Trip Start Sep 03, 2011
54Trip End Jun 04, 2012
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If you are a grey, forty-something bloke and alone in Shanghai you're an easy mark.
Yesterday morning, Hannah came down with a stomach bug and seeing that I had developed a collection of wonderfully ornate blisters on both feet I stayed at the hotel with her while Tina and the boys did their own thing.
When Hannah finally fell asleep I decided to go look for some more comfortable shoes and being so close to Nanjing Road East I hobbled up there.
That's when I discovered that if you are a man with a family, you will be offered one set of goodies by street sellers, but quite a different -- sexier -- one if you are a man alone.
So after about a dozen offers of "sexy massage" and "sexy whatever you need" one young man recognised that my look of desperation and barely suppressed pain stemmed from my feet and not from an altitude three feet higher. "Shoes? You want shoes?"
So I followed him down the back allies and through dark lanes and finally through a double locked door into a room where the walls were lined with sneakers. Of course, they had nothing my size so one of the ladies did a runner, looking for size 45 sneakers from all the neigbours and i sat a chatted with the two who remained. Part of the conversation was a little bit like this:
"I don't like the ones who ask me if I want a masage."
"Ahh, for girls? Masagee Masagee? They chuckled.
"No. I don't like it."
"We chinese are very poor."
"No good. Makes me mad."
"Make you mad?"
"I love my family."
They talked together in chinese for a moment and then the lady spoke.
"You are good man. Many men not good. Take their money."
"Yeah. I thought so."
"This is a smuggle shop. No good for you."
So I left. No pressure to buy, nothing. The young man took me back out into the street and showed my the stalls to get the best mantou (there was aline-up around the block). I gave him a packet of herbal lozenges and he said goodbye.
Strange, I think.
I hobbled back to the hotel.
Hannah recovered quickly. Samuel is sick now. Poor kid.