I have lived in China for two and a half years, yet I’ve visited very few places outside Beijing. I have been to Hohhot, provincial capital of Inner Mongolia. I’ve been to Hong Kong and to Xi’an, with my parents. And now, to that list I can add Shanghai. I’m not sure why I haven’t visited until now. Perhaps because I am only just feeling a little more comfortable doing things by myself (see my post – more small victories). Or maybe I have more free time now. I don’t know. But I went there on Sunday, on high-speed train (which took five hours), and I returned on Wednesday. Both times, the train departed at 11:00 and arrived at its destination just before 16:00.
So, my impressions of the city? A colleague told me he quite liked it, and that didn’t feel like China. I would say that I can understand where he is coming from. Certainly, it isn’t much like Beijing. Like many Chinese cities, Shanghai has a very extensive subway system. I arrived at the train station and took the subway straight to my hotel, almost. The hotel was about a five-minute walk from the station, though I was following the route on my phone and I did not, at first, recognise the hotel, which mean I was a little lost until I retraced my steps and discovered it. This is the same hotel that my parents stayed in when they visited me in Beijing, and then went to Shanghai by themselves, earlier in 2017.
Noticing there were not many clearly-marked restaurants nearby the hotel, I opted for a meal in the hotel restaurant, on the first night. It was chicken and vegetables, I think. Not Chinese food, and consequently, not something I eat a lot of. But it was nice.
The following day, I had breakfast and then walked to the Bund, which is about five or ten minutes away from the hotel. Monday morning, however, was a little smoggy, and whilst I could see across the bay, to the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower, it was surrounded by smog. Still, living in Beijing, smog is not a wholly-unfamiliar occurrence, and so I masked up and just wandered around for a while. Shanghai was noticeably warmer than Beijing, which isn’t surprising when you look at a map and see how far south it is compared with Beijing. Leaving a rather chilly 3 or 4oc Beijing, and arriving in 14 or 15oc Shanghai, it was nice to see the sun and feel a little warm!
Following my walk along the Bung, I consulted the map and decided to go to People’s Park, one subway stop down from where I was. I was then to visit Shanghai Museum, just behind the park. Arriving in the park, I was sat on a bench when a youngish man approached me, tapped me on the shoulder and asked – in broken English – if he could take his picture with me. I don’t often get asked this (any more) in Beijing. Usually, I will oblige them if they ask. He was very appreciative of me and disappeared shortly afterwards.
In the park there is also the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. Now, I’m not an art connoisseur by any means, but nevertheless I decided to pop inside and have a look. There was an exhibition on about the magazine Harper’s Baazar, a fashion magazine I think I was vaguely aware of. The exhibition was bilingual in English and Chinese and actually, it was not too boring. It explained a lot of the history behind it, which was somewhat interesting. Following this, I decided to have lunch in the museum’s restaurant, ending up having the place to myself (the second time this happened; the first was in the hotel when I first arrived). I had a very nice meal, before departing to the museum.
On arriving at the museum it turned out to be shut (which was only in effect from 1st January, 2018). A little disappointed, I wandered back to the Bund, by now the pollution having lifted, and pottered around. I visited the Bund museum before heading back to a mall, near to my hotel, for tea. And then back to the hotel to relax.
Tuesday morning, the city was full of a thick layer of fog. It looked like something from Victorian London or from a horror film; very atmospheric! I went across the water to Pudong New Area where the Oriental Pearl Tower is, and wandered around there for a while. Then I took the subway to the museum (which was open today). I spent a good hour or two in there, before having dinner, and then going to the French legation quarter (old buildings), and a sort-of temple/old-fashioned street area which my parents had mentioned. This was fine, though it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already seen in Beijing. Then I went back to the Bund, which was still somewhat foggy, but not as bad as it had been, before getting something to eat for my tea, and then returning to the hotel.
When I was on the Bund at this time, two youngish men approached me and asked if they could take their photos with me. I don’t know why, but I obliged them. I don’t often get asked this in Beijing – once, outside the Forbidden City, and at the Great Wall. In Xi’an we had someone film us a little, and in Hohhot I had a few people take photos, along with a member of train station staff, but in Shanghai, over the course of two days, three people wanted a photo. At the Bund, in particular, there are lots of foreigners about, too!
On Wednesday morning, I headed to the train station to return to Beijing. I was really only in Shanghai for two days proper (as I was in Seoul), but it was an interesting place to spend a couple of days. It was very different to Beijing, though I am used to Beijing by now. More people (seemed, at least) to be able to speak English. In a couple of restaurants I went in, people spoke English to me.
Overall, it was a nice break and nice to see the city. I liked it a lot.