This trip was hosted by United Airlines, Spot, and Banyan Tree Hotels. I am and was excited to work with them and I am thankful for your support on this job. Thank you for supporting the hosts that made this trip happen and are allowing me to bring you such wonderful photos & stories. <3
See my recommendations for Shanghai on Spot right here!
Shanghai is a feast for the senses. Seriously. I took the bullet train up to Shanghai from Hangzhou: It was easier to figure out how to do it than I thought (Google the train schedule and arrive knowing what train number you want; that will make it a lot easier) and the train was cheap (about $11 or $12), fast (about one hour), and clean/air conditioned. So easy. From the train station in Shanghai, it was exceptionally easy to take the metro to my hotel. I’m actually convinced they have one of the best metro systems in the world. (Paris is another favorite of mine and to be honest, they are similar.)
There are bubble tea places everywhere. Here’s a spot I found with two right next to each other (and a line at both). Bubble tea runs you about $1.25 to $2 (maybe) depending on the options you pick.
Soup dumplings. Oh my god! So many delicious soup dumplings. I seriously sat down for dumplings on so many different occasions. SO many. And I always ate all of them, haha.
Like I do whenever I visit a new country or a new city or a new place, I made it a point to wander around the parts of the city where actual residents live. I love visiting the hot spots and history spots and museums and so on, but I think you need to wander the streets of the city and see the people grocery shopping and coming home from their work days and just being home to get a real feel for a city. These streets did not disappoint.
Cute pup! My mom had said she saw barely any dogs in China, probably because people were eating them. This was fifteen years or more ago, now. I saw pups (both peoples’ well kept pets and some strays) all over the place!
This old ish neighborhood was located right outside of the Yuyuan garden and near the temple located in that area as well. It’s touristy, for sure, but also so much fun.
The garden is beautiful. It was about $4.50 to go in (30 Yuan) for foreigners and there was no line. It’s pretty inside, although crowded, but I was able to work my way through the garden slowly taking in the sights, appreciating the old buildings, and finding secluded spots for a moment of calm.
I definitely recommend this place. It can be a welcome respite from the bustle of Shanghai, especially in the heat and humidity.
Some of the details here are just spectacular.
Some girls asked me to take a photo of the two of them. “You seem like you know what you’re doing,” they said, given my big camera. haha. They had a spot in mind and then, in return, I asked them to snap a photo of me here. To be honest, I’d been waiting for somebody to take my photo here. And I had to wait out all the crowds to get this spot to myself, too, haha. After the garden, I watched people feed the koi fish for a while and then wandered over to the big line outside this dumpling spot. It’s famous, apparently, although in a touristy way. They serve three things: Large dumplings that you drink with a straw, small dumplings that you eat out of a box, and plum juice. I got one of everything, for only $8 or so. The line was long and I later found out that this place actually has a number of other locations now. It’s a bit of a tourist destination to visit the original, I hear. Honestly my favorite part was just watching them make all the dumplings. Dumplings and dumplings and dumplings, through the window. You’ve never seen somebody make so many dumplings and they were SO FAST at it, too. Just look at how many dumpling steamers they had stacked around and working their magic. Each one holds like 5 or 6 dumplings, too! Wowza.
My dumpling loot.
And then, tourist destinations under my belt, it was time for more wandering. I had a destination in mind, to be sure, but I wanted to get there via off the beaten path routes. Which actually resulted in me making a few too many left turns and finding myself back to where I’d started. haha. One big old loop through the old towns, completed.
Worth it, though, to see people buying chicken and groceries and biking home with all their goodies.
This is probably one of my favorite images from Shanghai, or maybe even from the whole trip. The light was perfect, this lady was perfect. Everything just came together for me and summed up Shanghai in a single snapshot.
All the grannies sit outside, watching the world go by. This is common everywhere in the world to some extent, I suppose. I saw people doing this in Peru and Cuba and I can imagine it happening elsewhere, too. When it’s hot and humid and there’s not much TV to watch, the grannies pop outside for a sit and a smoke and to watch the world go by, ya know? Not a bad life.
See what I mean?
Oh my! I found this super super super small stray kitten. I know I probably shouldn’t be playing with stray kittens in foreign countries, but this one came streaking out from under a car to say hello to me. She wiggled between my legs and mewed and basically asked to be taken home. If I could have, I would have. She was probably the size of my hand, if not a bit smaller. And fierce. And friendly. <3 So damn cute.
And then I finally found the Bund! The Bund is Shanghai’s famous riverside promenade. You walk along the river with literally thousands and thousands of over people on this elevated walkway. There are hawkers and ten million selfie sticks and boats going up and down the river and literally the prettiest skyline. You can see everything to see of the big fancy buildings and the iconic skyline builders of Shanghai.
The following evening I went to the other side of the river, but there’s almost nobody there. Why go and walk along when you can barely see anything, ya know? I learned by going, haha.
Also, funny story: I had my photo taken SO many times along the Bund. I think there are a ton of Chinese tourists from other parts of China seeing the sunset along the Bund for themselves. I don’t know why, but in the end, I had photos taken of me, photos taken with children, photos taken with families… I felt a bit like a celebrity, just because I was white. (Probably exacerbated by the fact that I was alone, as well.) So strange and funny.
The following morning, I headed to the People’s Square to walk around. I wanted to hit up the museum, but found upon arrival that it is unfortunately closed on Mondays. I suppose I should have managed some planning for this trip to avoid this, but I’m not much for planning on a solo trip, so c’est la vie and I suppose I’ll just have to go back to Shanghai! 😉
There are groups of adults playing games and betting and gambling everywhere. It’s actually really lovely. I love that there are outdoor / shared spaces for people to spend time. I also love that the adults there do things and play. It’s really nice. One of my other favorite things to see happened in the evenings: Big boom boxes or speakers set up in public squares and blasting traditional Chinese music. Adults, pairs and single ladies, dancing. It happened after the sun went down and it was a reasonable time to be outside, but it was so relaxed and so much fun. Sometimes it would be a scene, with tons of people. Sometimes it would just be a few dancers. You got the feeling that anybody could join in, have a little fun, and get a little exercise.
This half bloomed lotus made me smile. In the spots where you could really get close to the lotus ponds, there were no full blooms and I kind of got the feeling that people end up picking the perfect ones. This one makes me happy though, even though it’s not full.
How cute are the bows on this lady’s heels? So many Chinese women dress up SO cute. I was impressed and loved people watching for cute outfits and stylish women, especially because I felt like I could barely get it together to wear clothes and swipe on lipstick in the heat, let alone dress up super cute. haha.
This was my final stop on my final day. I was exhausted from walking about 45 miles in the last four days (according to my iPhone), but talked myself into one last thing. I popped on the exceptional (and pretty cheap!) subway station and found myself in the über touristy overlook for the Oriental Pearl Tower. It was bustling with tourists (again) and had a really great view of the city streets and the tower. I didn’t stay long and didn’t go far, but it was fun to see this iconic building up front… and take a selfie! haha.
And that’s it! That’s my Shanghai diary and China travel blog posts. I loved this trip. A lot. Probably one of my top trips ever, and that’s saying something. It was soooo exhilarating to be doing something I love so much and for work, too. And while China had not been at the top of my bucket list of countries to visit next, it turned out to be the biggest surprise and such a wonderful place to explore, eat my way through, make friends, etc. I only saw three cities and not for long in each of them, either. I know I’ll be back, to see more of China, explore the cities I’ve already been to again and more in depth, and to take more photos! What a fabulous place. <3