And so it was Chinese New Year.
This is a long boring entry. Feel free to skip it if you want. You won't miss much. Especially as i still can't get any photos online.
For several days, the sheer number of fireworks going off randomly in the street suggested that it was going to be a louder and more colourful New Year than Hong Kong for Jan New Year had been. And so it proved. In good traditional style, a group of us clubbed together, bought a huge pile of fireworks (sadly without finding the requisit 1.5metre long big f*ck off rocket which we desperately wanted) and went on to the Bund to play.
Paul, Michael, Ivan, Kyoko, Jimmy, Phillipe (back) and James playing with fireworks on the Bund
Despite the sheer amount of fireworks the country produces, Chinese fireworks are not always reknowned for their reliability, which added an interesting twist, as you never know which one that you are lighting will blow up your face or take off an arm. And with the entire Chinese nation, who are, quite frankly, more or less psycotic with regard to fireworks, just walking down the street is potentially a supremely hazardous experience. We were the modicum of decorum, praticsed (mostly) firework safety and all was good. Unfortuantely, bck near the hostel a group of stupid young Americans had decided to whack back all their booze before playing with fireworks and a couple of big bangs later, a couple of our group were
extremely lucky to escape with eyes intact.
And that kind of killed that.
At about 23.30, most of the hostel headed out on to the Bund to watch the show, which was stupendous. There was no official fireworks whatsoever. Instead, on every building, plus all of the streets and some of the river barges, individuals were just letting off fireworks in all directions. The sheer amount of fireworks used was staggering. Not a clear point in the sky, and by midnight, all was in a haze of colour and firework smoke. And it just never stopped.
Pudong area of Shanghai, seen across the Bund at night
We spent much of the next day engrosed at at the Longhua temple, watching as most of the population of Shanghai and their visitors came to be blessed for the New Year. To steal a thought from my stalker, Kevin, it was almost like being in a National Geographic documentary. It was just a 'wow' moment. Incence sticks by the thousands being waved in all directions, the groups covered in incence sticks and money, offerings thrown at the gods, but which had missed or bounced off to be collected later. The wonderful Golden tree by the outside Pagoda was literally barely standing unfder the ever increasing weight of peoples hopes and dreams, which had been attached to the tree, or just thrown up into it. Wow.
The tree outside Longhua temple where locals throw their wishes and prayers, to be answered in the New Year.
Longhua Temple, and the buring incense, where Shanghaiese celebrate New Year and pray for a prosperous New Year
But I was getting restless. And although I spent a couple of days then wandering aimlessly, I was mostly plotting our escape. And trying to get to the damned cricket fighting, which seemed to have been cancelled for New Year and because it was too cold. I bet even the crickets are unionised. On the last evening, one of the girls, Kate, turned 19, and with another guy turning 20 the next night, celebrations had to occur. Periodically, in hostels, you do end up with a group which just comes together in a large scale for no apparent reason. And so, a good 30 or so of us went out on the birthday celebration, and I was the oldest. 2 or 3 others were mid 20's, the oldest of the rest was 21. I felt supremely old. And they were all happily intoxicated. I felt like some kind of grandpa. And ended up playing the role as well.
Long story cut short, but Kate was perhaps overly intoxicated before we went out, and in the club ended up loosing her wallet, her ability to stand and her camera. And then her credit card. Women! Stunningly, through a longwinded process during which and i ended up becoming good friends with George, the owner, I actually managed to recover everything (except Kate's ability to stand, although we utilised a really tall Canukistani to help on that one). Which made me feel more like an old grandpa fart, as i was seemingly appointed guardian of the entire group. Great. Next time, remind me never to go out with a group of kids, especially when they are mostly blottoed (i like that word) and you sure as heck aren't. Having said that, George is a damned good bloke, and whilst a meat market it may be, it's cheap, spirits are normally bought by the bottle, and it's good fun. If anybody is looking for cheap booze, sports, dancing etc in Shanghai, I can recomend Windows on Nanjing Lu.
I'm amazed that i ever said that.
And It really is time to leave.
The days were starting to drag, and whilst Shanghai is a great place to hang out, a couple of weeks (especially being unplanned) had led me to just want to leave. For anywhere. I like Shangers, and am sure i'll miss it, but i'm a wanderer at heart and being stuck for so long somewhere just makes me antsy.
And with that, James, Jimmy, Paul, a supremely hung over Helene and I departed on what was billed as a detox trip, but in truth knowing nothing except that stairs, monkeys and a trip to the unknown probably awaited the intrepid quintet.