I came back this weekend from my trip to Shanghai. It was a very good trip. I left all the planning to my friend, George, who is currently in his last year of studying in Shanghai. He’s planning on going back to the states some time after July. So, I thought it would be great to visit considering I was hoping to travel for the holidays. Therefore, this was the first holiday season I didn’t spend with my family.
I actually departed on Christmas day in the afternoon. It was a good and quick flight experience for the most part except for when I arrived in China. Immigration didn’t let me pass so easily on the account that they couldn’t readily believe I’m the same person as my passport photo. It is sort of amusing in retrospect, but what a pain it was! First, I gave the immigration officer my passport. He was going about it as he probably has done it countless of times. Then, he glanced at the photo, looked up, looked back down, looked up again, and repeated this for maybe four times. He asked the officer sitting next to him about what she thought. She probably looked back and forth more than the guy. They discussed something and told me to step back behind the yellow line. I watched as the first officer went to the nearby booth where a higher-up was posted. The boss looked it over and picked up the phone. I knew that this would be a pain. After a few minutes, what I can only assume is an even higher authority figure approached me with my passport after discussing the problem with the other officers. I was surprised that this new guy looked much younger than the original higher-up involved. Anyway, I was asked about my glasses. I informed them all about LASIK, and then I was asked to show other forms of ID. Luckily, I’m a packrat and I also keep lots of stuff in my wallet. I took out my NYU and University of Miami IDs. I also showed them a more current ID and my NJ driver’s license. I think the officer was sort of overwhelmed with all the information, but I didn't mind providing more information. He asked frequently, “How did you lose so much weight?” As much as I was flattered, I eventually didn’t really care to explain all this and I just wanted to get through this ridiculous barrier. After about 15 minutes of this nonsense, I was finally given the OK to proceed to baggage claim. Boy, what an annoying start to my trip!
Everything else went rather smoothly. George took me to all the major Shanghai tourist spots. Some places were obviously traps where all the souvenirs cost about three times the price of smaller shopping hubs. However, I got a good look at a few temples, shopping streets, architecture, neighborhoods, and the Shanghai Museum. I also ate a lot of food from Cantonese style to fast food like McDonald’s and KFC to Taiwanese cuisine to Shanghai specialties to even Japanese food. My stomach was very pleased, especially with all the dessert too.
As I have done with my other travel posts, I’ll write something brief about all the places in Shanghai I visited:
Xujiahui – This is a big shopping district near George’s dorm. There’s some fun architecture to look at like a huge glass ball façade of one of the malls. I thought it was a little ridiculous as to how there are at least three malls just along the major intersection of the area. The stores are mainly clothing stores, most of them being brand names. There were some stores with a markup of about 50%, which is the kind of markup to be expected outside America. I was surprised at how some brand name stores had prices similar to America. And yes, these are legitimate stores!
Nanjing Road – A nice long chunk of shopping with most of the shopping part being closed to automobiles. George pointed out that there’s seven McDonald’s in the part only for pedestrians. We actually went to one of the McDonald’s, and I was very happy with the sweet taro pie I ate for dessert.
Jing’an Temple – A decently large temple that didn’t cost any money, at least not on the day we visited. There were a lot of people at this temple on that particular day, but the temple was in preparation for some kind of celebration. It was great to see a temple in China. I learned a bit about the differences between Chinese temples and Japanese ones when I was in college. For example, there’s a difference with the roof corners. Chinese temples have much more of an arch.
Longhua – The purpose to visit this area's temple was mainly for a more local feeling. It’s a smaller temple and there's an entrance fee, yet we were allowed to see more compared to Jing'an Temple. There’s also a pagoda in the front, which was really nice. Along the way, I was able to see some small shopping areas that are geared toward locals. We did happen on a center that had small stores geared toward visitors. Because it’s not really near any major tourist spot and George is a local, I got some souvenirs at very good prices.
Pearl Tower and the Bund – This is the tower with a few purple orbs that you might have seen if you've ever seen pictures of Shanghai. I told George that I didn’t care to actually go inside the tower. We walked around the tower area, which is mainly Shanghai’s financial district. Afterward, we proceeded to the other side of the river to the bund, which is a strip along the river for a good shot of the Pearl tower area. The buildings along the street also have very western and nice architecture. It’s definitely a picture worthy spot.
Shanghai Museum – This not so large museum is filled with a huge collection of China’s past currency. There are also bronzes, ceramics, jade, Chinese paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, old seals, and furniture. It was worth the visit, especially because I wanted to see cultural aspects of China. There’s quite a lot to take in, but it isn’t as overwhelming as museums like the MET in New York. I was most fascinated by the paintings, currency, and ceramics. The furniture was pleasing to look at too.
Old Street of Shanghai – Much of the architecture has been retained in what has become a huge tourist trap. I saw most of the goods for so much more there. It’s good that we went on the last day of my trip, although it was actually unintentional to go there last. There’s also a temple inside, but it’s heavily restricted and a ticket is required to enter. I enjoyed looking around a lot, and apparently, the restaurants are all pretty good.
Yuyuan Garden – It’s a fairly large garden worth every 30元. I highly recommend visiting it, which is located within the old street area of Shanghai and next to the temple.
Next week, I plan to write about differences between China and Japan. Anyway, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR! あけましておめでとうございます！ Stay tuned next week for another update!
J’ai écrit beaucoup cette semaine, alors j’écrirai dans cette section la semaine prochaine. BONNE ANNÉE tout le monde!
今週の聖書の詩: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
- Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
今週の写真: Shanghai Part 1: Xujiahui, Jing’an Temple, Longhua