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Written on: Monday November 19th, 2007

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

Not much to comment on here sadly, although I'm sure there might have been as it's by far the most cosmopolitan and Western of all the Chinese cities we've visited so far, had it not been for my shakes developing in to a much worse virus disposition.

If 'Annus Horribilis' meant what it sounds like it might well describe my experience on the 16 hour overnight journey to Shanghai (where I spent my second consecutive sleepless night), and the remainder of my stay here, which has confined me close to the proximities of our lack-of-character hostel. Coupled with a ridiculously stiff neck so that it seems I have an invisible brace on restricting me from turning my head even the slightest of a degree, it is quite correct to assume I feel absolutley rubbish.

On the funny side, (as hopefully you aren't laughing at my downfall sitting behind your desk in rainy Blighty saying 'That'll teach him!') I was walking down one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Shanghai yesterday evening, determined to see a little bit of the city after spending the entire day stuck in the Captain Hostel, and who should I walk smack bang into but Martin and Danny, our two Swedish friends from the Trans- Siberian railway. After arranging to meet up at a later stage when I'm on better form I walked further up the road, only to run into Mia and Wilhelm, some more of our Swedish compatriots from the Trans-Sib! Small, small world.

The road I was on, Nanjing Dong, was just full of people, many of them Westerners, and the tea girls were out in full force. At the foot of the road one girl approached me and set the tone for the next kilometer. "Hello, where are you from?' My stare alone made her spine shiver and her skin begin to melt. She knew very quickly that I'd already been the victim of one of her like-minded scammers. Along this street it wasn't only tea-junkies, there were people wanting you buy watches, bags, jewellery, 'come for a sexy massage with a sexy Chinese girl' and just about any other tangible good they could exchange for my long-saved cash. By the end of the street I was quite adept at pretending I was French and hadn't a clue what they were talking about.

I ventured in to Shanghai's self-titled #1 Department Store, a sort of jumbo Debenhams, with the exception that this store had over-zealous Chinese store attendants. I spied the electronic section and with some iPod speakers in mind I made my way cautiously through the cosmetics department in order to make my pilgrimage. Yet another mistake. I was set upon by two tiny, middle-aged Chinese ladies, caked in excessive amounts of Max Factor, who dragged me down in to a chair, punched a mirror into my hand and began to point out all the bad points of my face. Taking in to consideration I'd been pretty sick for the past three days, had only half a nights sleep in those three, hadn't eaten anything other than a slice of toast all day, hadn't shaven for two weeks and was still wearing the clothes I'd slept in the night before, I thought I looked pretty damm dashing! Anyway they begged to differ, and within seconds had dozens of pots of facial creams and moisterizers and god knows what else, applying them briskly and firmly to my hardened visge.

I can't deny it though, there was definately a visable difference, and after they cleaned up my hands a mental difference too. I felt quite chirpy. But of course the problem I had to dig myself out of now was that they wanted me to buy half of Estee Lauder. After politley letting them explain their prices to me and presenting each of their applied products in a nice box all cellophaned up, I tried to explain that I had left all my money in my hotel room, to which they started to drop their prices and throw in other goods for free. I wasn't sure they understood. I did eventually escape their clutches on the promise that I would return from my hotel room with my cash, credit cards and my villa in Marbella re-mortgaged. The one product I did seriously contemplate buying was the one that was used to clean up my jowls, cleared away all the dry skin and was bemuzingly named Horniness Cream. I only hope this was what it caused and wasn't actually a by-product of!!


From Kara on Mar 23rd, 2008

Your next survey should be: "how many of you have pretended you were deaf or didn't speak english to avoid a heckling street vendor." I'm guilty...