We took a sleeper train out of Beijing to Moganshan, our next stop where we stayed for just one night. This turned out to be a good thing, as it was the only stop on the trip that everyone thought was wasted.

We were supposed to have a trek to and swim in a lagoon on the first day; however, someone (not a Dragon Tripper) died there earlier this year and the government has banned people from swimming there. This was our only ‘unmissable’ (free) activity in Moganshan – we even had to pay for use of the (unheated spring water) pool.

Pretty? Yes. Cold as a husky’s testicles? Also yes.

There was no replacement activity for the lagoon trek, so we all felt a bit cheated. The village was also very small, so there weren’t even any sights to see. We all agreed that we’d rather have just skipped this stop for more time in Shanghai.

In comparison to Beijing, Shanghai feels like China’s real capital. It is much more modern; the people are friendlier and more used to seeing foreigners; and it is colourful. Bright signs and neon lights are everywhere, which looks incredible at night, as we saw from a great vantage point on our second night. This was when we went to the top of the Hyatt Hotel to relax in a hot tub while drinking cocktails and watch the Shanghai skyline light up. Backpacking is hard work!

The Yu Gardens were another highlight: the only remnant of the Ming Dynasty in Shanghai.they very pretty and hold four dragon statues – which could have caused problems for the rich man who had them built, as only the emperor was allowed to have use dragons. He solved this by chipping toes off of his statues! According to Chinese mythology, dragons have five toes, so anything that superficially looks like a dragon but has a different number of toes is really just a big lizard.

More culture came in the form of the Propaganda Museum (a private collection, where we saw first-hand how the Chinese had been indoctrinated to hate the West) and the French Concession, a very European area of the city.

It couldn’t all be arts and culture, of course: Shanghai has a thriving nightlife, and we went on ‘Asia’s biggest bar crawl’ on Saturday night. Three bars, one club and a lot of free drinks.

The group held about 30 people. We began the night in Gatsby’s (no prizes for guessing the theme), moving on to a beer bar and then an outdoor pub.

To this day, we have no idea where the hat came from.

After I returned from a (by that point very necessary) trip to the men’s room in the third bar, I found that the bus had left without me – thanks, Nick, for telling the organisers that I was there! Caught a taxi and rejoined the group at Fusion.

Fusion was the most packed club I’ve ever been to. The music was chart tunes mixed into club tracks – a welcome change from the trance and electro that’s favoured all across China.

It was impossible to move inside without touching someone in a way that would see you arrested in the street, and trying to reach the bar without pulling a Crocodile Dundee was an exercise in futility. Dancing, too, was more a case of trying to avoid accidentally impregnating anyone. Needless to say, it was great fun and I was one of those who made it through till 4am.

Next up: trains, tea and a typhoon.


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