A China Travel Guide: Shanghai

Thursday, August 27, 2015
For our first weekend off in China, me and the other Summer school students set off on a whirlwind trip to Shanghai! Being one of China's most populated cities (14.35 million to be exact) with it's breathtaking skyline, rich culture and only a 30 minute train ride away- it was a no brainer to make a visit! So off we went early Saturday morning (accompanied by hangovers) on the bullet train to our destination.

The first thing I noticed about the city were the amount of people - everywhere (they don't call it the most populated city for nothing!). I fell in love with the stunning, vast skyline, it was like nothing I'd ever seen before...or at least only ever seen something similar in Blade Runner. It made me feel like a little fish in a very big pond. You could feel the buzz and the movement of the city as soon as you set foot out of the train station.

We spent most of the morning/afternoon having a wander and soaking up the sights...and also trying not to pass out in the incredibly intense humidity. One thing I must stress is that if you do plan on visiting China, I would probably recommend a different time of year when it is slightly cooler. We did cope and manage to travel as much as we wanted but some several degrees cooler wouldn't have been so bad. Saying that, over time you do get used to it (but you don't sweat any less).

You don't actually need that much money to visit Shanghai, apart from travelling and food...you can simply walk around and take in the surroundings which are so mesmerizing in themselves. One minute you'll be walking past the tallest, shiniest, skyscrapers you've ever seen, the next you'll be walking amongst 'shanty town' like neighbourhoods which were really crazy to see.

We later went to the Old Town where you can admire the traditional Chinese architecture and explore some markets for souvenirs! It's a gorgeous area and definitely worth visiting as it's completely different from the modern, futuristic skyline that Shanghai is known for.

Then in true Chinese style, there was the biggest monsoon downpour I've ever seen. It lasted several hours which meant we all got drowned - shoes, socks, hair, mascara running down my face...

Of course, we still made a little detour to the famous 'Bund' for a Shanghai skyline selfie or two! This photo of me was taken while I was standing in a foot-deep puddle, I tell no lie (smiling through the pain).

We made a pit stop for some delicious, well needed food (as well as somewhere dry and sheltered for me!). There are restaurants all over Shanghai so you will never be short of places when you get hungry! We picked somewhere at random (which unfortunately I do not remember the name of) where there was plenty of choice and food was made super quick...and if you're impatient for food like me, then this is always a plus. The food is definitely one of the best parts of being in China and something I probably (over) indulged in...but when in Rome China!

We had an array of noodles, egg fried rice, spring rolls, chicken, duck and vegetables between us all.

We stayed overnight in a budget hotel not far from the metro and set off the next morning to explore the French Concession of Shanghai. It was somewhat like the Shanghai equivalent to Brookyln, NYC...lots of cute, indie cafes and shops lined the streets with a much calmer, more intimate atmosphere than central Shanghai.

We stopped later on for lunch at Here Cafe, a charming house cafe tucked away from all the hustle and bustle where you can sit outside in the front garden or stay cool inside and enjoy some of their selection of cakes, teas and juices. They also did hot dishes such as toasties and pasta. I had the oreo cheesecake and it was, as Jim Carrey would say, b-e-a-uuutiful. The only thing me and the girls would agree on was that the service was a bit slow...

We headed back to the Old Town again to see more of it and enjoy it minus the rain. Along the way we ended up being swarmed by people asking for photos with us, of us and eventually had a whole pack of people around us taking photos with their smartphones (which is still really really strange when I think back to it...). Of course, we don't look like everyone else over there and some people thought we were Americans but still, taking photos of complete strangers is beyond normal to me...has anyone else ever experienced this?!

This must be what it feels like to be Beyoncé.

Before catching our train back to Suzhou we went to see the beautiful skyline at night and it didn't disappoint.

I absolutely loved Shanghai and would recommend visiting to everyone. It's the perfect place to go for a city break and experience its fast-paced city life and stunning architecture. Despite a few of us getting temporarily lost and a few smartphones as well, it was a city worth visiting...just be prepared for culture shock! The craziness of Shanghai definitely made me appreciate how quiet my hometown is and it made me appreciate not being snapped by the Chinese paparazzi either...

Next up - Nanjing!