Welcome to Shanghai! If you missed it we were in Beijing prior to this and then went to Xi’an for a cheeky day trip and flew with Shanghai Airlines here. Sorry in advance as this post is a little bit of a shambles in terms of order and organisation haha, Shanghai was mostly spent hungover in bed after getting served fake alcohol (watch out). Shanghai is the most populous city proper in the world and full to the brim with technology, good eats and lovely treats. We were there for about three days and hit up some tourist spots and hidden gems (fortunately we knew someone there so got a lil insiders look). Although it is a huge city like Beijing, the two have completely different vibes. Instantly Shanghai felt more international and the variety of people we saw on the streets went from business men to fashionistas. The air quality felt so much better and the whole place was clean, put together and welcoming. I’m not sure if it was just the areas we explored but streets were wide, people seemed happy and manners were a pretty popular thing here (always nice to see). Out of the two I could easily see myself living there and adjusting to that way of life.
One of my favourite spots (that we actually visited twice) was the Bund. It’s the waterfront/promenade that surrounds the dividing river. On one side you get the stunning view of that notable Shanghai skyline that includes the Oriental Pearl Tower (the circle guy on the left) and Shanghai World Financial Centre (the bottle opener looking building on the right). The tall guy you can see is the Shanghai Tower who is the second tallest building the world but I’m sure has many accolades to his name haha. From that side you can see a ton of tourists glaring out and financial buildings. The Bund stretches out for a while and the walk is really lovely on a sunny day. No doubt there will be a bunch of tourists getting in your shot with a gazillion selfie sticks but if you’re patient you can find a hole to snap some private pics. I managed to persuade the guys to go back again at night to see all the buildings lit up but unfortunately the fog wasn’t on our side. We managed to see a little light show but none of the tippy tops of the towers. The mist though was very magical and in a way I’m glad I got to witness it.
For breakfast we headed into the city and the Jing’an Temple area (more below). I can’t remember the name of this place but it was a vegetarian spot over several floors. We ate on the first floor which was canteen style and I went for a Chinese breakfast of soup, rice, sautéed vegetables and a bunch of peanuts. It was a change from my usual western delights of coco pops and porridge but I don’t think I could eat this much for breakfast everyday.
The Jing’an Temple, aka Temple of Peace and Tranquility, is a very cool spot to check out. It’s located right in the centre of the city and therefore surrounded by skyscrapers and commercial shops. I personally loved the contrast between the two types of architecture and snapped quite a few shots with these tall boys peeking out in the back. From there we walked to the Jade Buddha Temple which was having a little refurbishment. The stroll between the two is very pleasant and you go from built up Shanghai to slightly more residential. The temples differ in size (the latter is way bigger) but the decoration and sculptures are equally impressive.
A cool place to check out is M50. It’s an area/district that houses a lot of artist studios and galleries which you can wander round and explore. We ended up mooching about here popping between different shows and having coffee. There was some kind of photography class happening in the centre area as we saw a bunch of paps taking shots of this woman (they even asked to photograph us as being white is a very foreign thing). I really enjoyed getting to see this ‘trendy’ side of China and witness hipsters in their element. It has a real Soho/Shoreditch vibe to it with graffiti walls and smoothies galore.
Right downtown is the Yu Garden and we weren’t too sure what to expect here. You approach the entrance through a maze of markets (that sell typical knick knack souvenirs). As the market area was so elaborate I really thought the gardens were going to be small and basic but boy oh boy were they extensive! It is a large and glorious Chinese garden complete with stone work, several koi ponds, waterfalls and pagoda architecture. I love plants and greenery and this place was an oasis amongst a haggling hell. There are secret passageways through rocks, stepping stones and the whole garden had a real explorer vibe to it. It was a highlight for me and getting to see a turtle plop himself into the pond was the icing on the cake.
We went pretty wild in Shanghai and hit up bars, clubs and of course karaoke. It’s a great city to go dancing in and let your hair down. Everyone is very friendly, English is easy to get by with and the prices are pretty reasonable. I’d also recommend doing some shopping here as they have every store you can imagine. From here I went with Bryan to the west of China and had a more country/rural trip. It was great getting to witness city life but by this point I was ready for some r&r.