Once again, nothing as I anticipated….a very international, clean and liveable metropolis. It was interesting to visit a city that does not boast one tourist attraction after another; rather the neighborhoods and markets are what draw people about. And this is what I usually do, wander the streets to see how the locals live and what they do everyday.
This seems like a place where anybody can find a pocket that suits them. The diversity of people make it easy to communicate and find your way around. The food, shopping and nightlife are definitely the highlights of the city but there are also many cultural and historical areas.
The thing I found most shocking was the French/European influence, this is partially because of my lack of knowledge about the city’s history, but it is incredibly apparent on all the major streets. The main boulevards are lined with trees and beaux-arts buildings while parks had cafes and cute cast iron benches and lamp posts. Yet if you look beyond the main drag, and meander down the alleys they are filled with noodle houses, hanging laundry and tons of little Asian shops, that I have no idea what they do! So its a nice contrast for foreigners, to have a familiar starting point and then work your way deeper into the Chinese culture.
I loved the street food here, on every corner there are food carts. Usually consisting of a guy with a wok or BBQ. For a buck I usually got a noodle bowl with some bean sprouts and veggies. I even found an eggroll!! I was beginning to think it was an American invention, and sort of still do since I didn’t realize it was anything like an eggroll until I bit into it. It looked more like a burrito and it was fried in a pan and had no plum sauce, but it was still delicious and massive!
There is tons of shopping here and I went a little wild… a fun street was Donghai, that had old antique stuff like communist propoganda posters and Mao pins; I was hoping for a Chinese finger trap but no luck here! Mostly dirty metal collectibles and souvenirs, but I finally got my haggling on! Its pretty fun after you understand that they like bargaining, and when they don’t speak any English you have to throw prices back and forth on a calculator.
I also visited some gardens and the old town, which is touristy new buildings in traditional Chinese style, but very pretty. Also I had to check out Pudong, the new financial district, with some of China’s tallest buildings.
All of which are tall shiny skyscrapers that look like they popped up overnight in any part of the world. I liked one part of it that had a raised walking roundabout and the waterfront promenade where I took a quick snooze!
* On a side note as to why there are no pictures for this part of my trip is that my camera messed up and wont acknowledge the photos. But thanks to a Peruvian guy I met at the hostel, I was able to recover them and will upload them when I have a safe computer to use.
So thumbs up for Shanghai! I could have stayed longer but after going over budget once again, its a good thing I am leaving… off to Hangzhou, where the Chinese go for a getaway!