Tales of Adventure: Shanghai

shanghai

I had never been to Shanghai, or China for that matter. Naturally, when I learned a friend of mine was moving there for a few months I was intrigued. And more than willing to play travel buddy. So, that’s exactly what I did.

Chinese visa? Check. Cheapest airfare possible between Paris and Shanghai? Double check. Experience in the art of miming in order to communicate? Well, I moved to Paris without speaking a word of French, so I was pretty sure I could manage. Plus I had a friend with me. We would be like the blind leading the blind, but hey, it’d be an adventure.

As we settled into our overnight flight, we met our first encounter with the culture of another kind. We were flying China Eastern, and the majority of the other passengers were Chinese. I had never in my life ever seen a mad rush to the duty free shopping cart, but I swear people were crowding and hovering over seats to make their purchases for over an hour. All this for perfume? I’d pass, but I would take another glass of wine to settle in and hopefully fall asleep. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen either… as the kind stewardess informed me that “wine was finish” and was only served with dinner. Where’s Air France when you need them?

Excruciatingly long flight behind us, we arrived in Shanghai on one fine foggy morning. The place we were staying was in the Jing’an District, near the Jing’an Temple and plenty of modern shopping. Shanghai was like that – a funny mix of old and new, not really blending, but still contributing to the unique vibe of the city.

shanghai

shanghai

Now, our primary objective in being in Shanghai was to get my friend set up with an apartment. That didn’t mean we didn’t see some of the tourist spots as well. The Bund, for example, which is the waterfront area along the river.  We even managed to squeeze in having tea at the oldest teahouse in Shanghai, in the Old Town Market. This was an interesting experience. I mean drinking tea is great, and I love the stuff. We were definitely those clueless tourists who had no idea what to do though (it’s not like I could read anything for hints… ). We must have sat there for over an hour, enjoying cup after cup after cup of steaming hot tea. With it being a steaming hot September day… sweaty is not a good look here. We figured eventually the tea leaves would run out and that would be it, but boy, those babies never seemed to run out!

shanghai

Now as I mentioned our primary goal was to find an apartment for my friend to live in. This is hard when you don’t speak the language, and significantly more so when you can’t even begin to read or pronounce any of the words! Luckily, these things seem to work themselves out. There is a strong French presence in Shanghai (my favorite neighborhood is actually called the French Concession). One apartment we looked at was a sublet through a Frenchman and his Chinese girlfriend, so we were able to speak French with them. And, we did manage to mime somewhat successfully when English and French were not options. Most importantly, we did successfully find an apartment, with a day or so to spare. What to do?

After running all over the city, making apartment viewing appointments, opening a bank account, getting a cell phone number and all that other boring stuff that is involved with relocation, we decided to take it easy. We strolled. Through the city, to the river, stopping whenever and wherever we felt inclined. This was the absolute best way to spend my last days in Shanghai with my best friend – this is what we always did in Paris. We walked the day away, ending up near the river just before the sun went down.

shanghai

Shanghai-5

The view across the Huangpu River to the city skyline is breathtaking. During daylight it’s quite impressive, but it’s during the night that it really shines. Literally. The lights of the buildings provide a striking backdrop to your evening stroll, or as the focal point of any rooftop bar in the area.

Shanghai

Yes… my first trip to China was a whirlwind. I had no idea what to expect from Shanghai, but I can tell you this. Even in the middle of this highly modernized and advanced city, it felt like an adventure. Almost made returning to life in France look too easy. Minus that 12-hour flight that is.

  • DaveCenker

    What an adventure! I am always amazed on international flights how the culture seems to slowly transition from one country to the next, almost mid-flight as you begin to experience different cuisines on the plane, different languages in the announcements, etc. It sounds like many memories were made 😉

    • It was an amazing, whirlwind of a time! And I agree, that blend of cultures often does begin on the flight, no matter which carrier you are traveling with. I always feel more than halfway there as I board an Air France flight. We had a really great time, and have memories that we still talk about today! 🙂

  • That last picture is pretty amazing. I love how cities look at night, but I am more of a night person. I’m always amazed by the buildings/architecture in China and Japan; so unique and beautiful.

    • Night city skylines are so beautiful. I think they really set off the buildings better than during the day honestly. Take Times Square for example! Shanghai was such an interesting mix of ancient architectural style with the super modern, conceptual buildings of today. Totally cool though. 🙂

  • I loved this! I was living in Beijing for 3 months last year and unfortunately only managed to visit Shanghai once (and even that was only for the weekend). But I really loved it there. Everybody had told me there was so much more to do in Beijing and that it was the better city, but I have to disagree. Shanghai, as you say, has a great mix of old and new. I found the city to be much livelier and fun. Beijing was great in its own way, but next time I visit China I’m certain it will be to Shanghai (if I can survive that 13 hour flight, that is!).

    • That flight is a doozy!! Not the worst I’ve been on (Australia… ) but no fun nonetheless. I didn’t make it to Beijing on my quick trip. I had a friend who studied and worked there though, and really loved it. I would like to see the terra-cotta warriors one day though, and the Forbidden City. There’s so much to see in China! lol

  • kim @ DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS

    What a fun and crazy adventure! I love that you jumped in on the op to help a friend and create a memorable trip

    • Crazy is exactly the correct word!! So many shenanigans and good times, even in such a short period as a week! We still reminisce over those memories today. lol

  • Whirlwind trip for sure! I’d have happily done it too though 🙂

    • Super fast, super hectic, never really got over the jet lag, but loved it! 🙂

  • Some seriously amazing shots of the city here. New to your blog and really enjoying it!

    • Aww thank you!! So glad you are enjoying it, and thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  • Adria J. Cimino

    Your photos are beautiful… and it sounds like such a great, memorable trip. I would have loved that teahouse!!

    • Thank you!! The teahouse was an amazing place, and I brought so much tea back with me! Been a bit of an addict for a cuppa since I lived in London lol. 🙂

  • So beautiful, Amy! What an exciting move for your friend. So brave to move there without speaking any of the language!

    • Thank you! It was quite an adventure for him – a little scary at first, but in the end he loved it and didn’t want to leave! Funny how that happens once you adjust! 🙂