在上海 In Shanghai

My time in Shanghai has firmly solidified this place as completely different kind of China. Think commercialism and tourism completely out of control. Think people everywhere (especially crowded because of the world fair here this summer). Think super expensive global brands tucked away in mall after mall . All in all Shanghai is a new hip, super expensive city in China that I had some interesting experiences in. Get ready for my jumbled somewhat incoherent journey through Shanghai.

We arrived in Shanghai in the long distance train station after taking a train from Longyou to Shanghai. We arrived in the afternoon and quickly jumped on the subway to take us to the financial district where my roommate had to open up a bank account in Belgium where he is studying next year. The best thing about Shanghai is the clean and efficient (albeit crowded) metro system. There are about 10 lines crisscrossing all over town and they can take you pretty much any spot in town in under an hour. They have airconditioning and for the most part are underground which can make for a quick and cheap escape from the sweltering heat.

We arrived in the financial district (which looks like this):

After dealing with all the money business we made our way to Wang Su’s friend’s apartment where we would be staying (for free) for our time in Shanghai. After that we headed out to the shopping district of Nanjing Lu and to see the French Architecture of the bund. It was pretty cool stuff but I was initially overwhelmed because of the vast number of people everywhere. People were hawking fake dvds’ purses, and shoes all over the place. A woman at one point attempted to seduce me (well, she wanted my money) asking me in broken english, “why are you sitting here why not with me in bar?”. It’s a scam even my lonely planet guidebook warned me about. She wants to take me to a bar and make me foot the bill of some outrageous drink prices. I kindly told her no thank you and she proceeded to move and start working on a guy across the street from me.

Here’s Nanjing Lu!

me and nanjinglu

and here is some cool architecture of the bund!

Other than shopping and walking around people watching there really isn’t that much to do in Shanghai. I checked out the free Shanghai museum where there was a cool exhibit on religion in India among other things. It’s all about shopping and buying expensive things in Shanghai none of which I was interested in (as I have both no money and no room in my backpack to carry newly bought merchandise). I decided not to go to the world fair as I had heard it was horribly hot and the pavilions were boring anyways, the crowds were horrible too!

I definenelty had a lack of companionship during my time in Shanghai. The first few days were great as I got to hang out and explore the city with my roommate from Hangzhou. However, after two days y roommate had to return home. The kids I was living with both had internships and didn’t have time to just hang out with me. Therefore I was flying solo most of the time and had to rely on meeting new people to make my time better.

But of course I didn’t need to try to make friends…they just sort of found me. I was sitting on the side of a pond waiting for my friends to get back from work to let me into the apartment when a 21 year old guy came over and started talking English to me. He was a pretty interesting guy too and we talked for about an hour about the differences between English and Chinese, my travelling plans (I was going to his hometown soon) and lots of other things. We decided it would be fun to hang out the next day so I went over to his apartment for dinner where we talked about a lot more things and ended the night teaching each other sayings and idioms in our respective languages. Was it sort of sketchy to go to his apartment while only knowing him for 24 hours…yes. But, I don’t think experiences can be truly interesting without a little risk involved.

I knew I was going to be leaving Shanghai soon…partly because everything is so freaking expensive so I decided that I needed to buy a train ticket to travel to Chengdu and meet up with my 2 American friends in order to travel. However, all the train tickets were sold out for a good week (thanks world expo). So with no other options I was forced to buy a plane ticket to Chengdu.

My flight was for Tuesday night at 9PM so I headed to the airport around 4 (2 hour subway ride involved) and arrived at the airport around 6. I had 3 hours before my flight and erroneously believed I had sufficient time to  manage any mishaps or delays. When I went to get my ticket the clerk told me in broken English that my 9PM plane was broken or delayed or something. Then he asked me if I could speak Chinese to which I replied yes. He then unleashed a torrent of incomprehensible Mandarin that ended in him handing me a ticket for a 5:55 flight that started boarding 5 minutes ago. I ran, flip-flopless, through the airport sprinting through security (they took my shaving cream) and then to my gate attracting the strange looks of all I passed. I made it finally and grabbed a spot in the back of the line and boarded the plane. The plane was great, comfortable, and I even had extra space as I was sitting in the emergency row. After a quick dinner service we touched down in Chengdu ready to start the next leg of my journey.

Overall, Shanghai wasn’t the most exciting place in China for me at this point. Would it be great to work in the city as a young adult? Sure. But it wasn’t exactly the right fit for me, someone trying to learn more about Chinese culture, immerse themselves in a new language, and find out exactly what the Chinese people think and believe. Shanghai is a China corrupted by expensive Western influences… it isn’t really an authentic China.


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August 2010
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