Nothing about Trump.

Really.

So here is the conversation I had with the friendly cashier in the alldays (a tidbit of information about the ‘convenient’ store market) down in our building, after I came home from work:

Ayi (convenient store employee/Aunty): Ah! Hello, you just finished work?

Me: Nah, haven’t eaten yet, but will soon. (I misheard and was too fast.) Oh, sorry, yes, just finished work.

Ayi: I just warmed up the dinner I brought from home.

Me: That is great. Smart! 

Ayi: Yes, cheaper than eating outside and no diarrhoea! (She is not wrong for the most part.)

I giggled inside, nodded, grinned and walked off.

It’s those little things I enjoy about China. The casual mentioning of bodily functions to a stranger. Just the slightly odd things that happen, that make this house a home…

Baopals has moved office and it’s closer to my home. Even though I loved my work before, I love it even more now. In 2 days from now China will go into a shopping frenzy. It will be 11/11 aka Singles Day. It’s Black Friday on steroids (can’t think of a German equivalent – maybe the introduction of a new VW Golf, but nah).

Things are great, the balcony garden is green and chillies starting to turn red, hopefully before it gets way to cold. I have lost 6 kilogram with not drinking beer from Monday to Thursday (and a little bit of more conscious eating). I climbed 60 floors today (decided to make that a thing on Wednesdays taking the stairs to the 19th floor, the other floors are 4 times to my walk-up building to get to the 6th floor and random stairs). I randomly did push-ups when I felt a bit cold (20 each time) and I try not to throw fits of rage while biking, which is easy, as now it’s just half the way with half (or less than half, as it is a quiet’ish (if that is a thing in Shanghai) the ride along a river with less idiots. Yes, people here drive like idiots, it’s nothing new, I won’t change that, but I point out (with shouting at them) that they put both parties, me and them, in danger. I also did a mini clothing purge.

So yeah. I saw Dr. Strange. Another really good Marvel movie with a under-utilised villain (Mads Mikkelsen is such a great Hannibal and actor throughout, there should have been more of him), the best visuals in a Marvel movie so far, a good (and for me unexpected) amount of comedy and a strange twist (really, that is how and why that one character switches sides?). It’s up there in the top 5 I would say of the MCU movies, top being Winter Soldier and Civil War.

On the TV show side I have caught up with The Flash (honest trailers was never more on point): consistently good, Arrow (pretty much ‘Batman – The TV Show’ minus Batman with Green Arrow): back to season 2 greatness almost, Black Mirror (the best, darkest, most terrifying and sometimes reality predicting British TV show): with the best, most positive episode ever and possibly the greatest hour of television in my life (San Junipero – that is the name of the episode, I won’t give more away), Westworld: currently best show with naked man, woman, violence, brain and visuals, Fresh Off The Boat: great, I love, love, love the kids (especially Evan and Emery) and most of Charlie Brooker‘s Screenwipe: because TV and that man is an inspiration (can’t wait for this years wipe!I lied. There is some Trump in the last link.

My The Walking Dead Rant

I’m starting to write this 24 hours after watching Season 7 Episode 1 of The Walking Dead: The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be. So major spoilers ahead, but you should read anyway, because it’s not that important! There will also be swearing and words, lots of words, don’t be offended by words.

SPOILERS incoming

The Verge (see link above) is obviously done and I might be just as well. Having invested 6 years or so, it’s a bit said, but again I might watch the whole season because Jeffrey Dean Morgan is awesome and if it continues to get good ratings for the majority of the episodes (from my friends and some websites).

Let’s start this off at the lightest note, with a scene about that episode from one of my favourite movies ever (of course it was the most watched episode!):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxrvzMxkp1s

Yes, I agree the episode was good in parts, but fuck them!

It was a bit of a love and hate relationship with The Walking Dead since the ending of season 1: it’s unbalanced, it’s great at times usually at the beginning of seasons, has some great character development (Carol), some really, really great characters: Shane, Negan, Abe (and Eugene and their chemistry) and Rick (great actor too!).

I did not read the comics and don’t like the style too much. I knew Glenn died in the comics and that this was pretty accurate. But here is what was wrong with the episode:

It revealed ‘the big secret’ (of who died – woah! – how edgy) 20 minutes into an episode after months and months of waiting. This is not the worst thing nor my biggest grasp with that episode. It is that this is a cheap trick and the second death was probably the most brutal thing I have ever seen in my life and it was pointless. Look, I can watch violence, I am okay with showing violence in fiction, but this is a show that doesn’t show tits, butts, penises, vaginas, explicit sex scenes or swearing. Fuck! So it seems to be okay to show a beloved character for what felt like 5 minutes with his head smashed in, an eye hanging out, blood all over, gargling, mumbling, suffering with the camera lingering on him, his pregnant girlfriend whining, sobbing, crying in the back but, oh dear, glad they don’t say fuck or tits or tight butthole  or whatever.

There was no point in showing that scene like that. There was no point to the violence. Just from Glenn dying (in a faster cut scene or a different cut scene all together) and everything else happening it would have been clear what an adviser is and why Rick’s group had all that coming. When the Mountain killed the Viper in Game of Thrones that was brutal. It was also fast, it was gory too, but it was interesting, it fit the tone of the whole show up until that point. Compared to the scene in TWD where this was the most brutal person on person violence in that show up to this point. Let me introduce you to a shocking movie Martyrs (can’t believe this has been remade): Martyrs is a french horror movie that is absolutely gross. It’s ultra violent, it’s gut wrenching, but if you stick through with it, there is a reason for this violence (not the smartest one, but it made me think) and it makes sense in context. It’s not A Serbian Film that is super stylized and a movie that for the smart viewer is always self-aware and clearly fiction and is meant to critique what is going on in Serbia and similar can be said for Martyrs.

That dragged out ‘big reveal’ of who dies was dumb. Cliffhangers can be dumb! And I felt insulted waiting for this, this could have been the last episode of the last season or they could have ended with Abe dying and then start of with the second death, again, anything would have been better. The show does not trust it’s own writing. Remember when Jon Snow died? He got killed. At the end of a season. You know what the views wondered about? How will this go on from here? The Walking Dead did not have the guts to do that. They went with: who dies? The dude from the comics? Maybe? We keep you assholes guessing and throw you red herrings left and right until your brain rots, but we are sure you tune in and find out. We even show you everyone dying with mini-flashbacks that somehow are all equally important to Rick (for a second they got me with that and damn that would have been ballsy, but that is a different writing team in a parallel universe where that happened). Instead we got this and people now have to wonder what they should have wondered for months if the writing would have been consistently good: where do they go from here? How do they cope with the new reality? Fuck them!

The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be (a good title by the way) was more Hostel (the first one, which I despise) for the lack of self-awareness and the missing assumption of a brain of the viewer. Glenn could and would die and that I accept. It could even have been brutal, but not in the way it was shown, that was torture porn. Hostel 2 by the way is self-aware and I would even say, just because of that ‘fun’. Not linking to those movies, they are not really worth watching or the time.

Maybe I pick up The Strain again (2 seasons still to watch) but until then I enjoy Westworld and the third season of Black Mirror. They are dark, violent and shocking too, but they don’t take me for an idiot.

 

Sometimes things just work!

This is the first blogpost ever that I write completely on my iPad. I really don’t know how or why but even without a VPN, the WordPress app is working and jumping the great firewall. So here is a test run.

Hyperlinks are a pain in the ass to do on mobile.

My iPad just works, but for reading purposes the Kindle Paperwhite blows it out of the water. It’s however great to relive Magic the Gathering, awesome to experience Shadowrun and as a second display for my MacBook Pro 2010 (and still working like the first day, possibly faster with a Samsung 500gb SSD and 8gb of RAM – also battery is still alright).

Baidu (not even linking that) is the crappiest search engine if you search in English since AOL.

So what is this? A brief overview into what I enjoy electronics wise and how I work or enjoy myself with technical gizmos. I also enjoy my iPhone 6, will skip the 7 though for obvious reasons and possibly eying a Pixel in the future, if and when the 6 will give up. Until then I enjoy it, because it just works.

No headphone jack is a dick move!

Look I have these great Marshall’s and these awesome AKGs (375 actually, 374 is without the iPhone controls, that come in handy while biking) and they bring me joy and sound great to my ears and musical tastes. Not upgrading these soon and having another gizmo that asks to be charged regularly to get joy out of.

A vaporizer is better than cigarettes.

95% better as the U.K. Government likes to state on cigarette boxes. I’m vaping on a VGod Minikin (limited edition) with a Moonshot tank (mainly). It got me off of cigarettes for roughly 1 year now and leaves me with more energy and a better sense of smell and taste.

So yeah, no my fingers hurt from typing and I gotta watch Westworld. Hope this just works and you got a tiny bit of enjoyment out of this.

I’m no Tim Ferris…

…but at the point of writing this I am deep into 72 hours of being really healthy.

Shanghai can be a bit stressful. There is honking cars, subpar driving everywhere (one should know that my primary means of transportation is a bicycle) – so I have to deal with scooters, bikes and sometimes cars coming my way sleep-driving (that is what I like to call it) towards me, honking, people turning in black Audis without signalling and of course (making use of) not their right of way. It’s the negatives that still don’t outweigh, at least for me, being outside, waking up on the bike ride to work, getting to know the city and my way around it, the exercise, the being in touch with ‘nature’ and the not being too comfortable (really it’s just odd to take taxis or uber everywhere – I probably wouldn’t do it anywhere else, so why choose this as the place to get used to it).

It’s 3 days of not touching alcohol so far.

Yesterday I got my haircut from my two fat guys in Zhabei and they know me  not only as the only foreigner that goes there, they know me as the only person that comes in there with a beer. It’s similar with the vape shop I frequent. Beer is awesome. Beer tastes great, makes you a real German, a man and is refreshing and usually low in alcohol here. It also gives you a bit of a belly when indulging on a daily basis. I am no beer snob, I don’t care. I go for the Suntory (and the beer ratings are through the roof!), it’s 5 RMB for a 500ml can (a slightly better variant) or 3.6 RMB or so for 600 or 660ml bottle (the one wit the ratings). It’s beer, it’s refreshing and tastes okay when cold and if you drink it fast. There is no surprises. You get what you pay for and it tastes like 50 cent a small beer step above water. So if you like okay beer then we can be friends (also if you like beer in general).

China makes a lot of foreigners drink. Sometimes it seems like there is not much more to do, because the fun police closes popular bar streets (not that I care too much, but that street is completely dead now). When I was still working in the insurance sector things where worse, the drink after work seemed needed just to calm down and detach from the sales, the meetings, the phone calls and the pressure. It can get excessive.

A Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday after a holiday that I am smashing my goals with my Fitbit.

I got the Charge HR and it’s my second fitness tracker after the quickly destroyed UP24 (by Jawbone) that had a cute app. It’s motivating. It auto-detects my bike rides to and from work as well as the boxing workout we did yesterday and other sports (but swimming – it’s not fully waterproof). The app looks cool and it functions for 5 days on a charge which is roughly 5 times more than the much more expensive Apple Watch. I still wear a watch even though the Fitbit shows the time as well.

Step by step I am trying to go to a 80 kilo physique with small habit changes. When I returned to China in 2011 I was also biking, making green shakes in the morning (chocolate whey protein, a banana, a apple, spinach and peanut butter) and moderate exercise. I was at that and want to get back there. One of my friends and coworkers goes all Keto and it’s working like a charm – it’s motivating. It also helps to work in a healthy, friendly and fun environment. Gonna give myself this week and then keep it up moderately while drinking socially on the weekends and on special occasions.

In addition I am currently reading ‘Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales’ by the great Penn Jilette and it’s great fun. Highly recommend it.

There is tons of ways to be healthy and it begins in your head and it’s always habit changing for permanent results. Drinking isn’t the only activity but an okay one, like the Suntory – so have a good beer or a glass of wine once in a while.

What I really wanted to say is: have a beer, enjoy your life and work and find a way. I also just wanted to write again and share something from my life and just write. So that was me doing the worst Tim Ferris expression as a non-scientific brain fart without a proofread to my blog. Living on the edge!

I get it! You vape.

Just wanting to share this here:

Not only is H3H3 my favorite youtuber (I never had that before), he is also super funny and 95% of the time on point! There is so much good material and I always look forward to another giggle. Until very recently I didn’t even know that people made tons of money with Youtube and live off of that. Good stuff, guess kids now want to be youtubers instead of astronauts or firemen.

There is hardly a day where Ethan and Hila don’t make me at least smile a bit and man, am I thankful for that and happy that they make a living.

So the above video makes fun of vaping? I don’t think it does – it’s hilarious and if you can’t laugh about something you do then I feel terribly sorry for you. I know people from minorities that find jokes about said minority incredibly funny. People get triggered way to easily. It’s pathetic, get over yourself and live a little.

But that is beside the point. I started vaping one time like 3 years ago or so with two cigarette like sticks in basically an iPhone (that charges them) with terrible battery life and not a great amount of vapor. It was fun for the novelty of two weeks, then one of them disappeared inside my jacket and back to smoking it was.

In November 2015 I visited the Shanghai Vape store and got myself a vaporizer and stopped smoking within a 2 week window. For me it was the most effective way to replace the smoking habit and apart from weekends somewhere else, where I didn’t bring the vape it has been effective and during those times cigarettes were not as important anymore. IF you don’t know what vaping is and want to have it explained to you as if you were 5 years old, then this blog post does that better than I would do.

So yeah, it’s been almost a year, 5 devices later and that habit is still there and I (with 5 thumbs on each hand most of the time) came to build my own coils and wick them. It smells nice and it’s another hobby now, but it’s also a fun and helpful community (with a minuscule amount of people that get triggered easily).

So I hope I got a word out about vaping and some youtube stuff. I have been to Thailand and Taiwan (where I also watched Suicide Squad) as well as Baopals taking off massively, so there are some ideas that have to be put in writing soon, but this explains my neglect of the blog 😉

Re-burn

Changing jobs recently and generally having a lot of changes, some things become clear.

‘Life is what you make of it.’

I came back from Thailand, the land of smiles, the land where I might or might not belong, but it was rejuvenating. Leaving China for a bit always gives you some kind of perspective and deserved breather from the chaos, the chaos I most of the time deal with, even love, but it’s needed and sometimes the chaos becomes too much.

Never have I been to Taiwan, but that is the next short trip on the list and it excites me. What excites me even more is the new work, a little advertisement ahead:

I work for Baopals, with some really good friends of mine. Baopals is Taobao and Tmall for foreigners (in China for now), it makes your life easier here and you can access the largest online marketplace in the world, with over 800 million products in English. But that is not the point.

You know how people often tell you, that the grass is not greener somewhere else? It’s a lie, the grass can be greener, especially coming from financial service companies and insurance, when you hear that a bit. They are never that cool, let’s say: rarely. If there is a ‘real fun’ work environment in those industries let me know at some point. And I don’t mean, we have a foosball table or ping pong table, that no one plays, because we are too busy working and judge you for it if you dare to play during your 9 to 6…

It’s the best thing if you stand behind something, solidly, 100% and work with friends. It breathes the life back into you. In the last few days, I got more tanned, I socialize more, I read more, I have more activities and am undoubtedly healthier than before.

Not bashing the place you work at, but there are callings out there that want you to listen and hear them. I caught up with old friends and joined a company that made my life here better, that makes the life of other foreigners in China easier and it feels like being reborn, like waking up from a state of walking through fog and that fog has lifted. Everything is HD.

Haha, that sounds so preaching, but that is not my intention. Check Baopals out if you live in China!

But what I want to say is listen to your heart and your stomach (don’t know if that is a German thing only) but come one, it’s your second brain and it gives you helpful signals.

Let me conclude this with something I feel strongly about and listen to this guy, who is one of my idols since Bullshit! – that show really changed me and made me question things and so should you, question this article if you want, but listen to your heart, stomach and your brain and love, we all need it.

The Upside Down and Other Magical Experiences

Let’s talk some magic here and how I started experimenting . What’s going on in the upside down.

So right of the bat, you can tell that I have been watching Stranger Things – and wow, it is brilliant. If you are an eighties kid and love the old Stephen Spielberg movies and want to see child actors doing their best (honorable mentions here: Fresh Off The Boat, Modern Family) and have a potpourri of Spielberg, Stephen King, John Carpenter and the body horror of David Cronenberg (not too much of it). It plays out, as I heard best in a podcast (sorry don’t remember the name), as a adventure movie like the Goonies for the kids in the show, a slasher movie for the teenagers and a mystery movie (or Outer Limits-X-Files) for the adults. It works magnificently.

Without giving away too much, they talk about the upside down – a different dimension and where the Nerdist in the first link talks about it in a specific way, I saw that more, especially given Eleven’s experiments as Out of Body Experiences/Astral Projection (Science has yet to figure that out completely).

When I was 16 I moved out of my parents house and got my first apartment and went to school from there. With that distance from childhood friends and family, I developed a strong interest in Paranormal Stuff (everyone does at some point, no?), Philosophy (I read Sophie’s World man!), Self-Reflection, Masturbation and Lucid Dreaming, as well as Out of Body Experiences and Astral Projection. I basically was the kid from Little Miss Sunshine!

I was a bit more active though, I went to train in boxing and frequented hardcore and metal concerts. Living alone I delved into books at night. Reading is just the best and I wish I would read as much as back then and I am working on that. That made me the kid in literature classes that always gave the speech about how reading is beneficial in soooooo many ways, even if it is the back of a shampoo bottle when you are sitting on the throne.

Skipping mediation and other ‘hippie stuff’:

Love that dude!

I went straight for the cool stuff: getting out of my body and exploring other worlds…

Robert Monroe caught my attention first and I read things on the internet, while my desk neighbor was trying to find the ‘download all’ button on Audiogalaxy in school.

I tried the Body Scan to relax myself and then tried to head straight for the 3rd person view on myself. Needless to say, most of the time I fell asleep and continued for maybe a year with basically no results, apart from a couple of Lucid Dreams (here is how-to) and one night coming home from a hardcore concert, in bruises, tired, in terrible need for rest and sleep – I tried it and came to a state where my mind was awake and my body asleep, a ringing started in my ear, a bright light showed up and I felt euphoric, maybe too euphoric and I woke up to just fall asleep, but I remember it to this day. It’s magical!

Maybe I should get back to that, but given that my meditation practice suffered a bit (I however kept my morning yoga-wake up routine – during the week), I won’t have all the time, but it’s fun. Try something, learn something new and experiment with binaural beats (because that is magical too).

Have a great week and bring back the magic!

Marvel versus DC

I am a fan of both. Really! What a time to be alive.

This deserves kind of a lead in and I am not talking about the comics, but maybe let’s do that for a moment:

I grew up for 6 years in the German Democratic Republic – meaning the part of Germany where you had to stand in line for Bananas. I could write more about that, but leave it to people that know people from there. I came in contact with comics at around 10 years old, I had friends from ‘the city’ aka Chemnitz. Naturally they had contact, they had comics. First comic I ever held was an Avengers comic book in German ‘Die Richer’ (don’t know why they translated the names back in the day). Shortly thereafter through my ‘city friends’ X-Men and later on the book bus (a mobile library that parked every Wednesday at the train museum in my 1200 soul village) provided me with access to more: Maus, Batman , Mask, Transformers and more…

I was 14 when Superman lost his powers and came back in blue and with a different power set and bought the Justice League number 1. Shortly after Lobo and then nothing for the longest time, until I got a grasp of the English language and saved enough money to buy the Batman Essentials (Hush, Year One, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween) and in addition Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

So I am not biased. I love both, movie-wise DC-TV (especially The Flash) tucks a bit more on my heartstrings but the Netflix Marvel shows blow everything out of the water – so here we go:

My favorite stand alone Batman movie to this day is Batman Returns – I watch it roughly once a year around Christmas and I wouldn’t skip a scene or would change a thing about it. I am linking to Rotten Tomatoes here for a reason. This movie has favorable reviews there with 80% from critics and 75% something from the regular folk.

Suicide Squad which will most likely not show in China is already being panned by critics there and the early ‘critic reviews’ also panned Batman v Superman into the ground. I cannot wrap my head around that.

If someone tells me that he or she is not impressed with Batman Returns, I can understand that. It’s a bit silly, there is this fake snow, the Burton city and elements, it’s very fantastical and I can see that this is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Meanwhile the Nolan Batman movies I find to be overrated. My favorite was (of course) The Dark Knight but with every additional watch I find myself skipping more and more scenes. The trilogy still works for me and I enjoy it as the else world story it is, but let’s be honest here – the fight scenes (apart from Bane taking Batman apart) suck. Yes, they suck. I could take this Batman down.

Let’s go down the rabbit hole. I love, love, love The Winter Soldier and Civil War, I do like Guardians of the Galaxy (and wish it would be more popular than Star Wars) and I thoroughly enjoyed Deadpool. Batman v Superman, especially the Ultimate Cut does not deserve the hat it got. It’s a great movie and that one Batman scene (you know which one) is better than any action scene a live action Batman has ever been in.

A good friend of mine pointed me to this video:

I like the Nerdwriter dude, butI disagree strongly here. The cinema cut was disappointing and it felt odd. Weirdly put together. Great scenes, great moments, monumental pictures, but it felt like every word uttered served the plot and moved it forward. Giving the butchered cut it felt weird. It was not good, it had amazing scenes, but all that was made void with the Ultimate Cut.

Watch this:

I like the Everything Great crew even better, especially with Zach Snyder movies. His movies are bombastic, without being shallow and hollow like the Michael Bay 8 out of 10 times.

It’s hard to put the finger on the criticism by critics. The movie is slowly paced and lacks a lot of the humor that the Marvel movies are famous for, but speaking of the Ultimate Cut here, it is so much better than half of the Marvel movies and it clocks in at a Civil War level. It’s not as good as Winter Soldier, as I have seen that on plan again without sound and sat through the hole thing. The music, the scenes coming alive from the books I read and the costumes and tone. They got it right and I am glad it is not a Marvel movie copy. I am glad it is ‘darker’, I am glad it is a different approach and I still think that Zach Snyder is the man (apart from some of the stuff he spurts out). I think he is just not the best guy to market his movies, he can come off as a bit of a meathead, but I do think he has the heart in the right place and produces the best visuals when it comes to comic book movies.

In years from now I am sure I will have watched Snyder movies a couple of more times without skipping compared to the average Marvel Studios movie (I haven’t given Age of Ultron a second watch).

Let me predict that those ‘controversial’ Snyder movies will hold up better over time.

Again I love all kinds of comics but here is my count (estimates – this is totally my way of battling this out):

Batman (1989): 5 times

Batman Returns (1992): 20 times

The Dark Knight (2008): 8 times (involving more and more skipping)

Man of Steel (2013): 10 times

Batman v. Superman (2016): 4 times


Iron Man 2 (2010): 3 times

The Avengers (2012): 3 times

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): 7 times

Deadpool (2016): 3 times

Captain America: Civil War (2016): 2 times

DC: 47 versus Marvel: 18

I was never a big Superman fan (that might also be why I enjoyed the Blue Superman), but after the latest movies I dig the character and you know know that I started of with Marvel. So far the DC Movies hold up better for me but quantity output is just so much higher in the Marvel camp, I just don’t think it will hold up that well.

I love both and am thrilled to be alive to see all these movies and hope that both companies succeed making movies in quality and quantity but I’d wish for more leeway on the DC side from critics. Let’s just look at music: I can’t remember a single theme, score or musical moment in any of the Marvel movies (apart from Songs in Deadpool, Iron Man and Blade) but not scores but I pretty much remember The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman by the music tracks and scores alone.

 

Ohrwurm of the week 30/2016

Being a year older than yesterday. This song encapsulate everything I love about music, hardcore and the people I hold dear! Listen, rock, give your best!

A Ghost Inside suffered from a terrible car crash, they are still recovering but will never be broken. The drummer lost a leg, but they don’t give up, neither should you. Listen! Be unbreakable!

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!