If Shanghai was a friend of mine, I will describe her as confidently cool without being obnoxious. Shanghai knows she’s stunning, but she’s got a lot more substance that goes beyond her exterior beauty. Located on the central coast of China, Shanghai is the country’s largest city, a financial hub and has possibly one of the most impressive skylines I have seen so far.
After spending just under a week in Beijing, scouring through hutongs and trekking up the Great Wall of China, we headed to Shanghai for five days. To ensure we didn’t waste any time, we took a taxi from the airport to our apartment.
An important tip: When taking public transport or asking for directions, make sure you have the address written in the local language. Majority of addresses don’t have a literal English translation.
We wanted to stay centrally and close to the Bund. When looking for accommodation in this area, most of the hotels were big luxury brands or bottom of the barrel, so we chose a studio apartment off Airbnb, a block away from the Bund and what an excellent decision that was! The location, the host, the views, the transport links were all perfect for our short stay.
One of the first places on our to-do lists was Shanghai Disneyland. Getting there was super easy because of the incredible Shanghai subway system, that has a dedicated Disneyland stop. We went there during one of the busiest periods (National Holiday Week in October), yet the experience was outstanding. This was my third time at Disneyland (first in Shanghai) and I love how it really makes you feel like a kid. We darted around the place, going from one ride to another and even watched a short theatre production of the movie Frozen, all in Chinese! Music and joy is not confined by any language!
In the next few days we made sure we ticked off as many places we could in this incredible city, with food being the highlight! We measured the length of Science and Technology Fake Market, buying everything we could get our hands on. The best thing was, we weren’t alone. We noticed that when Chinese population goes out shopping, they don’t do it in halves. They come in empty handed, start their shopping expedition with a purchase of a suitcase and then concentrate on filling it up.
“Usually when we are overseas and want to ensure that we are on the right track for the airport, usually people carrying suitcases on the same carriage is a good sign. Please note, this rationale does not apply in China. There is always at least an average of five people carrying suitcases irrespective of what subways you’re on. I’m guessing they love shopping?!”
Shanghai has the most colourful skyline I have seen. Looking across the Bund towards the Pearl Tower, it really looks like you’re staring at a skyline created for a video-game. The best (and the cheapest) place to admire the skyline is from is from the roof terrace of The Captain Hostel at a bar called The Captain. The bar is fairly basic, but it comes with a money-can’t-buy view of the Shanghai skyline.
In addition to shopping and sightseeing, food and drinks were definitely on top of our list and here are a few gems to consider when in Shanghai:
- Baiju. It is like Chinese schnapps with an average of 52% alcohol, but we couldn’t find anything under 70%. We just bought it from a corner shop and walked around sipping on it, classy!
- Beer at Tianzifang Market. The beer selection is fairly normal with a range of local and imported beers, but it’s the trendy markets where you must spend some time people-watching.
- Jianbing for breakfast. It is the most popular street breakfast in China. The combination of sweet and salty flavours, wrapped in a savoury crispy crepe, it is a perfect way to start a day.
- Hand-pulled noodles from a road-side stall. You haven’t had noodles until you’ve had these fried pulled noodles served with freshly cooked broth.
- Fried Dumplings from Yang’s Fried Dumplings. They are large, crisp and fluffy, filled with hot broth that’s intense in flavour. Possibly the best fried dumplings I’ve ever had, anywhere!
Overall, China surpassed all my expectations and busted all my preconceived notions and ignorance about this great nation. I can’t wait to go back and explore the countryside.
Have you been to mainland China? If yes, what did you think of it? Would love to hear all about it.