You know where it is at? Zhabei, man!

This is a good one!

Look I get it, if you have been to Shanghai and you want to know where it is at and you got the cute little Lonely Planet recommendation list, then you have seen it. Zhabei is not even in those 9 top picks…

You know why? Zhabei is now part of JingAn and you know that, because you live here and you have been to that freshly renovated golden temple. You never really cared about Zhabei, because it is the real hidden gem.

I was born in it, raised in it. You merely adopted Zhabei, JingAn pffffffff…

Nothing to see there? Move on? Come on!

This is the WikiVoyage page. It’s laughable, it says there is not much there – there is.

Word on the street is that Zhabei suffered from poor decision making and needed the aid of the richer JingAn. This is where I live now. Can’t see why that happened.

I lived in Zhabei for roughly three years. The motto of the district is: ‘Zhabei the place to be’. You need to become a bit local, you need some local friends, I’d say two. You’ll get rid of one eventually because he borrows 10 RMB every time you are about to go home, because he didn’t bring his wallet and want’s to buy a beer and some smokes. He does that every time you hang out. He also invites you over when he is at ‘parties’ and once you arrive turns out the friends have all left an it’s only him, maybe another friend. This happens a lot. He might also introduce you to other friends, because you are now the token foreign friend and you will eventually realize that you are the way back to his friends, that all know how he is, you will figure that out. Oh! He also might invite you for dinner and then forgets his wallet. Cut him loose at some point.

On the plus side you get to know other friends and you get shown cool places – like the Zhabei gym.

The Zhabei gym is in walking distance from Line 8 ZhongXing Road. Find it yourself, you are a Shanghai insider and no one gets to know Zhabei with a Lonely Planet. Walk around. Have a beer on the way, explore!

Inside the Zhabei gym they host a Chinese TV show, don’t ask me which one that is, we climbed once from the muscle gym through to where the show is filmed and my friends decided to walk out with the crowd, I was on the way, then noticed that I don’t look like I brought a ticket to that and climbed back into the muscle gym, it gave my friends a good laugh, because after explaining what happened they agreed that I would have been suspicious. This is how involved you have to get with the Zhabei crowd that they completely forget you are a foreigner. Beat that!

Behind the Zhabei gym there is a dorm and some study rooms for Chinese Powerlifter kids. Cool kids. There is also the muscle gym I mentioned before it is run by a former bodybuilder, he is old now, but pictures on the wall show his former fame. His friends come by and smoke and talk loud, they mostly sit on the bench press bench. Not as cool as the kids. There are also waiters and other funny folk ‘working out’ there. The dress code is jeans, shirt is optional, but collared shirt preferred for the freedom of movement. Hard to one up the guy on the butterfly machine with the roller-skates, he had red jeans and a collared shirt.

Cornering the gym is a lamb leg restaurant. Massive lamb legs! They are cheap and feed one big person and come with optional side dishes. They can also feed a birthday party – I tried and highly recommend it. You are in Zhabei now – not at the bund!

Half a beer away in ZhongXing road is my favorite Chinese spa. They will ask you for your passport, but you are not spending the night, so you might want to explain that every time you go, until they know you. It’s gender separated and it came with a body rub from a dude with a hot, kinda hard towel. They lift your package and some point and rub your whole body – like every corner. It’s an experience and also not included in most tour guides. Also in there: a Sauna, showers, a hot room to play that Chinese chess game, two pools with jet streams, shaving equipment (it’s dull), toothbrushes and shampoo. You can then dry yourself up, weigh yourself, clean your ears and heard up to the third floor where they have the mixed sex chill section with a little tea place, some recliners with TVs, Ashtrays and a small shop where you would need to get a cold beer. This is the best beer you will have that day! Guaranteed!

My tattoo guy is in Zhabei as well, he speaks a little bit of English and is an all around cool dude. You can hang out at his shop, get a tattoo and marvel at people getting a tiny rose or a name on their hands for a first tattoo. His shop is close to Line 1 Nanchang or North Zhongshan Road – it’s about the same distance. That is 2 beers from the Zhabei gym.

You will be special and know a part of the city only a few people know. Recently I was doing a beer walk with a dear friend of mine and we walked from JingAn to Putou then to Zhabei and back to JingAn. Zhabei is, to this day, the liveliest part of the city and it’s raw, it’s unpolished, it has cool Ayi’s in the Family Marts, Buddies and Lawsons you can get to know that are happy to comment on your visits and even let safe you a Cent or two if you don’t have the right small change. This is how magical Zhabei is. A little bit of tier 88 in a tier 1 city. Zhabei – the place to be!

 

On traveling

So here is the thing about traveling and me: I don’t wike it.

Really, I don’t really like it. Growing up in Eastern Germany and pretty poor, I sometimes heard: ‘You know what, why travel to other countries when spot X in Germany just a couple of 100 kilometers or less can be so nice.’. I never really listened nor believed that. I still don’t really do, but here is the thing:

I fall in love with places and a holiday sometimes isn’t enough. May that be a week or 2 or maybe a couple of weeks. I like to be an stay in places and get used to them and build new routines.

There are all those memes that flood your and my Facebook how traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. But what if you can stay in that place, what of you can make it work there and what happens when every day feels like that kind of traveling. This is what I try to do. Get used to the place, hack it, make it work for you and feel as comfortable and at home as you possibly can.

It’s like in MMA or on BJJ when you learn to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations ) not that those living situations can be as uncomfortable than getting mounted by Brock Lesnar, like Mark Hunt experienced in UFC 200. By the way Brock Lesnar looks fitter an faster now and found myself in a bit of awe when he just rips legs away for double leg takedowns.

Anyway, you can make it work. If you are in a small rural environment or in the suburban sprawl and you feel okay, you can make days feel like a holiday and develop yourself without the need to get away for 2 weeks in a year just to forget about your worn in life.

Play the game so the environment favors you or try to make that environment favor you, because if I can do that you can and you don’t always have to follow the status quo – question it. Question everything. Even this!

The age of (super) heroes

This year there is a lot of dying going on. The 27 club did not get any new members unless you are familiar with Viola Beach (which I am not).

David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Lemmy Kilmister, Bud Spencer (Carlos Pedersoli) and Alan Rickman are no more – may they rest in peace. You might think that this seems to be a particularly bad year in terms of idols dying. It’s not, we are biased and the celebrity culture just went into full swing in the 50’s, so we feel like the world is crumbling.

This is might sound like a really negative way to lead into an article, but nothing lasts forever, the world keeps on turning and for me and many other super hero fans this must (or should be) the greatest time to be alive.

It is the year where arguably the biggest DC super heroes were seen together on the silver screen. It’s a time where a super hero movie would function even without costumes as a marvelous movie and by that I’d like to take Captain America: Civil War as an example. It is a time where there are hours upon hours of super heroes on TV (and I watch/have watched them all).

Growing up having weekend sleep overs at grandma’s and getting up at 6am to watch X-Men with the best cartoon intro ever (only topped by the Japanese versions intro), Hulk, Spider-Man and his friends.

Now in China I just had the pleasure to finish the Ultimate Cut of Batman v. Superman. Let’s just say that they had that in the  DVD-shop here.

Yes, it’s still not a masterpiece but it makes a good movie and a great set up for the Justice League and all there is to come. The extra 30 minutes add in the best way possible, I found myself on Superman’s side a lot more and even Lex’s plan made more sense. In a addition to that there is a bit more blood, some arm’s more are cut off or broken but I am sure that this would have made for a better experience the first time around.

I am excited for the DC movie universe and can’t wait for the next few movies.

Civil War was great: touching, funny, every single character had a good arc, a couple of wow-moments and was all around probably my second favorite Marvel movie to this day. Number One: The Winter Soldier. I count Deadpool as FOX and that one would win over there.

In comparison to Civil War the Justice League set up wins in the music department and has Batman. Batman trumps every other hero. And Zack Snyder is really not that bad, I would say he is great. That boy has the visuals down to a T and man, can he direct a Batman fight scene! (The Rescue) No one before him was able to show that in live action.

I frequently watch the ‘Everything wrong with …’ youtube channel and found out that they also feature a more positive version, they take movie where people are on the fence and explain why it actually is good. And you should definitely give the one about Suckerpunch a try and after watching that please try to argue again that Zack Snyder can’t do interesting stories. Yes, he talks funny, he comes off as a bit of a douche, says ‘like’ a lot, like Justin Bieber (you know I do like that boy too) and needs a hand with the general story, but I find he is one of the strongest visual directors out there.

 

If you ask me about the TV-shows that is tougher. Arrow is on a downward slope starting from season 3 onwards and probably not worth watching unless you are a hardcore fan. The Flash is really, really strong and is genuinely funny and the scenes between Barry and his two dads are nothing short of amazing – they really pull my heartstrings. Legends of Tomorrow is good fun, but skippable if you ask me. Supergirl is surprisingly good and fun. Agents of Shield I stopped watching but it might have gotten better (opinions?). Constantine was fun until it got cancelled, but a bit all over the place and with weak spots that showed (the actor was not one of them). Daredevil is the best superhero TV show, Jessica Jones was very, very strong. The latest addition is Preacher and hot damn is that fun – especially the first two episodes (it has also been officially renewed for season 2). Hope I didn’t forget something…

And you know what? Doom is back and Quake and Fallout is in full swing. What a time to be alive!