Holy China! Part 1 of 2: Shanghai

I spent one whole week in China after Christmas, over New Year's and what a vastly different world from anywhere else I have been (which, to be fair, hasn't been too many places yet). BUT with that being said, I fell head over heels in love with Shanghai. Started off the trip completely solo and then added more people as the days went on.

I flew in on a Thursday afternoon after a nice little 2 hour flight on Korean Air (perfect experience there too, btw), and followed the directions my hostel had given me to The Bund area (the skyline part of the city). It was all relatively painless - 16 RMB (about 2 bucks) on a bus, and then another 2 bucks for a cab. The only bad part was that it was pouring and just mud was everywhere. I stayed at the UCool International Youth Hostel for about $5 a night and it was a pretty, uh, cool place in all of the senses of the word. It was very big and spacious, the staff was incredibly friendly and English fluent, and the location really was minutes from everything. The travelers that came through were respectful and awesome, but the only downside was the fact that the place is FREEZING. There's a small heater in the room, and big blankets, but it just was NOT warm enough. Bring extra clothing should have been written all over the site. BUT anyway...

Day 1 was kind of a wash... it was pouring and muddy and i was tired so I napped a bit, and then went for a nighttime stroll to see the skyline. However, Clouds were ridiculously low and heavy so there wasn't much to see. I ventured a little bit away and found a nice shopping center for all intents and purposes - the Yu Gardens. I didn't buy anything as much as I just walked around to get the lay of the land...

Day 2 was much better. Woke up late... attempted to go find the Shanghai Museum. However, due to my own miscalculations on a map, I wound up at the Shanghai Natural History Museum instead and was thoroughly disappointed. One of the worst museum experiences ever because the whole place was falling apart, all in chinese, and nothing interesting. It was like walking into a 7th grade science class. So after a disheartening experience I went back to the hostel to regroup, go on line, and reattack the city. Wound up getting an email from a friend from home who lives in Shanghai and we made plans, and I re-ventured out into the unknown. Went to People's Square (Shanghai's version of say, Union Square in New York City, or even Tienneman Square in Beijing). I was approached by some really nice college students from Qing Dao and after some nice conversation they offered to take me to a Tea Festival.

Now, rumor has it that this is a very very popular scam in Shanghai where people take you to some tea, and make you pay an absurd amount. However, I refuse to believe that this is what happened to me, as it was all in my own volition AND there has been email communication since then. Also, authentic Chinese tea and its customs were always something I was particularly interested in. I had everything translated for me, and had 6 amazing kinds of tea, I took home 2 of my favorites, and even got a really nice tea set that changes color and has special meaning behind it. Yes, I may have spent more than I had planned or even wanted to, but the experience was worth it, and I didn't have to buy what I bought. I walked around a bit with my new Chinese friends, wandered around a mall, and then we parted ways.

That evening in Shanghai was my favorite night as I went to Xian Tin Dei to meet my friend for Thai Food, and then headed to 3G (I think that was the name) for some authentic Jazz music - hell the singer was from Harlem, and we chatted her up a bit. We then left, attempted a club, but eventually wound up at the City Diner which happens to have a Blues club underneath it. The best part about the bar? $3 Brooklyn Lagers. Two kids who spent a fair amount of time in Brooklyn took a moment to truly appreciate the good beer fortune.

Day 3 was pretty interesting as I did the Oriental Pearl TV Tower - the biggest tower in Asia, and 3rd largest in the world behind towers in Toronto and Moscow. I've done Canada, now asia, and next up will be moscow, hopefully. After taking the ferry over (I paid 2 RMB so if you go do NOT take the commercial ferries for 30-80RMB). The packages were pretty expensive for the Pearl, but worth it in some cases. I paid 85 RMB (about 11 bucks) to go up to the 2nd highest part of the tower - 269 meters up (About 883 feet) and saw an incredible view of the Huang Po river and the city itself. It also included a History of Shanghai Museum which to me was one of the most interesting things I had done all week. Such a fascinating history as it's a town that was closed off to the world until the late 1800's/early 1900s when the entire western world converged on it and just changed it completely. After watching the sunset over the Shanghai skyline, I called it a night.

Day 4 saw the epic meeting of two friends from college who had flown in from Hong Kong. We saw more Bund walking around, an excellent chinese food lunch, a tour of the Yu Gardens, a Pearl Factory, Jade Buddha Temple, and Nanjing Road. Our tour guide was very entertaining and knowledgeable and taught me a thing or two about Chinese culture. We used Dragon Delights Tour Company, and I thoroughly recommend using them if you EVER go to china. No complaints whatsoever.

And that basically concludes Shanghai... a top notch world city, that is for sure. The three of us got to the train station that evening, and boarded a 12 hour overnight train to Beijing - which will be written about in the next post. Til then... happy travels. ;)
Jenn PeddeTripsComment