatives to university: replacing exams with domestic travel, keeping student accommodation but finding an internship instead, etc. The reality is that there’s a world of possibilities. A two-month course will never count for anything material back in Australia. Rather, it would only serve to slightly improve my Chinese. I’m figuring that if an opportunity came up which can help my Chinese just as much as the course, I’ll take that over university while keeping the accommodation. I decided to keep marching on for another week or so while I let me head cool and allow any temporary emotions from Dan leaving to exit my system.

The rest of the day was spent churning through all the things which had been piling up on my to-do list while Dan was here. One of those things was cleaning up my laptop storage. My now very large collection of travel photography has completely taken over my laptop’s free space. The process of moving my whole library to a HDD turned into a big scare when all my photos disappeared after trying to reopen the old library in its new location. After an hour of screen-sharing with Apple support, it turned out that it was just the quality of my internet connection and the “Great Firewall of China” which was delaying the syncing of my photos with my library which is primarily stored in the cloud. The current estimated time for the sync to complete is 10-days… I have no choice but to wait that out with my laptop plugged into the HDD. Fun…

For dinner I had some more zhajiangmian. My third in the last week! I’m starting to realise that this is the Chinese equivalent of spaghetti.

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I spent the rest of the evening catching up on university work and doing homework.

Day 197 (23rd of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Fridays are a tough day at uni. It involves four straight classes of the same intensive reading subject. Luckily it’s my favourite class – the teacher is effective and I fit in with the class activities well. It can still be a struggle to get through, though.

After class I returned to my room only to find that my photo sync had been interrupted by the loss of power in my room. I realised that I needed to keep my room card in the power slot in order for my HDD to continue functioning, but I wasn’t allowed a second key. To avoid having to go down to reception to borrow a key every day, I had to invent some sort of contraption to secretly open my door without a key.

Two shoelaces and one fisherman’s knot later, I had my solution.

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Now I just have to poke an edge of this shoelace under the closed door and I can yank the door open from the outside. All my valuables are being locked up while I go through this process!

I spent much of the rest of the day reading “The Road Less Travelled”, a book which was handed down from Grandad to Dad and now to me. It’s the most insightful read I’ve come across in some time. I fell asleep for a four hour middle-of-the-day nap before calling home and catching up on everything going on in Sydney (including the move of house).

Day 198 (24th of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

My morning coffee went down well with an early tutoring session before, despite the caffeine hit, I fell straight back to sleep. I must have needed the rest.

Upon properly awaking, I got stuck into a few things which I had been meaning to do. First, I tried to buy some things off Taobao, China’s cheap Alibaba-run retail site. I was just about to order a Chinese flag (for the National Day next week), a dozen Korean face masks (to obliterate my accumulating facial blemishes), deodorant (which I’m yet to find in ALL of China) and Cadbury chocolate, but then my payment failed. Looking at Alipay, I realised that it was not the bank’s problem this time, but rather my Alipay account. Because my SIM card was lost along with my stolen phone, I had to go through the process of reassigning my phone number and proving my identity. That process takes up to a week, so yet more waiting. Taobao better be absolutely brilliant. The amount I’ve gone through just to use it…

Then, I received a call from my Xuzhou friend, Todd.

“Hey Xavier, I’ve booked tickets to Shanghai next Saturday to stay with you!” he exclaimed.

“Umm, I’m sorry, uhh, to Shanghai? To stay with me? Oh, awesome!”

I don’t believe we ever discussed this… I guess it was an assumed part of our friendship contract?

I figured that it was probably a good thing anyway. Todd’s a nice guy, I can practice Chinese with him, and he’s coming for the first part of Golden Week. For those who don’t know Golden Week is the week after next, and it marks a week of public holidays for the Chinese as they celebrate their National Day. In other words, Golden week is when 1.3 billion people are given 7 straight days off work. In 2007, which was the most recent statistic I could find, over 120 million people travelled domestically in this period.

I have been told many, many, many times over: DON’T TRAVEL DURING GOLDEN WEEK. Expats have said it to me, locals have said it to me, the internet has said it to me, my common sense has said it to me. If you travel during Golden Week, it should be overseas.

And so, I figured that Todd doing the hard yards and coming to visit me in Shanghai was more ideal than me going back to Xuzhou. Since he’s only coming for two days, I thought that I should spend one day showing him the Western side of Shanghai, and one day showing him the Chinese side. For the Western day, I figured that I’d bring Todd to something which has never experienced (or heard of) before: a music festival. STORM music festival is being held over that weekend in Shanghai. Its Budweiser banner-plastered stages host the likes of artists like Skrillex, Hardwell, RL Grime and Duke Dumont. If you’ve never heard of any of those names, there’s no rush to go out and discover them. But I figured that it would make for a fun Saturday showing Todd how Westerners dance.

I was offered discounted tickets by the club promoter at our university, but due to her shadiness, I opted to buy the tickets independently from the official website. An AU$150 Paypal purchase later and I happily closed my receipt tab, thinking all was done. Realising that I wasn’t redirected back to the merchant’s page, I quickly reloaded the official website and signed into my account. No orders had been placed. I checked Paypal. $150 gone.

It’s times like this when I need to stop convincing myself that the world is pitted against me. These sorts of things happen to everyone – they aren’t unique struggles designed to annoy me individually. Nonetheless, that took me a while to believe. It seems like I lose my rainy-day fund all too frequently.

I launched a barrage of emails, Wechat messages and phone calls to Storm with no reply. I figured that I’d best sit on it until Monday or Tuesday. After all, I didn’t think it was a scam. It’s the official website of a festival which is extremely popular amongst Westerners, all of whom rate it very highly. I think something just went wrong with the website.

Speaking of the Storm Festival, today is also the day when Annie lands in LA to dance up a storm (did you like that segue?). A quick glance at Find My Friends shows just how international the family is!

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A distraction from my sudden financial woes came with perfect timing when a text from Paul came through saying that my replacement bank cards had arrived at his place. I jumped on the subway to head over and collect them.

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On the way I also found a restaurant selling cheap shredded beef.

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I didn’t waste any time activating the cards and suddenly I felt a lot more secure knowing that I was no longer just surviving off a limited wad of Chinese Yuan.

I figured that my day would brighten up if I spent the evening looking at yet more of the French Concession. I still haven’t seen even the smallest slice of it. I browsed Smart Shanghai (expat website which reviews and lists all businesses in the city) for anything interesting in the street that I happened to be on. There turned out to be some cool library-cross-café-cross-clothing boutiques in the area, so I followed my map to get there.

While walking there I even sent in my resumé to Smart Shanghai’s contact email in the hope that they give me a gig for the next few months… Don’t know about my luck on that one. I also picked myself up an Oolong milk tea – my new favourite drink.

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Before long, I found myself strolling through places I couldn’t afford.

But, being inspired by a heightened perception of wealth following the arrival of my cards, I decided to tempt myself anyway. I found this $2100 sweater (don’t worry, I didn’t buy it).

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What I enjoyed more was perusing the galleries at the bottom of a lot of these clothing stores.

 

I also had a good time reading through some of their quirky libraries, including my favourite Italian recipe book ever.

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On the way home, I made a detour and walked to the Jing’An Temple station in order to get a glance of one of Shanghai’s most famous religious monuments which I’ve never seen before.

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Day 199 (25th of September, 2016) – Shanghai, China

Another early wakeup and another HSC tutoring student. It’s getting to the end of Year 12 back in Sydney (shoutout to Elijah for earning the highest honour at Riverview with the Insignis medal – what an astonishing achievement). With all these HSC students I feel like I’m going through the exams again, just without the associated pressure. It’s great fun when the weight is taken off your shoulders. I find the English course to be very interesting more so as a teacher than as a student.

I followed the same routine as yesterday and fell asleep for another few hours after the session.

My day was remarkably lazy until around midday. A lot of internet, holiday booking and reading. I can’t exactly complain. But it’s hard to feel very positive until you get out and about. I messaged Florian to see if he was around for lunch. I received a quick response and rode my bike to his hotel to meet him. We walked to a local restaurant which has become my new favourite in the area. It’s only a two minute ride from my room and it serves much better food than the one outside my hotel. I had peanut chicken with rice. At the restaurant I was also introduced to four Italians – three from Rome and one from Assisi. They, like Florian, are law students here on exchange for half a year.

Before returning to my hotel I told Florian that I’d think about going out with him tonight. That’s where I am now, typing this blog. I’m thinking that I might go out and meet Florian again for a bite to eat and to meet his German friend. I’m not too fussed about procrastinating with work for uni tomorrow. I think it’s healthy for me to stop getting too worked up over things which don’t mean a whole lot in the wider scheme of things. As long as when I go out I’m speaking some Chinese!

In other news, I also received some correspondence from Storm. It was very vague, but they have assured me that if I turned up to the festival with my receipt and a photocopy of my passport that I shouldn’t face any problems getting my tickets for free on site. Hopefully it all works out.

Until next time,
Xavier.

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