This Is What This Is
There is a bus tour company called Bus Tour B that runs a tour circuit around People’s Square, the Bund, and Xintiandi. There are several stops along a few different routes, and tourists pay a flat fee at the beginning to have access to these buses. They can get out at the stops at their leisure and then hop on the next bus that comes by. Along with the normal buses that run the circuit every 10 minutes or so is the recently launched Barbie Dream Bus — the Barbie Dream Bus! — which is a Barbie-themed double-decker tour bus tricked out in pink plush finery, a Barbie doll installation centerpiece, Barbie photographic memorabilia, Barbie-themed video displays, a cabaret-style make-up dresser and mirror, and a surly, chain-smoking bus driver to ahem… drive the experience home!
This is the promotional text from the website run through Google Translate which encapsulates the experience better that I ever could.
Dream Bus will bring what wonderful experience?
Interactive experience: want to dream like a star in general star shine? Dream Bus in the road will start a series of "scouting" sea election, if you dream bus has a fanatical love of the hero, you want to have the courage and wisdom of the hero, please be brave to show, maybe you are our next Station Barbie Princess, the next stop Forest Prince! Standing confidently under the spotlight, stick to their dreams, you are the best!
Let those last words bloom in our minds as we ride the Dream Bus to the Bund together, my friends.
So you get your ticket at the booth right in front of the—
You have to go get your ticket from the booth on Nanjing Pedestrian Street. Never mind! It looks like our journey has already begun! Along with the tickets, the ticketing booth gives you a handy dandy map of People Square, Xintiandi, and the Bund, which highlights the highlighted culturally wonderful highlights along the way, and a set of earbuds to access the audio tour that runs with the bus route.
Of course I was quite looking forward to the experience and arrived very early. I was actually the first one on the bus, eagerly anticipating the arrival of my fellow passengers. Oh what adventures we would share!
When people strolled up to the bus clutching their tickets they were greeted by my friendly face welcoming them at the window…
As it turns out, as circumstance would have it, no one else decided to get on the bus for whatever reason at that time and I had it all to myself!
Pulling away from the curb in People's Square I was instantly struck with the authenticity of the experience, which is to say we hit traffic immediately and ground to a halt. But that gave us opportunity to further take in and enjoy our interesting mode of transportation. This is the make-up counter, installed where the ticket seller person normally is on the city bus.
The tour audio is supposed to be available in eight (8), 7 +1 = 8, different languages to accommodate Barbie travelers from all over the world. China, the US, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Korean, and Japan. Amazing. When we plugged it in though, it was only available in just the one:
00000 —— 00000 — — 00000 — — 00000
Tried a few different headphone jacks at different seats to try to get some sort of audio out of it. No luck. After 10 minutes of screwing around with the headphones, I looked up at the bus driver at the front of the bus who was peering at me furtively in the rear-view mirror the whole time, eyes slimming to a suspicious leer. We locked gazes for an instant and he communicated the following with just one look. You probably know this look:
“Yeah, that shit is definitely not working. Oh yeah. Yeah, we know. We know about it. Them shits don't work and they will not be working anytime soon. No, not on this trip and probably not for the next several. Trips. We don’t know. No one knows. There is nothing to be done. Don’t even bring it up with me. Don’t even. There is nothing I can do. There is nothing anyone can do. I don’t even know who I would ask about it. So don’t even initiate the conversation. Don’t begin the conversation. This will just cause us both massive frustration. Guy, man, I'm telling you that SHIT IS BROKEN AND DON’T ASK. MAN, DON’T DO IT. NO. MOTHERFU-”
All this with one two-second look. You know that look you sometimes get? Amazing how expressive the eyes can be. Alas. Here’s another Barbie.
And so the tour continued like that for a while or so. We eased out of People's Square and on to that main street of the Bund, cultural landmarks and historical points of interest sliding by just beyond the pink curtains. It was pretty much like any other bus tour of Shanghai except that we were partaking from inside a giant labia with wheels.
Every so often the bus would stop to ostensibly pick up more tourists but no one ever got on. I keep looking out the windows to greet them ...
...but no one ever opted to embark. Their loss!
And thus, our only company on the stops was the chain-smoking bus driver. Who appeared to be quite the salty fellow. Like if a hangover gained sentience and came out into the world to ooze a bit of foul-smelling misery on us all. On a few of the stops, I’d get off the bus to keep him company. He’d managed a few pained puffs on a cigarette, look at the sky, flick the butt into the air, and trudge back on the bus, giving me a resigned look.
"C'mon, let’s get this big pink queef of a bus on over to Xintiandi already."
Do you have to ask? I’ve never not recommended something in Shanghai before — oh you think I’m going to start now? Not today, my friend. Not on my watch.
I’m a Barbie girl. In a Barbie world. I give this bus tour 5 stars and emphatically recommend it to one and all.
(And to young children, of course, who should be, I feel, instilled with unrealistic body and beauty expectations along with a sense of wonder about Shanghai's architectural heritage. Two birds. One stone. Great value.)
One thing: Got a bit sketched out when we passed a school with a bunch of children milling around out front, shuffling their feet, waiting for their parents to pick them up. The Barbie Bus pull up next to them at the lights and it’s just me on there looking out at them. We start exchanging these weird glances. Like I must have looked like the Nikola Tesla of sexual predators in that moment. Just using the most advanced, ingenious technology available to lure children into my web of doom.
Oh you’re still using a white van? Nah man I GOT A WHOLE BARBIE BUS. KIDS. THEY LOVE IT.
Heyyyyy your mom sent me to pick you up, Shanghai.
Everything's gonna be juuuuust fine.
The Logistics of Getting on the Barbie Bus
Here's the website of the company. It's got an English option. For the blond haired and blue eyed.
You get on at Xinshijie at People Square, right outside the People's Square station, Exit 2. You'll see this thing, trust me. You can get your ticket from the booth in front of the buses. Unless you booked online, which means you have to go the booth right at the start of Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Street. The tour lasts for one hour. The Barbie bus is departing at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 3.30pm, and 5.15pm. Tickets are 140rmb for the lower deck (more Barbie stuff); and 110rmb for the upper deck (less Barbie stuff). That's during their trial run. Then the prices jump to 200rmb and 160rmb respectively. Good times!