Previously I had sort of written off going to Shanghai. I love the western parts of China, being close to the mountains, the clean air and the million yaks. But then when Christmas started looming closer I just really wanted to go somewhere western and somewhere easy to travel in. I used to skyscanner to find where I could fly to from Nanchong, found some ridiculously cheap tickets to Shanghai and I didn’t think twice before booking a flight.
I’m so glad because I loved Shanghai. Except for the part where it was about 15 degrees colder than Nanchong, but it was still awesome.
I’ll be very honest, I nerded out the whole time I was in Shanghai. It was so COOL. My nerdiness began when I got on maglev train from the airport to the city center. It was went 300KM an hour. It actually uses magnetic technology so that it hovers over the tracks. I may have read a lot about it online and filmed the lights whipping past the window…. I’m really cool like that.
My first day I set off to the people’s square to search for the modern art museum which I never found, but I did wander into the Shanghai museum since it was free. It was a huge place filled with all sorts of aspects of Chinese culture… which I breezed through in a cool 35 minutes (No offense to my Chinese readers, your culture is amazing but I’m less than enthralled by calligraphy and ancient furniture).
I wandered around Nanjing Street, an ancient famous shopping street which at first I was just observing rather detachedly but they had a Hershey store and a Sephora which are always fun and there was a crazy long line to get into the Nike store, so I naturally assumed Yao Ming was in there and kept trying to see in (the guy was signing autographs was like 3ft too short to be Yao).
The end of the road led to the Bund and there is always something amazing about seeing things in real life that you’ve always seen pictures of. The Oriental Pearl is the symbol of modern China and it really does make the city skyline amazing. I walked up one way, found my dinner, and then walked back down while it was dark. I took approximately half a billion photos because it was so cool and the lights kept changing.
Day two began with a trip to the Shanghai aquarium which is something that’s advertised for kids, but again… I’m a nerd so I went anyways. I had read online that a lot of people were disturbed by the Chinese parents banging on the glass, and while I love Chinese people, the parents did bang on the glass of all the tanks which I can’t imagine is good for them. luckily I had gotten there early so it wasn’t too crowded.
Shanghai has the longest underwater tunnel in the world, but I was pretty impressed with the Jellyfish exhibit. The tank was from ceiling to floor and music and lights gave the whole thing a mesmerizing feeling. In fact I felt the way I do when I take too much cold medicine, but in a good way. The aquarium does a pretty job of educating people about endangered sharks and the need to protect them. Caring about conservation and animals is a pretty new concept in China so it was encouraging to see them trying to get kids excited to protect sharks.
You can’t go to Shanghai without going up one of the skyscrapers. I got on the elevator and up 492 feet to the top of the world, stepped out… and my stomach totally rebelled. Its very unnerving to go from looking up at skyscapers to looking down at them in a just a few minutes. Luckily a few deep breaths made my stomach calm down and it was pretty amazing to look down at such a massive city, even if it was bit smoggy. They had tons of information about the building and maintenance of such high skyscrapers… and while everyone was taking selfies I was the nerd reading all the info. I did think it was pretty cool to see the window cleaners. I can’t imagine doing that for a living.
I found wandering around that district to be pretty entertaining. The whole area was so clean and it felt so different from the china I know. I’m used to streets filled with people, areas where every sort of snack imaginable is sold. On the streets of nanchong people are always playing games, cooking meals, drinking tea,
spitting, dancing…. but this area felt so different and its hard to reconcile it to being China.
My final day began with a trip to the Yuyuan Gardens. It’s supposed to be a highlight of the city, but I almost skipped it since I’ve seen a great deal of gardens at this point. Still I figured I’d give it a whirl and I’m really glad I did. It’s a surprisingly large complex and since I got there 10 minutes after it opened, I basically had the place to myself. It was the part of China I find magical, where every turn brings a new surprising new view. There were shafts of lights streaming through wherever you looked and I find it so fascinating the amount of thought that goes into creating that kind of design. It was so open that it was hard to believe I was in a city of 23 million people. While the city was certainly not that large when it was built, but China has a long history of creating beautiful spaces in the middle of cities.
After that I set off to the French Concession which was pretty lovely. It was crazy to see the French architecture with a definite Chinese flair. The one main area had a Christmas fair. They were selling cups of hot chocolate with a serious helping of whiskey added to it, which was nice because basically everything else was massively out of my budget. Again it was hard to reconcile the place to being in China.
I ended my night at a bar with an amazing view. It seemed pretty depressing to go to a bar alone on Christmas eve, but luckily I met two other foreign teachers and we traded stories from our respective provinces and it was nice to have some company.
I felt like this trip was just what I needed. I haven’t left Sichuan since September and I needed an escape to somewhere. Being far from home on the holidays isn’t fun, but its impossible to have a pity party when you’re exploring a beautiful place. Honestly I had originally planned out seeing a few sites and mostly just chilling out, but again, the city was so interesting. I felt like I could just wander around forever taking it all in.
Sadly last night, on New Years Eve there was accident on the bund which resulted in 36 deaths. It hits very close to home after having been there so recently and I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been for the people there and the families who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.