Published: June 26th 2012June 25th 2012
We arrived, tired and hungry, in Shanghai on Sunday, June 17. There is an Italian restaurant just next to Humphrey’s hotel so we decided to get some pasta. I had a cheese pasta and it was soo good. Cheeese!! I miss you!!! We then had a relaxing evening just watching some TV.
Monday morning I decided to head out exploring the CBD of Shanghai. I visited some shopping centres, had some local food and noticed a few keys things about Shanghai:
1. There are a LOT of foreigners here. A LOT. There are so many foreigners that in many parts of Shanghai you sort of pause and ask yourself “what country am I in??”
2. There is a serious lack of places to sit. I got myself an iced tea and a pastry and there was nowhere to sit.
(I know this is a weird thing to complain about but I’m a planner. Plus public seating is one of those interesting things you only notice when it’s not there. It’s not that I’ve noticed benches in Beijing. It’s that I haven’t noticed there aren’t benches.)
3. Shanghai is a lot cleaner, sleeker and more
modern than Beijing. Spitting is much rarer, as are split-crotch pants. There are actual toilets almost everywhere – I actually went two whole days without having to squat.
4. There are way more Western chains. The photos tell the story as well but Shanghai has several Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s – something hard to find outside of California let alone the US. There are also several Carl’s Jr’s (aka Hardee’s in some parts of the US). Though I ate at one in the Nanjing train station and it’s not nearly as good as in the states.
Monday afternoon Humphrey had to get some medical test done for his work visa so I joined him on a trip out to the suburbs to see what they are like. I got to wander around some pretty exciting places and see Chinese-style gated communities – complete with barbed-wire fencing! And just when you find yourself wondering what country you’re in, out comes a pond with a couple guys fishing. It was really fun, though I feel you have to be an urban planner to truly appreciate the walk I took. Which was complete with pedestrian unfriendly design! Of
course the people living out here never walk, its totally auto-oriented. Very interesting to see. Again, seems to be inspired by the American suburbs.
Monday evening, we headed out to the Bund – the most recognizable attraction in Shanghai. It’s a great pedestrian area where you have stunning views of the Shanghai skyline. The Bund itself is lined by European architecture. The old colonial powers each built their own buildings to manage shipping in the city. Shanghai was a major port (well, still is) and has a long history of European influence – much more so than land-locked Beijing.
After the Bund, we went for some Cantonese food. Father’s day had been the day before so I had to have congee in honour of my Dad. Plus, Cantonese food is awesome.
Tuesday morning I went for a stroll out to what was for me the #2 attraction in Shanghai (after the Bund) – the Urban Planning Exhibition Center!!!! It was sooo awesome! I learned a lot about Shanghai, its history and its urban design. Shanghai has lots of museums but I decided to pass up all but this one. I can
An old building
they're rare in SH
see Chinese historical artifacts anywhere but this is a unique place. I even sprung for the audio guide though I wouldn't recommend it. The horrible accents made the word "hall" sound like "whore" which brings new light to the transportation hall... Anyways,the highlight of the center is the giant 3D model of Shanghai. It’s really, really cool. After the museum, I wandered around Shanghai some more and went into some shops to check out some awesome Chinese fashion. I then grabbed my gym clothes and went to visit yet another classmate in China – my fellow Master’s of Planning at USC student and friend, Dave. He’s doing an internship in Shanghai. Actually both of us were accepted to both the Shanghai and Beijing internships but we chose differently. Anyways, his internship doesn’t provide housing so he found himself an apartment in Shanghai – and it has a gym. So we went and worked out. I have gotten out of shape. It’s not good. But working out felt sooo good. From there, we went to a random Chinese restaurant with no English and no pictures on the menu. But we got by with the help of some friendly Chinese people and
right in downtown!
by pointing at other people’s plates. “Yige!!” “Liangge mifan!” The key words of ordering in Chinese. (“One of those!” “Two rices!”)
Dave ordered some stomach which apparently he really likes. I had only one piece and didn’t like it. He said it wasn’t very good but he ate way more than me. Anyways, he was powerfully sick the next day so I’m very glad I didn’t like it.
After dinner, we headed to a super ex-pat-y area and met up with Humphrey for a few drinks. Dave super randomly ran into a friend from high school who’s working in Shanghai. So many foreigners here! The bar was really fun but man do you ever get that feeling that Shanghai is full of foreigners. In Beijing it seems there are always a few Chinese people wherever you go but this bar was entirely non-Chinese. They were having a trivia night which reminded me of Monday nights back in BJ. This was a much harder trivia – but Dave’s friend and his team actually won! Clearly we need them on Mondays…
Wednesday morning I decided to cross the river and visit the Shanghai
skyline. It was fun, I walked around and saw the famous Pearl of the Orient tower up close. I decided it wasn’t worth the trip to the top (180 RMB or about $25) since the tower is the best part of the view but it was fun walking around. Lots of construction on this side of the river – everything is much newer. I visited a GINORMOUS shopping center and had to do a double-take when I saw a ROOTS. Like THE Roots from Canada. I walked in and was just blown away. Roots in Shanghai! The prices were exorbitant of course. But it was hilarious.
Wednesday afternoon I headed to Yuyuan. There is supposed to be a garden there but I honestly never found it. Instead, I walked around the area which is full of old Shikumen houses – like Beijing’s hutongs but the Shanghai version. It was suuuper touristy and crowded but it was really pretty. I kept walking and ended up leaving the touristy area where I walked down some random alleys to see how people live. A highlight was a number of vendors selling all sorts of live animals! There were geese right
on the street, crickets in tiny little containers, little bunnies…it was a sight to see! I stood and watched a vendor grab a rooster and tie his wings behind his back so she could weigh him without him flying away. So interesting!
Wednesday evening, Humphrey and I went for traditional Shanghai food. One thing we had was some dumplings with soup in them. They were really good. There were other good dishes too like this cake thing and some noodles. I should really take more pictures of my food/write down names...
Humphrey had been told by a friend that the Marriott had a really nice rooftop bar so we decided to go there next. Humphrey had clearly been lied to because the place was lame and had a view of just a random part of Shanghai. The nice view of the skyline was blocked off. We quickly left – but not without grabbing some free snacks which were all around the bar.
Thursday morning I went wandering around Shanghai. As some of you may know, aimless wandering is one of my favourite tourist activities. Unfortunately, Shanghai makes that really, really difficult
Only Minority Know
get your apartment know before the majority knows too!
by having a confusing, winding street pattern. I miss Beijing’s grid!! It also doesn’t help that the map I got from the Hilton was missing some streets. (It also also doesn’t help that the Hilton Shanghai’s idea of an English map is actually in Spanish. The guy kept trying to convince me it was in English too. “Bu shi Yingwen!” He wouldn’t believe me that it wasn’t English. I’m gonna convince a Chinese guy that Korean is Chinese just to spite the concierge…)
Anyways, I eventually reached the place I was hoping to wander aimlessly to – the Shanghai Film Arts Center, one of the venues of the SHANGHAI INTERNATAION FILM FESTIVAL which of course was happening while I was there. Ya SIFF!! I do love film festivals. Anyways, I saw a Chinese film. It took place in Zhejiang province which was cool because I was just there, and it was a period piece from the 1600s around the time of the fall of the Ming Dynasty. The story followed a woman born into prostitution. She is first bought by this man who educates her but when he dies his family gets rid of her and she
is forced back into brothels. But she’s a budding poet thanks to her education. Anyways, a lot of the movie was in poetry making it hard to follow. She marries this old guy who’s also a poet. It’s quite sweet. Then some stuff happens that I didn’t quite follow, then I fell asleep a bit because it was hard to follow, then the old man dies and the ending is really confusing. But the point is it was visually stunning. And I learned a bit about prostitution in China. Like how if you’re a prostitute and you get married, you have to do it at night. Though our heroine defies custom and demands to be married in the daytime. The costumes and sets were all amazing – really, really pretty. A man came up to me as I was walking out of the theatre and asked me what I thought. I said it was interesting. He asked if I found it hard to follow and I said honestly it was. He sympathized. I do love film festival people. He’s a director and producer in Shanghai. He was very friendly.
I met up with Dave after the movie.
He also had a rooftop patio recommended to him by a friend. I was skeptical but this one ended up being an excellent recommendation. It’s on the roof of the Captain’s hostel and while it’s only 6 floors up, it has great views of the Shanghai skyline. I recommend visiting it if you’re in Shanghai! Plus they have great happy hour deals which allow you to see the skyline go from day to night.
Friday was a lazy day – it had been a busy week! Humphrey and I went for a great brunch then went to an electronics mall. Then we watced a movie. Since Friday was a National holiday, being lazy was definitely the way to be!
Friday evening we went to see Humphrey’s co-worker DJ at a nearby club. It was a pretty cool place – called The Shelter and apparently it was an actual shelter in the past. Dave joined us. And the DJ was really good. It was a great final night in Shanghai.
So I know that was a long entry but just some final thoughts on Shanghai – it’s definitely cleaner, prettier and more
comfortable than Beijing. But it’s also more expensive, less Chinese, and has way more homeless people (I guess Beijing’s homeless were cleared away for the Olympics). There are more people trying to sell you stuff. I would say it feels more like what I expected China to be like. If I were to move to China for a longer period of time, I would definitely prefer to be in Shanghai. But for this short-term stay, I’m glad I’m in Beijing. It’s a bit more rough around the edges but I like that for a few months :)
Stories from the weekend coming very soon! Appologies for the delay - as you can tell it's been a busy week!
There are more photos below