After stressfully leaving work after attending a meeting, finishing off answering the last emails and printing every travel document we would possibly need for our trip, we grabbed a cab to the airport. “That’s not very backpacker of you” a colleague said, but being thirty minutes late there was no time for the backpacker way just yet, whatever the backpacker way might be.
We had booked our flight with Aeroflot and had a layover in Moscow. After booking our tickets we heard from multiple people that Aeroflot is the worst airline in the world. It turned out to be a great experience, and except for a minor communication breach in Moscow airport where we weren’t informed that our gate had changed from 57 to 50 (or at least only informed in Chinese and Russian which really didn’t help us at all), I was very pleasantly surprised with Aeroflot.
After two one hour naps on the two and half hour flight to Moscow and something like seven hours of sleep on the eight hour flight from Moscow to Shanghai we were feeling on top when we reached Shanghai. On the plane I had looked through my sacred bible, the Lonely Planet travel book, and had noted five things we had to do in Shanghai. This pretty well sums up our level of prepartion for the trip.
The bible. It weighs a ton and is unhandy to carry around when backpacking, but I would not have survived the trip without it. And I am not even joking.
To our surprise my colleagues friend picked us up at the airport, which meant we didn’t have to think about transportation to Shanghai downtown as she and her sister had it all figured out. After a quick stop at Starbucks (yes that was sadly the first thing I bought after arriving in China) we were on our way.
On the metrotrip to downtown Shanghai we got a good glimpse of Shanghai’s size (it is the biggest city in the world), sinze the metro takes three hours from one end of the city to the other. Luckily we only had to travel an hour and a half to get from the airport to the center.
My happy face and the beautiful view from our surprisingly nice hotel
After arriving downtown we got to our hotel, took a quick shower and headed on out to explore the beautiful and interesting city that is Shanghai.
I’m intrigued by the Chinese way of drying laundry
Also a bit intrigued by their way of doing the electricity
- The first true culture shock I had was seeing this bamboo scaffolding
First stop was the famous The Bund and it did not disappoint for a second. That skyline is so unreal to look at, and it really took my breath away. I think the New York City skyline will always be my favorite, but Shanghai just has something special about it and definitely comes in second. The pink TV-tower especially adds a very kinky, Asian, sci-fi look to it which I love.
We headed on down the boardwalk and after enjoying the view of the city we decided it was time for lunch and our first real Chinese meal. After walking around for a bit we found a spot. As in any other town, choosing food is really hard.
I usually have two rules: avoid places with pictures of the food and avoid places that translates the menu into multiple different languages. In China I had to throw those rules out the window. I needed either a picture or an English menu to figure out what the heck I was ordering, and seeing pictures of the food is a whole lot easier to deal with when you don’t know what much of it is. Instead I’ve added a new rule: “Avoid restaurants in China stating that they are a Chinese restaurant.” No shit sherlock.
For my first Chinese meal I had some sort of dough with vegetables and meat inside of it (delicious) and noodle soup with beef and veegies (also delicious). I’ve never had noodles as good as those and I instantly got excited to explore further the upcoming week.
After lunch we got lost in Shanghai. We visited a shopping area with a temple that had an “If you’ve never visited this temple you haven’t truly been to Shanghai” reputation.
We visited a famous 200 year old tea house which was a crazy crowded place. The look of the buildings continually amazed me throughout the day. To think that it is not a fake look-a-like of a Chinese building but actually how they build is incredible. Walking around Shanghai is like a classic China town experience that never ends, except a thousand times better.
All of a sudden we found ourselves wandering around a very local part of Shanghai, which was incredibly cool to experience. Once again you see the whole laundry situatuion being on point.
The contrast of the local hood and the big glass skycrapers in the background was quite remarkable.
Sadly after walking around for a while it started to get really cloudy. And the clouds we’re hanging low meaning they covered the Shanghai Tower. Visiting the viewing platform in the Shanghai Tower was at the very top of my to-do-list for Shanghai, why I was not happy about the sudden weather change. It was also getting cold, so we decided to head back to the hotel to change and relax for a bit.
Two hours later we woke up from a surprise nap a bit confused. We were supposed to have met up with the sisters at 7 pm, but woke up at 8:30 pm. Woops! It must’ve been a much needed nap.
After realizing that our two top priority wishes for the Shanghai trip; going up into the Shanghai Tower and drinking a drink at Sir Ellys Roof Top Terrace with a view of the skyline, were not possible due to the fog and clouds, we decided to stay positive and head for food instead.
We ended up having two smaller dinners which turned out to be two more awesome Chinese food experinces. Great day to be alive!
During the trip I collected bad english translations. This is one of my favorites. Personally I am all for trying local specialties and new food in general, but I couldn’t make myself order dirty acid beans. Maybe next time.
We headed back to the hotel room and planned out the next few days which we were going to be spending in Shanghai, Huangshan and Nanjing.
Proof of just how bad the weather had turned – Our previous view of the skyline was completely gone when we returned to our room
Despite the bad weather I fell a sleep with a huge smile on my face, so excited to continuously have my mind blown over the following days.
Our second day in China was supposed to begin at 9:15 by meeting the sisters at their hotel room for an easy breakfast we had purchased at the market the day before, but I was woken up at 9:25. Jet lagged and tired as we were we had gone straight back to sleep after the alarm had awakened us.
We made it out of the hotel around 11 am, and headed straight for the metro station to explore the area in Shanghai called the French Concession. As we got there it was clear that it was pouring down raining, as everyone leaving the metro stop opened up their umbrella when reaching the end of the escalators.
We stopped at the first bakery and got walnut bread, walked around until discovering a cafe and sat down for coffee for a looong time. We walked a bit more around the area before venturing outside the beautiful yet very touristy area.
We looked through the Bible (my Lonely Planet guide book) to try and identify a nice place to eat lunch and decided on Cha’s. It seemed like a very local spot and served me some pretty good fried noodles with BBQ beef.
After lunch we headed back to down town Shanghai. We did a bit of shopping in Forever21 (when in China you know…) to prepare ourself for the upcoming days of hiking, before we ventured back to our hotel to change our clothes and get ready for our overnight train-trip.
Day 9 in China – and why now day 9?? – What about day 3-8!? On day 9 we returned to Shanghai, so to gather all of my Shanghai experiences in one blogpost I’ve skipped ahead.
As mentioned above we did not get to see the Shanghai skyline at night during our first visit in Shanghai. The specific view of the neon-lit skyline had been a the top op my list since I found out I was going to Shanghai, so leaving the city without having seen it had broken my heart a little bit.
For the remainder of the trip we had been keeping up with the weather forecast of our last night in Shanghai. Since we were returning to the city we had one more chance to get the full experience.
Day 9 started out in Beijing more than 1,200 km from Shanghai. To make it from A to B we caught one of the fastest trains in the world and made the journey in less than 5 hours. The fastest I caught the train going on the information screen was 302 km/h, which much to my surprise didn’t seem THAT much faster than the classis danish trains I usually ride. As we were getting closer to Shanghai we passed fireworks and both quickly agreed that they must’ve been a “Welcome back” greeting to us.
The weather forecast we had been following closely showed that it would be raining when we got to Shanghai, but as we exited the train station at around 8 pm it was all dry. It was cloudy, which was okay, because the clouds were more than 600 meters up in the air meaning that we could still see the top of the Shanghai Tower. I was beyond exstatic about seeing the top of the building. Dreams really do come true.
As mentioned we got to Shanghai at 8 pm and we had five things we needed to do before going to sleep:
- Buy sneakers (we had fallen in love with a pair of sneakers from the chinese brand, Anta, during our first days in the city, and both agreed we couldnt leave the country without buying them)
- Check in to our hotel
- Gain access to the observatory in the Shanghai Tower
- Enjoy a gin & tonic at Sir Ellys roof top terrace
- Eat dinner somewhere along the way
Even though we ran, our less than two hours in Shanghai didn’t give us enough time to make it to the top of the worlds tallest observatory to gaze out over this beautiful sky line. We managed to get to the sneakerstore, buy four pairs of sneakers, check in to our hotel, do a quick change of clothes, grab a to-go cheese burger from McDonalds and run to the metro.
When we walked out the Metrostation and got to the Shanghai tower we had to face the harsh truth that the building had closed. We were literally four minutes late.
We met two danish guys infront of the building (I randomly met them both at a John Mayer concert in Copenhagen a month later – Now that’s a small world!!!) that were equally as dissapointed as us, so we decided to share a cab back to the other side of the river with them. We were still heading for that gin & tonic.
Much to our surprise the city “turns off” the tacky, kinky and incredible light show that the sky line is so famous for at 22, and not 23 as we thought, so we didn’t get to see the neon lights from the sky bar, as we had planned, either. But in the end it didn’t really matter. Even without the lights on it was still incredibly beautiful and everything I could have ever asked for.
After 10 days in China, a country where I can’t communicate properly with the people, those two things were the only things that went wrong and as I sat there with my G&T gazing out over the supposedly dark skyline I still could not have been happier or more excited about everything I’ve experienced within the last 10 days.