Day 3 of funemployment and time is going by too fast! I’ve loved having time to work out and cook, although I’m not getting to spend as much time studying for my exemption exams as I’d like because I’ve had plans every evening. I’ll be traveling to Puerto Rico tomorrow for an extended weekend, so perhaps I’ll get some work done on the plane rides (JetBlue for the win!), but I’m not planning on having much down time when I’m there since I’ll be partying it up with my girlfriends! I’m back next Tuesday morning, and then I have a little over a day of downtime before M and I head off to our (slightly early) anniversary trip to the PCH. So I don’t have very much time at all before the whirlwind of school starts!
In an effort to maintain my productivity until then, here is blogpost #2 in 2 days.
I flew very late from Cebu to Shanghai at the end of June. As soon as I reached Shanghai, I could tangibly feel the differences between China and places like Taiwan. I’m not able to get international data, and my iPhone is locked, so I’m completely reliant on WiFi when I travel…which isn’t great in Shanghai because every WiFi login requires a Chinese mobile number verification. I was staying with my friend LP that night, and was pretty worried about how to contact her, especially since I was arriving in Shanghai so late (around 11:30 PM, so by the time I got through immigration and security, it was past midnight).
Thankfully I speak functional Chinese, and so was able to show my taxi driver LP’s address, and he had no issues plugging it into his GPS (this was the last time this happened, because in subsequent taxi rides in various parts of China, including Beijing and Shanghai, I always found my taxi driver to have a hard time understanding where I wanted to go…) I gained confidence in my spoken Mandarin and was able to ask my driver to borrow his phone to call LP, and was thus able to be reunited in the wee hours of the morning. Thank you LP for staying up to let me in!! It was cool staying in a traditional house (I think they are called “lilongs”, similar to “hutongs” in Beijing)
The next day, I wanted to go out of the city since I knew when M made it he would want to see the main tourist sights in Shanghai. I chose to take a day trip to ZhuJiaJiao, an ancient water town about an hour away from Shanghai by public transportation. M and I also took a day trip to SuZhou. Since I took way too many photos, and these towns are not truly Shanghai, I’m putting together a separate blog post for these places!
Shanghai – Tourist Days
On the third day, Michael finally arrived at night! We mainly used the subway system to get by. We bought single ride tokens each time; although there was an “English” version, it really is beneficial to know a little Chinese or at least be familiar with how things look in Chinese characters. Also, at each subway station you have to go through security and get bags scanned. Lastly, transfers between train lines within the same station sometimes were REALLY far apart…so keep that in mind when planning travel.
A few of the things we did:
Propaganda Museum: Literally in some guy’s basement, this cool exhibit showcases old Chinese propaganda posters. We bought some replicas for our house!
Shanghai City Museum: This was under the Oriental Pearl Tower, so we were able to take some photos in “PuDong” of the tower on our way over. It was a pretty cool wax museum of the city and showed some interesting parts of Shanghai, but it was a bit less informative than most city museums I’d visited. From PuDong to NanJing Road (across the river), we took the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. While I certainly would not take the tunnel just for the tunnel, if you’re okay spending money to take a cable car underwater, there is a cool/interesting “extra” light show that you’re transported through.
Walk around French Concession and shopping malls: There are so many shopping malls! We loved the French Concession though, with all the tree-lined streets and small boutiques. The amount of shopping in Shanghai amazed me.
Nanjing Road: Walking around at night is a beautiful experience; it’s like Times Square but much cleaner. If you go north or south of the main pedestrian road, there are small hole-in-the-wall restaurants to whet your appetite, in between shopping at the luxury stores and tourist shops on the street. And of course, east of NanJing Road gives you the best view of the Shanghai/PuDong skyline. I think the Shanghai skyline looks especially cool because all the skyscrapers are different shapes and sizes, rather than all being one type of architecture. We took the small tram along the pedestrian road for only 10 RMB back and forth, to view the lights and give our feet a rest.
Yu Garden and City God Temple: A garden in the middle of the city, with shops in the surrounding areas selling Shanghai trinkets. It was super crowded on a rainy weekend morning!
Food: So much food! Enough said. We had so many different cuisines while we were here – thank you LP for taking me to such varied and amazing places! I tried Yunan, Hunan, Shanghainese, and XinJiang food, among others, in only 4 short days!
I hadn’t visited China in many years, and especially not as a tourist, so this was the first time I was able to properly spend time in China without having my parents as a language crutch. I found that I had a hard time getting around only because I didn’t have the proper technology – i.e. stable WiFi or international internet, + VPN. Plus, most Chinese people use WeChat for everything now, including paying for EVERYTHING. I think if I were able to use WeChat and all its capabilities given for people with Chinese bank accounts, I would find China super, super convenient. For now, the rest of the world is lagging in technology to China (or perhaps China can start opening up their technology to be more tourist-friendly? I would’ve loved to be able to check out some bikes to bike around the city – one night LP and I biked from her office to our dinner, and it was magical). Shanghai is super Western, it felt like in many places you could get by as an expat and it would feel almost the same as living in NYC, but there are still little shops and restaurants to remind you on the city’s history. Also, for a city as populated as Shanghai, I found it surprisingly not crowded – I had no issue biking, and the subway systems were always efficient and not cramped. I suppose the city is more spread out than a place like NYC, and the government is able to create better infrastructure without as much debate as it would take in the US. I could absolutely see myself spending some time here as an expat (my friends’ lives seem pretty amazing), if I could make peace with my conflicted Asian-American identity more (I won’t get into that now, but in essence, I think I have a hard time identifying as Chinese, and most local people in China would simply consider myself pure Chinese. Too much to unpack here.) Either way – it’s a beautiful, amazing city; next time we’ll visit Shanghai Disneyland!