Shanghai Call Centre, aka Magic number #962288 – free, 24/7). Most foreigners, yours truly included, call them from taxis, when they don’t have a print-out so the driver can be told properly how to get to a venue. They speak: Mandarin, English, French, Russian, German, Japanese, Italian and Korean.
Five, true, stories.
1. Good morning, I’m standing on Yanping lu/Xinzha lu and want to go to this address. Do I turn right or left? Ok, hold the line while I’m walking, please. Five minutes later: Hello, are you still there? I’m standing in front a Family Markt and still cannot see this number, where do I go now? (Girl explains with endless patience and kindly gives me some useful info.)
2. Hello, I’m in a restaurant in Qibao and none of the 15 waiters, standing above me now, seem to understand what I’m trying to say. Could you please, explain to one of them I’d like some soy sauce with my noodles, please? (I hand over my phone and the girl on the other side of the line explains. I get my soy sauce.)
4. ( 2 am, Saturday) Hieee..cke, I’m on the Bund, where are the best…errr…hiee…ck…after parties in this area tonight? (Several options are given in a very polite manner)
5. Last week, and this is where the twist comes as I think this touched a nerve; Timi and I decided to give Shanghai’s rainbow world a go and we explore the gay scene a bit:
Hello, excuse me, I’d like to go to a lesbian bar. Are there any ladies’ night or special events taking place this evening?
(After a long minute of silence): NO, ma’am, I’m sorry we have no information about this.
Sure, no problem. In that case, can you please, just tell me some, or any, addresses of GLBT places in Shanghai?
(The firm answer comes at once): NO, ma’am, I’m sorry we have no information about this.
So, there’s no gay bar open ton…
Sorry, we have NO information about this! (Waits until I say good-bye and hang up).
Bueno, while it’s slowly getting out in the open, the general perception is that “there are no homosexuals” in China. True, there are gay bars and a growing number of local activists (both men and women) but it is still hushed up all around big time.
The popular venues gravitate towards the former French Concession Area, on and around Huaihai Zhong lu/Hengshan lu: Eddy’s Bar, Shanghai Studio, Transition Lounge. More info: http://www.utopia-asia.com)