We spent a mere 3 days in Shanghai, and that was probably enough time. After some action-packed days in Beijing, Zac and I were ready to chill out for a bit, and our super fancy hostel was the perfect place to do it.
Personally, I was really worried about getting around Shanghai with zero Chinese, but it wasn’t so bad. The people we absolutely needed to communicate with knew at least a little English, and we were able to make it work. We also looked up addresses and locations online and took a picture of the Chinese version, which we were then able to show to Taxi drivers, etc.
On the first day, a lovely Shanghai bike tour was in order. Our guide for the 4-hour tour was actually Dutch, so we didn’t have to know any Mandarin at all! She took us through some of the old parts of Shanghai, and we passed one of the houses where Mao lived. It was overcast, foggy, and a little bit wet, so we didn’t get too many pictures. Zac and I are huge dorks about biking, and we’ve rented them on just about every trip we’ve ever taken.
After the tour, we wandered around the downtown area of Shanghai until we were too cranky to keep walking. People’s Square is pretty cool, but we wasted 2 hours trying to find the open walking area that we biked through on the tour. Never found it though. We did see some interesting sights along the way.
We decided to hit up the Shanghai Museum for a bit, and we spent about 25 minutes there. It’s a huge museum, but we’re not really into spending time on an entire floor devoted to ceramics.
That was about the extent of our trip. We spent our last day trying to find great street food, but it was a huge fail. How about YOU try navigating your way around a foreign country without a map? (Yeah, our hotel didn’t give us one, and we couldn’t find one anywhere…) We would load Google Maps on my iPod before leaving the hotel, and hope that it would get us where we needed to go. Sometimes it did, mostly it didn’t.
We ended up stumbling upon a lunchtime and rush-hour street food spot right next to the metro station. Here we were able to really try some pretty delicious items. We had some sort of an egg-crepe-wrap, a flavorful kebab sandwich, and a sweet pretzel-like bun. My only Shanghai regret is that we didn’t go on one of the street food tours available. Ah well.
We were anxious and happy to be leaving China. My desire to go to Japan is the sole reason that we selected Asia for this trip, and we were both very excited to get to that leg of the journey. Additionally, we’re meeting my friend Jialeou in Tokyo, and we’ll have a free place to stay for a few nights before we head home. All of this is enough to make us excited for Japan, but we were equally excited to just leave China.
So far on this trip, I would say that the biggest culture shock is not how people live; it’s how they behave. We were prepared for a lot of crowded streets, dirty cities, and questionable foods. We weren’t really prepared to watch person after person blow a snot rocket into the street, for kids to pee and poo on the sidewalk, and for a complete lack of customer service. It really is a different world over here, and the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the streets of Manhattan doesn’t hold a candle to the normal everyday sights here.
I don’t mean to be negative. It’s not fair to judge people, customs, or cultures, and we’ve met plenty of nice people, as well as expats who simply love China. It’s just not for us. You can blame my germaphobia or Zac’s OCD, but I think we’ve both had enough of China for at least a decade. Now it’s off to the clean and organized world of JAPAN.