17 Jul Shanghai: Paris of the East and Pearl of China
Patriotism aside, Manila has the worst international airport in terms of security and systematization. It does however, have the friendliest and most accommodating staff that puts the rest of the world’s poor excuse for hospitality to shame. Above: I hate airport food, except for the privilege international club in Hongkong, good thing Mabuhay lounge offers something decent compared to the rest in NAIA. I wasn’t even allowed inside but I was desperate for some quiet reads, coffee and light snacking so I name dropped B’s name and as expected, they made an exception for me. One of these days B’s gonna reprimand me for getting freebies and discount on his account but maybe if he saw me more often I wouldn’t have to trouble anyone else. Excuse a girl for shamelessly exploiting her connections.
China isn’t known for it’s hospitality nor friendliness. They rank second after France as the snobbiest country for a tourist to get lost in. Shanghai, for all its lighted glamour and tourisy attractions is no exception, but even in the busiest city, if you look beyond their impassive faces and no nonsense take on things, the Shanghainese offers a warmth of assurance with their obsession with security and order–they may not care about whether you’re feeling peachy or not, but they will make sure no harm comes towards you while you’re in their soil. Like what a friend said to me, “Shanghai, like NewYork doesn’t have to luxury of sparing time on niceties. It’s too busy fighting to survive it’s burgeoning cost of living.” I was stopped by a handsome immigration officer on my way out of the checkpoint. “Where are you from?” –“Manila” And he pointed at my passport and my luggage and signaled that I surrender it. Noting that this guy was probably too good looking to be a regular airport personal, I handed him what he asked without question but a smile that revealed too much of my recognition for his allure. Staring back at me, he didn’t event check my passport or my luggage. He just shoved it back at me with the clumsiness of a boy and sped out of sight too soon for my liking. What a shame, I would’ve care for his name. This is the second time I was stopped in my tracks my a looker at immigration, last was in Macau and in both instances they always walk out on me even before I can say, “Hi, my name’s Weizel” So much for airport flirting. Shanghai is heralded as the Paris of the East and Pearl of China for good reasons. It is home and flagship to the worlds most luxurious brands; Louis Vuitton, Gucci (the biggest globally) Prada, Rolex among others and is surrounded by the most sophisticated architecture that could rival Dubai itself. Although their international contemporary cuisine still distinctly taste Chinese to me, (no matter how authentic they claim it to be), Shanghai is living proof of China’s embrace towards all things foreign. Xiantiandi as shown above is one of the most popular tourist hubs in the city. Situated around artisan boutiques and elegant stone walks, it provides the ultimate leisure stroll for every visitor. If you’re looking for some cheap shopping, Shanghai is not your destination. This place lacks the flagellant flocks of imitation China is notorious for. Pity, I wanted some really good bargains too. You can however check out the wholesale area in Longhua where they sell a lot of general merchandizes for prices way below that in the city proper. I suggest you splurge on local handicrafts offered though, for its not everyday foreigners like us get to appreciate real chinese designs beyond copying our own.
There are many Filipinos working in the hospitality and entertainment business in Shanghai ( as is everywhere) and it’s always such a treat to be able to interact with our kababayans in a foreign land. Not only does it offer the warmth of familiarity back home, we also always get extra service from our fellow Pinoys.
Prostitution is illegal in China as it is in Manila, but like at home or anywhere else, it means lil to nothing for the trade. It is common practice in the business community to rely on secret intimacy apart for the gastronomic and indulgence of luxury in winning projects over. Above: One of my clients shared the story of night’s paid rendezvous with me in jest while the rest of us sleep soundly alone in our rooms. The woman (from the karaoke one of the local suppliers took them to) even left her lubricant behind, perhaps in her haste for her next appointment?
“For a model, you have really bad taste in clothes” Was the most memorable thing Derek said to me. He hated my shoes and saw it as an abomination to my job to be wearing them. He would not however, buy me new ones to help his cause so I ignored his unsolicited advice. Unlike Pinoys, The Chinese are not as accustomed to flirting and therefore not as easily charmed. I find this frustrating but generally challenging as I am forced to prove myself beyond cute smiles and hair tosses. They are also more blunt than Pinoys and will have no reservations telling you, ” You look like the type who would be a mistress” to your face should you give them the opportunity to. I had to explain that: No I am not anyone’s mistress, I don’t sell myself to rich men and yes I am working legitimately.
They wouldn’t believe me for God knows why so I jokingly said: Ill be a mistress to the president of China or to any billionaire whose gonna make me the CEO of one of his corporations, I will sell myself for one night at the very cheap price of 1 million pesos and I would love to work with the triad in smuggling drugs and guns.
This actually made sense to them so I gained their respect instead.
Situated in Xia Li Tong is the famous Xia long boa that spells authentic Shanghai. You won’t miss it with the mirade of patrons lining up for their share of this affordable treat. You might also want to try the famous stinky tofu while you’re here and I promise it tastes better than it smells. Careful not to overdose on scrumptious Chinese food as it is very oily and can make you feel dizzy if eaten excessively.
Wigs are so cheap here! As mentioned above. Loghua is the last remaining bargain center in Shanghai. You can find affordable finds here but compared to Shenzen and Guangzhou, it is still expensive. More like Hongkong rate.
My boss never gives me my travel allowance in full because according to him, I don’t know how to budget my expenses so they have to do it for me, ration style–so he always sends them in installment via a messenger. In this case, it’s Singaporean Paul Eng a VP in one of China’s biggest trading firms, but he suddenly had to cancel his dinner with me last minute for an emergency appointment. Since he was tasked to give me the rest of my travel budget, I had to go through dinner starved and penniless in my hotel room. Giving pride the middle finger, I asked Paul to have someone bring me my allowance at breakfast as I explained I was broke and knew no one else and had to call Derek to help me see my supplier, Iveg for the vegetarian distribution the next day. Both of them were less than happy but they obliged this poor girl’s plea for help anyway.
Derek brought his sister Sarah for the tasting which I was so thrilled about. She’s pescetarian and was actually able to help me asses the quality of the food served. We both agree that too much vegemeat was incorporated in every menu. The ratio should be not more than 30% faufax and 70% Greens–ideally it should even be 20-80. This is because although vegemeat is still better than meat, it is still processed and we don’t recommend our customers to rely on them for nutrition as we would encourage them with raw fresh vegetables and fruits. Besides, eating too much of these will make even a vegan like me nauseous and bloated. Better to serve it in moderate proportion as not to cause “umay” among customers.
I love the vibe of this place. All wood with the aroma of coffee and toast floating in the air. The cabin has three floors, and the interiors are made that of bookshelves, quaint chandeliers and surprisingly, hollywood vanities in the ladies room. Sarah insisted we make this stop and for that Im forever grateful. I can’t express enough how appreciative I am of Derek and Sarah for seeing to my well being while I was in Shanghai. They didn’t have to as I wasn’t their responsibility but they did it anyway. Derek had a meeting he had to cancel just to babysit me and Im teary eyed with the thought that even if we didn’t stop bickering about our different perspectives on work ethics, politics and relationships he still went out of his way to take care of me. I think my heart just expanded with mini love bursts on the thought. I gave him a big bear hug Im sure he was not comfortable receiving as I walked in the airport. He even double checked that I was able to board safely too, “I just want to make sure you’re out of my jurisdiction and therefore no longer my responsibility” was his sweet way of saying, “Take care I’ll miss you”