Feet to move, places to roam
Last minute decisions and just ‘winging it’ are two ways you could say I have gone about living my life lately. I do not know when exactly all these spontaneous decisions decided to unravel, however I do know that since they began, life has been far from boring. When someone offers you something that sounds really great you accept it, right? Well, that is what I have been doing. Whatever looks good, sounds good and seems like it would make a great story, count me in. So when I was offered to tag along on a trip to Hangzhou and Shanghai, of course I eagerly replied “Yes”.
Until the G20 Summit was held in Hangzhou, China this past month, I did not even know the city existed nor did I have any real desire to spend time getting to know what it had to offer. Shortly after the summit concluded, a friend of mine extended an invite for me to travel with him to Hangzhou and Shanghai during the Mid-Autumn Festival (September 15th-18th). Like I said, when something sounds good, you say “Yes” to it. A week later, my suitcase was packed and I was back in my favorite place; the airport but at my not so favorite time, 5:00 AM. Nearly 2 hours after take off on Donghai Airlines we landed in a very rainy Hangzhou city. The two of us parted our separate ways and I got right too wandering the city. Sipping on fresh vanilla lattes, breakfast in ‘hipster’ bakeries/cafes, and a rainy afternoon stroll through one of Hangzhou’s main attractions, The West Lake. Getting to spend the day in Hangzhou was really just a bonus for my travels for that weekend. What I was really dreaming about was making my way to Shanghai.
Before moving to China, I never expressed once to anyone in my life that I had itchy feel to roam this country. Having the opportunity to be exposed to all these incredible cities and all the neighboring countries just feels like I am living in a constant dream that is way too good to be true. After I knocked Beijing and The Great Wall off my China Bucket List, the next step was Shanghai. Before entering the city for myself, my co-workers had who had in the past traveled to Shanghai had nothing but positive experiences to share with me, therefore it made me a little more psyched. I traveled to Shanghai via Hangzhou on the bullet train which was a quick 1.5 hours and arrived in Shanghai early afternoon. Thankfully, there was no typhoon after multiple warnings were issued throughout the week. I still took my chances regardless of the warnings because it was a city I wanted to see, so I did it.
With just over 30 hours on my brief visit to Shanghai, here is what you need to know:
The Bund also refereed to as Waitan is a waterfront area in central Shanghai. You can find The Bund located on a section of Zhongshan Road within the former Shanghai International Settlement. Walking through this area immediately took me back to London, England. Photographed above, you can see a clock tower that looks like Big Ben’s twin. Although The Bund is a road, it is scenic and very photogenic one. Along your stroll, you will eventually come across the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Oriental Pearl tower is a radio and TV tower in Shanghai but is a landmark popularly associated with the city. You can find this very futuristic tower in the Pudong District by the side of the Huangpu River.
Oriental Pearl Tower from the stroll down The Bund.
Yuyuan (or Yu) Garden occupies an area of 20,000 square meters in the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. Not only is this space a botanical garden, it also features temples and markets for tourists to browse around in. For tourists it may be considered a jackpot for shopping however the history and culture of the site dates way back to over 400 years ago. Yu in Chinese means “Pleasing and satisfying”, and this garden was specially built for Pan Yunduan parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age. See for yourself the tranquility found within the gardens and temples, gaze down at the koi fish and maybe find a little souvenir for yourself in tiny, humble, markets.
Ohhh, Xintiandi! This district is a unique spot within in Shanghai simply because of the architecture. If you ever need a place to sit down for a coffee, craving a 5 star meal, some galleries, bars, or some serious retail therapy, this is your go to spot. Xintiandi has everything you could possibly need and more in one area. Walking down the alley ways of this nook in Shanghai, you will not even believe you are in China. The whole day and a bit I spent in Shanghai, I forgot I was in Asia, this is an area where Chinese and Western styles blend.
Xintiandi is divided down into two parts which are the South Block and the North Block. The South Block has modern architecture and atmosphere, accompanied by Western cuisine, and boutiques from around the world. Therefore, you will feel right at home and still abroad.
The North Block is kept as the old Shikumen architecture style, forming a noticeable split to the modern day South Block. The North Block has a vibe composed of modern art and decoration although still features high-end shopping and restaurants with cuisine coming from all corners of the world such as Japan, many spots in Europe (France, Germany, Italy) and even as far as Brazil.
“The Press by Inno Coffee” is a cafe I would highly recommend to those traveling through Shanghai. China at times can be very overwhelming and it is nice to find a spot that feels like home. The Press is somewhere you can disappear from the craziness of China and features a very European flare. This location is Western friendly and offers a broad menu selection that caters to whatever your stomach is feeling in that moment! For a quick glimpse inside, follow the link here!
My time in Shanghai was cut short due to me having to fly back to reality in Zhengzhou, however, I was still able to get an unexpected invitation to a traditional Chinese baby shower, have a 4 star snooze in downtown Shanghai at the Rayfont Hotel, (To stay where I did, follow this link: http://www.rayfonthotelsouthbund.com/ . They have really fluffy bed sheets) and even came across a yogurt festival at The Bund! I now encourage you to go out and say “Yes” to any invitation that comes your way in life. Do not hesitate it, just accept it with open arms.
This adventure just happened to be in Shanghai.