I’ll have another, please.

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“We’re stopped here anyway, just ask her to open the door!”, he pleads emphatically.
“But this is a public bus, it can’t just stop anywhere.”
“Let me put this another way; if she doesn’t open that door in the next minute I’m going to be pissing all over it.”
It’s not a threat, it’s a statement of fact.  Phillipe suddenly understands the direness of the situation and starts talking in Chinese to the bus conductor.  They appear to have the same exchange because I see her eyes go wide open in shock. The instant the bus stops rolling in the barely moving traffic, she barks at the driver and the door is opening.  There’s a flash of movement as Paul leaps out of the bus and runs jaggedly down the slope a few metres.  He stops and unzips to let loose a strong stream of clear urine.  I’m about one metre behind him and Don is close by.  We three Australians provide liquid nourishment for the grassy verge amidst laughter and applause from all the couchsurfers on the bus.

I suppose drinking three half litre beers and getting on a bus was risky, but with the traffic hardly moving, the risk went critical.  It seems to take an aeon, but the three of us make our way back onto the bus before it gets a chance to move again.  Even the Chinese people onboard think its very funny and greet as with broad, knowing smiles.  Phillipe is shaking his head in disbelief.
“I think I’ve lived in China for more than six years, but I’ve NEVER seen a public bus pull up for a toilet break before.”
This causes a fresh cascade of laughter, so I take the moment to crack the top off another beer.

After we get back to Shanghai city, the couchsurfing group breaks up and Don and I find ourselves sitting in a nearby Pizza Hut eating kimchi and black pepper beef pizzas.  It’s all about the novelty value of the toppings rather than actually wanting to eat there.  We decide it’s time to head back to Ray’s place to sleep for a few hours before joining the couchsurfers at the bar that hosts Shanghai’s weekly meetups.  The place is owned by a local couchsurfer, Aimee, who provides half price drinks to all the CSers that visit; guaranteeing a good crowd.  So we head into the Shanghai metro system and spend half an hour jumping trains to arrive at Ray’s place in Pudong.  I think it takes about five minutes for me to have a shower and be asleep in bed.

Cocktails Ray style

Cocktails Ray style

The bar is in the Luwan area of inner Shanghai, famous for a main street with nests of interconnecting alleyways filled with bars, shops and other distractions.  Don and I are on our way in a taxi when Ray calls to find out where we are.  He’s sitting in an Australian ex-pat bar called Kakadu and wants to know if we feel like a beer.  We’ve still got a couple of hours before the meetup, so he gives new directions to the driver and just ten minutes later we’re walking into the bar.  Ray has our beers waiting for us.

The room is dominated by a spectacularly enormous fishtank behind the bar.  You can see through it to a dining area, but your eyes are caught by the myriad of colourful and varied south American fish.  The owner collects them and only he is allowed to feed them.  This explains why most fish in the tank actually gather together when he approaches the glass and they also turn to follow him around the room.  Apparently these fish do remember who is associated with food and act accordingly.  They simply ignore any other person who approaches the tank from either side.

This fishtank of sin

The fishtank of sin

The madness continuesA few beers and yarns with Ray takes a few hours and we head off to the meetup a little late.  I’ve taken a photograph of the directions written in Chinese that are posted on the couchsurfing website in the Shanghai city forum.  I then show this to the taxi driver and soon we are dropped at the entrance to an alleyway and he’s pointing down it saying something in Chinese.  Don and I look at each other and amble down it looking for the Bell bar.  We end up weaving through some narrow alleys past a myriad of shops and cafes hunting for our bar before I spot the bell logo high in a window.  The place is a small wooden building with two floors.  Five years ago it was somebody’s house, now it’s packed with happy couchsurfers and the odd local creating the buzz of busy conversations.  We make our way upstairs and join a group there with someone we’ve met before.  Beers are delivered to our table by a young guy with a cheeky smile and the night begins in earnest.Luwan Alleyways

I lose track of the flurry of conversations quickly.  The eclipse, travel stories, homebrewing beer and existential philosophy all visit our group for discussion.  We eventually move downstairs to meet the owner properly and find a large Chinese girl with an infectious smile and permanent giggle.  She welcomes us and makes sure we know about the discount.  She’s interrupted by a young man holding a wooden case of some sort.  They speak in Chinese for a minute and she turns the music off as he produces an instrument from the case.  It turn out he is her boyfriend from inner mongolia.  He begins to play and the noisy, boisterous bar falls to silent appreciation of his skill.  It is so beautiful, especially in this moment surrounded by our new friends.  I’ve forgotten the disappointment of the morning, lost in the moment with this flowing and passionate music.

Play that funky music mongol boy!

Play that funky music mongol boy!

Somehow Aimee is now declaring that she will give five long island ice teas for free, if just one person can drink all of them inside two minutes.  The guy she’s talking to is laughing, saying nobody can do that.  She keeps trying to convince him and asks everybody in the bar a few times if someone wants to take up the challenge.  I’m considering it, but decide it would leave me paralytic and I don’t want to be that bad in a strange city.  I’m still not entirely surprised when Don steps up and says,
“If you don’t put the coke in them, I’ll do it.  I just can’t stand coke.”
There’s a cheer from the crowd and Aimee accepts the bet and begins making the five drinks.  I immediately put twenty kuai (the shortname for Chinese yuan money) on Don being able to do it without throwing up.  They ask where he’s from.
“Australia.”
“I’m not taking that bet, Australians are crazy, he’ll probably do it.”
The crowd agrees and nobody takes the bet.  Shame, I could have done with the money.

Encouraging Don's hard work

Encouraging Don's hard work

The timer starts and Don works his way steadily down the line of glasses.  He pauses between each one for a swig of water and continues.  It’s all over in a minute and the crowd goes crazy.  I hand Don a lemonade for him to skull, he’s going to need some sugar with that dose.  The night gradually fades and we end up trading contact details with people.  At two in the morning Don and I are the only people left.  We give Aimee big hugs before shuffling into the street hoping a taxi will swoop down from above and just fly us home.

Don at workThat's exactly how it looked...

That's exactly how it looked...

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