My first night in Shanghai I discovered the joys of Nanjing Pedestrian Road—imagine Fifth Avenue meets the 3rd Street Promenade. It’s a great place to people watch if you don’t mind getting harassed by the “Watch/Bag People”.
The “Watch/Bag People” are entrepreneurs who can hone in on a Westerner 100 meters away. Armed with an infinite supply of glossy colored leaflets and a limited knowledge of English, they strike fear into the hearts of passing consumers with two words: “Watch! Bag! Watch! Bag!” There is no utterance or gesture that will convey to them that, no, you do not need “Fancy Watch!” or “Designer Bag!” Although, if you can outrun them, they will change their offering to more seductive goods…”Massage…lady massage…” And if even that fails to grab your attention, you are given the option, in a much smaller voice, of either “Lady sex” or “Sex lady”, which I understand is a type of cookie.
I soon learned to avoid Nanjing Pedestrian Road altogether, in favor of districts like the Bund. But as the Metro stop was right across Nanjing, there was no avoiding its charms. It became a personal game of stealth and cunning to see if I could make it across without being pestered.
And that’s how I came to love Shanghai’s plentiful precipitation and freezing weather. As I crossed Nanjing Road, the rain gave me a chance to pull my hood over my head and blend in with the all-consuming crowd.