Last weekend, while my students endured 30 degree (Celsius) weather, Tine and I took a much needed R&R trip to Shanghai! Often referred to as the Paris of the East or compared to New York City, it certainly has elements of both cities. For one, Shanghai is divided by the Huangpu River, similar to the way the Seine runs through Paris. Its comparison to New York City is due to the fact that Shanghai exemplifies a Western city. If it wasn’t for the traditional Chinese architecture in some of the areas we visited, you would have thought you were in insert-any-name Western metropolis. Shanghai, as the largest metropolis and “showpiece” of China’s breakneck economic development, really is worth a visit, although it proved to be quite overwhelming. It wasn’t nearly as easy to navigate as Beijing or New York City for that matter. 

So what did Tine and I do while there? The question could easily be answered with shopping. I’d like to say retail therapy. I needed shorts as the weather in Xi’an is reaching new heights; it’s between 27-33C and humid every week now! Apparently, winter jumps right into summer; spring is unheard of in Xi’an. In addition to some shopping, lots of eating and a little sightseeing were also on our agenda.

Random Interesting fact: Shanghai is an insanely wealthy city. 1 in 3,000 Shanghai residents has over 100 million RMB (that’s about $15.4 million). It’s evident too in the amount of expensive vehicles seen throughout the city, in addition to international shopping plazas in nearly every corner. It’s possible to do a 360 degree circle and see at least three different shopping centers with Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci. Every luxury brand that comes to mind, I’m almost positive you can find it, in multiple locations I might add.

Pudong & Jin Mao Observatory Tower
On our first day, we spent a bit of time walking around the Pudong Financial District. We decided to venture up to the Jin Mao Observatory Tower. This structure quite reminds me of the 30 Rock building in NYC; spectacular views of New York but the latter with spectacular views of the Bund.

View from Jin Mao Observatory Tower of the Bund. 

Rock & Wood International Youth Hostel

Front Entrance.

We stayed at this quaint hostel in the Changning district about three to five stops from the various places we ventured to. It could certainly be likened to a “hole-in-the-wall,” due to the fact that the location was a dud. We arrived on Wednesday evening, having to take a ridiculously expensive taxi from the airport, as a result of my own stupidity in being unaware of the metro times, and as we drove through the streets near the hostel, it was quiet, too quiet for a city like Shanghai. It wasn’t excessively late either, it was around midnight. The hostel, as we found out the next day, during daylight hours, was located in a residential area. This caused quite an incessant amount of stares although the hostel was mostly populated by foreigners, and Shanghai has a sizable foreign population. I can’t tell you how many white men I saw with Chinese women.

Shanghai Museum
On Friday, we visited the Shanghai Museum which boasts over 2,000 years of Chinese artifacts. This is an expansive museum comprised of four floors with an impressive ceramics and jade collection. My favorite hall had to be the Chinese nationalities or minorities hall. This hall displayed Tibetan masks in addition to traditional clothing adorned by the various 55 minorities still present in China.

The best part of visiting the museum was its price: free! Apparently, there is a such thing as a free lunch in China, but who knows, there could have been a camera lurking in the darkness, taking our pictures for some sort of promotional materials for the museum (just joking). We were also informed that getting through this museum, by a nice Indian man waiting in line with us for the museum’s opening at the bright and early hour of 9am (hey, it was vacation so that’s early) that this was his second day visiting and he was in the museum for OVER 5 hours the previous day. Tine and I miraculously finished the museum, only skipping the bronze hall as we have seen plenty of the elusive metal at various Shaanxi museums, in less than 3 hours. In this case, we shared similar sentiments with the city’s development: quickly rise to the top and “get ‘er done.”

View of the atrium from the fourth floor. 
I had to include this due to its inscription. It is a child-shaped ceramic pillow from the Jin dynasty, only from around A.D. 1115. Nothing about this screams comfort, or hi, i would like to use you to sleep peacefully. 
The view of the paintings room from the calligraphy hall. 
Tibetan ceremonial tea set in the Chinese minorities hall dedicated to the 55 minority groups of China. 

The Bund
The area of Huangpu district (named for the river peacefully resting behind me with Pudong district lurking just beyond). The Bund is in reference to the buildings and the wharves on this side of the road. There is a pedestrian tunnel you can walk through and cross over to the Pudong area, but unfortunately it was evening, we were hungry, and looking forward to our Thai dinner at a place near our hostel. We opted for a short visit with The Bund, mostly so we could later say we came, we saw, we conquered, even if the former isn’t necessarily true, unless you consider having to fight crowds of overeager Chinese who wanted to push you out of the way so they could have a pristine picture with The Bund. There are infamous buildings along The Bund and if you go to my Flickr photo page, you will be sure to see more spectacular images with meaningful titles to assist you in identifying them.

Overall, the experience in Shanghai was a positive one. It was certainly a therapeutic trip, involving shopping and a full body massage. I hauled off to Xi’an with a tulle ballerina-like mid-length skirt, two pairs of shorts, linen pants that also serve as capris, camel-colored wedge heels, and a Nokia Blackberry inspired phone (I now have internet capabilities!) I would live in Shanghai in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for two very crucial aspects: navigating this incredibly large city, population over 23 million (yes you read that correctly) and the insane expensiveness of it all. 
Stay tuned for my adventure to the Fabric Market 2.0, classes, and my International Labor Day Xiananigans. 

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