Our first major metropolis in China was Shanghai, we didn’t really know what to expect as we walked out of the airport. We made our way outside and found about 150 other people also waiting for taxis, there were cabs aplenty lined up and waiting so we knew it wouldn’t be long before we were on our way to our hotel. There were also guys walking up and down the sidewalk asking where you want to go and telling you prices, don’t trust these guys, they are trying to scam tourists into paying heinous amounts of money for a ride.
Do yourself the favour and just wait in line, take the official cabs and be assured you’re not getting ripped off. It was around 2am when we landed and we didn’t end up getting to our hotel until close to 4am, at which point we were informed that our booking had been given away because we hadn’t arrived by 11pm, awesome right!? We tried in vain to explain to our non english speaking concierge that our flight had been delayed, not only could he not understand us but there was nothing he could do as the rooms had already been filled. He did point us down the block to another hotel that had rooms available and while it was above our price point, we didn’t really have a choice considering it was four in the morning. We rolled our suitcases across a couple long dark parking lots, grumbling all the way about how stupid the whole situation was.
We arose the next morning feeling fully refreshed and ready for our first day in Shanghai, we called a cab and made our way into the city. We learnt later that it would have been much more inexpensive to take the subway which was only a five minute walk from our hotel and cost a tenth of the price to take a taxi. We walked around Yuyuan old street that morning, found something to eat for breakfast and tried not to complain about the smouldering heat.
As we were making our way to the subway to head over to another area we were approached by a woman claiming to be from Beijing, she was well dressed and spoke english very well. She asked Rach to take a picture of her, we politely complied and afterwards she began asking us questions about our trip and went on to invite us for tea. We had read about this type of scam and were well aware of what was about to happen if we stayed any longer. Apparently they invite you for tea and then leave you with an enormous bill that you’re forced to pay. We politely declined her invitation for tea and made our way into the subway station.
The subways in Shanghai were surprisingly easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive to ride, we chose a destination near the bund and made our way there. Nanjing road is a wide pedestrian street lined with an array of shops, malls and restaurants.
There are people trying to sell fake watches and bags, pharmacy stores with strange eastern medicines and about a million people crowding every square inch of the place.
We chose a direction and started walking but it wasn’t long before our energy began to wane and we decided to head home for the night.
The next day we got off to a much better start as we found a little cafe near the entrance to the subway that served a decent breakfast and we knew with a little more certainty how to use the subway. We decided to head to the ancient town of Qibao, only a fifteen minute ride from the stop nearest our hotel, you exit into a large mall thats easy to get lost in but we found our way out and walked a couple minutes to the ancient town.
Paved roads turned to cobblestone as we got closer, modern buildings transformed into the low sweeping style that is so common in Asia.
We walked through the narrow streets smelling the aromas of all the food stalls that lined the way.
Chicken, pork, steamed buns and more all began to make us very hungry and we could no longer resist. We found a small restaurant and ordered some of their specials, crab meat dumplings and ginger pork soup dumplings, we found both dishes to be very enjoyable.
We read about the famous cricket fighting and passed by a shop that was selling some of the monstrous bugs, it took us a minute to figure out the it was the crickets making all the ruckus. Unfortunately we did not get to see a show, maybe next time.
Around midday we made our way back to the hotel to take a cold shower and put on dry clothes. We headed back out to the bund to watch the sunset and take some pictures. As we walked down Nanjing road towards the bund, the sun was just making its way below the horizon and we got to see the amazing skyline light up with lights and colours that had all the buildings glowing, this totally made up for the lack of an actual sunset.
On our way back up we saw a couple people wearing T-shirts that said “I love Yangs Dumplings”, of course we were interested and decided to look it up. It wasn’t too far from where we were at the time so we made our way over and ordered a couple different dumplings, half steamed and half pan fried with sesame on top, these dumplings had our mouths watering with each bite.
To this day I don’t think I’ve ever had or ever will have a better dumpling. So, if you’re in Shanghai, Yangs Dumplings is a must try.
We were scheduled to depart the next day but we hadn’t quite gotten our fill of Shanghai yet, we booked a room at a hotel near the bund with a plan to head out the next morning to see the sunrise. As 4am rolled around we creeped out of the quiet compound and began our walk down the dimly lit pedestrian street towards the bund and what we were hoping would be some alone time.
We could not have been more mistaken, apparently this city never sleeps, there were crowds of people, sitting/sleeping on benches, talking and drinking on curbs, setting up their own camera gear to take pictures, people jogging, workers cleaning the streets, people taking their dogs for walks and more.
We were astonished at the amount of activity that was going on at just past 4am. I knew that flying my drone would be out question, there were just too many people around for it to be done safely. We realized quickly that we had jumped the gun by waking up at 4am as the sun didn’t actually start making any light until closer to 6am, so we sat and watched the activity of the city, we walked around looked for the infamous sunrise Tai Chi group and then we waited some more. It turns out the sunrise was not much different than the sunset the night before, with overcast weather there wasn’t much to see.
Fortunately for us the people themselves kept us interested enough to want to stay and watch, a group of older men had begun preparing to fly their kites in the morning wind and watching the process was humbling.
They took their time unfolding, setting up lengths of string and attaching in to their handles, getting their friend to hold the kite above their head as the other would walk back to the appropriate distance for take off. The smiles on their faces as their kites took to the skies was worth the early morning. We had set out to see something in particular but found something even better in the process, once again reminded of how quickly plans can change in life and that we all have a choice.
We could have gotten fed up and left when we realized that there would be no spectacular sunrise or that we wouldn’t find the Tai Chi group we so desperately wanted to take pictures of but instead, we stayed. We chose to take joy in the new things we would find if we stayed, in the surprise of not knowing what would come next. And so our trip in Shanghai ended with a surprise sunrise and a new outlook on flying kites. We boarded a train headed for Beijing just a few hours later and took the time to get some much needed rest.