A reflection of Shanghai, China
Shanghai (上海市) is the largest city by population in the world... which makes sense, because it's one incredible city!
As our plane sat above Shanghai, we were surrounded by blue skies. That was until we descended in through the thick cloud of smog that lay above the city's skyline. The landscape said it all, as we travelled on the train toward the city, there sat a small farm housing an old couple hoeing at the ground. There, only meters above them, a plane flies by knocking their hats off their heads. A few moments later the landscape changes to dilapidated buildings still housing families, with sheets sitting where walls once where. Another change, countless apartment buildings mimicking the other, unable to see where one ends and the other begins.
Welcome to China, I thought to myself.
Shanghai was the perfect introduction to China. I was instantly head-over-heels!
Once we had dumped our bags after our sticky 10 hour transit, we had a much needed shower and left the hostel to explore. We were eager to take in as much of Shanghai as we could. We were also having major cravings for Chinese food, naturally.
Our first impression of Shanghai was busy late night shopping with neon lights and locals everywhere, street vendors trying to make a buck, and huge colonial buildings. There was this strange juxtaposition of new China growing around the poor locals attempting to fit in. Houses were falling apart, electrical lines were everywhere, scooters were duct-taped together, the streets were families kitchens. All while the wealthy spent money on H&M and Forever21.
With our bellies rumbling, we went in search for food. We stumbled upon a restaurant that had been recommended to us. Our first authentic Chinese meal was various plates of veggies and rice. Absolute perfection! In fact, we loved this restaurant so much we were back the next night, after struggling to find vegetarian food.
There's nothing quite like Shanghai's cityscape. Our first day in Shanghai started by The Bund naturally. With filling-less buns in our bellies (we attempted to order custard and ended with absolutely-freaking-nothing dangit!), we took in the smog filled cityscape. By the Bund sits huge colonial buildings facing the other side of the river, were modern skyscrapers reach for new heights.
From there we attempted to make our way to the Yuyuan Garden, before being stopped by two seemingly lovely English speaking Chinese. We soon figured out how easy it was to get conned in Shanghai. Although, with out wits about us, we knew what was happening and politely excused ourselves before we were forced into a tea-room (more on this later). After that we became very aware of it, and were approached to be taken advantage of every 100 metres. It was absolutely astonishing!
But we were in Shanghai, nothing was going to bring us down! Although we had been lured off course, we were lucky enough to stumble upon the City God Temple, the first of many temples we would experience during our time in China. And boy, was it a beautiful experience. We spent what felt like a while, wandering around, people watching. It was truly fascinating.
The City God Temple is located within old Shanghai, an array of streets lined with beautiful old buildings – exactly what you expect from exploring China. Here we found our way to the Yuyuan Bazaar, full of Chinese tourists enjoying their day surrounded by history and food. This then lead to the Yuyuan Garden, 30 yuan later we were transported far away from the city. The garden architecture and landscape design is breathtakingly beautiful! There's nothing I've ever experienced like it before. If it were possible to live there, I would make it happen!
The next day we got lost in People’s Square garden in attempt to find the Shanghai Museum. It turns out, China likes to add under and overpasses for pedestrians to move around busy streets. And if you don’t know you’re looking for them, everything gets rather confusing! After finally stumbling upon the Shanghai Museum, we took our time wandering around taking in what minimal information was offered in English. That said, the museum was fascinating!
From there we went on to explore the French Concession and instead stumbled upon Tiánzǐfáng. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, that is until you begin to get lost in the lǐlòng (alleys) finding creative boutiques, delicious food, and hip bars. You could spend really hours here! But as the sun set, the cool air came out to play, and our bellies began to rumble for a dumpling feast!
Overall, three days wasn't nearly enough to scratch the surface in Shanghai! This is a city I’ll certainly be back to explore sometime soon. And I cannot wait!