01.11.2011 - 05.11.2011 23 °C
Since I last wrote, we've been on a five day trip to Shanghai. It's a city I wanted to make sure I saw before leaving China, and we had a good opportunity to go when the students had midterm exams (no classes for foreign teachers- yay!). Before I went, I was expecting another Guangzhou; Guangzhou is the third biggest city in China after Beijing and Shanghai so I figured that they would all be pretty similar. I was so wrong! For any expats who are reading this and living in Shanghai- please know, you have it easy!! Shanghai is such a lovely, easy city. For one, the language was much easier to understand (the mandarin dialect is clearer, and they don't speak Cantonese like they do in Guangzhou), and expats and local people are much more mixed together, whereas in Guangzhou there is a clear divide between expat life and local people (sometimes there is also a sort of tension between the two as well).
On the bund: A very friendly guard that walked me to find a much needed coffee (it was this moment when I was desperate for a warm cup of coffee that I was so grateful I could speak Chinese)
One thing I never expected to find was a city that dwarfed Guangzhou in size. On the first day I was looking at the map in the hostel and found the Bund. I thought it'd be maybe an hour walk maximum. When I asked how long it'd take the receptionist looked at me in disbelief that I was even asking 'maybe 5 or 6 hours walking to the bund from here' she said. So we quickly learned Shanghai is not a city that's easy to walk around. Even when you take the metro, there is often a 20 minute walk to get to the nearest station. Guangzhou is more similar to London where there is a metro stop close to you where ever you are.
We are also very used to the very hot, humid climate of Guangzhou. It didn't even occur to either of us that Shanghai would be and different for some reason. So I made sure I packed all my tropical clothes. Immediately after stepping off the plane in Shanghai I suddenly realised it felt freezing and I didn't have anything warm to wear! I had to layer every t-shirt and tank top on just to go out to find some sort of sweater to wear (it was a great excuse to convince Roger to go shopping though). After living in such a hot climate for so long, you kind of forget that it is anything but hot anywhere else.
One of my favourite places in the city was Dongtai Lu antiques street. It was lots of little alley's filled with 'antiques', old suitcases, and lots of Mao memorabilia. Needless to say, I found a good reason to go back more than once! It was also very close to a vegetarian buddhist restaurant that my parents raved about after their trip to Shanghai. Roger and I were reluctant to miss out on an opportunity to eat western food, but we tried out the vegetarian buddhist because of its recommendation, and we were so happy we did! We ate there another two times before we left. Best food ever. Any one who thinks vegetarian buddhist food can't possibly be that tasty- you must try this place.
It was also in this area that we got our first traditional Chinese massage. When we had the option of a western massage, or the traditional Chinese massage, they explained to us that the traditional Chinese massage is painful. They were right. I left perhaps more sore than when I went in, but it definitely got all the knots out.
Shanghai also his this really beautiful French Quarter. It's a great place to walk around and find little cafe's. You'd think you were in Paris if there were less plastic Panda's and more French people walking around.
Lane 210, and the surrounding lanes, are another beautiful place to wander around. Again, it's another very artistic area with lots of photography shops, and western restaurants and cafes. I was in my dream land when we stopped for a bowl (see picture above) of coffee. It was at this point that I was set on moving to Shanghai next year. I could easily live Shanghai.
The Lonely planet describes the Bund as a place where farmers from the countryside come in their green jumpsuits to admire the fashionable Shanghainese people. We found this to be a great description (see above picture)
Taking wedding photos on the Bund.
In China, they take their wedding photos up to months before the actual wedding, so they can change into lots of different dresses and outfits and have the photos at the wedding ceremony. To me, it defeats the point of having 'wedding photos', but it's something that gives endless amusement when people watching in some prime wedding photo locations.
For the first few days, we were couldn't see past the 20th floors of most buildings due to the fog and rain. But as soon as the clouds cleared up on our last morning, the first thing we did was jump in a taxi down to the Bund to hope to see the skyline in its full glory.