Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Travel Journal: London - Shanghai

I've sufficiently recovered from my China adventure to get around to sorting out all the photos I took. Having not had a two week holiday since I started Proper Work three years ago and having spend a good few months planning the trip it's now quite strange that it's all over. China is not the most obvious holiday destination but it was one of the best trips I've had - I feel like I've barely scratched the surface in terms of the country but I returned to London feeling like I had had a huge adventure and that I'd been away for far, far longer than two weeks (in the best way possible). So, let's start from the beginning...

Packing my Mulberry pineapple keyring and a few clothes I headed to Heathrow's Terminal 5 for some stress-relieving duty free shopping. On the tube journey to the airport it suddenly dawned on me that, oh, crap, I'm on my way to China on my own. The amount of people who told me before my holiday that I was "very brave" for doing this did not help with my panic somewhere between Hammersmith and Hatton Cross. Once on the plane I was in holiday mode - helped with a G&T or two!

Arriving in Beijing ten hours later, I hopped in a taxi across town to Beijing South Station. I napped during the taxi ride so can't say I saw much of the city. I had some time before my train and was in need of lunch or whatever meal time my body-clock thought it was. All of the food looked unfamiliar - I had another what am I doing moment and headed to McDonald's feeling less than intrepid.

Five hours later and I was in Shanghai. Taking a taxi into the city and seeing the bright lights for the first time was very surreal - after so much travel it still hadn't really sunk in where I even was. I slept very well that night.

Monday morning - first stop: The Bund. The Bund is what most people think of when they think of Shanghai - it's a strip of beautiful colonial-era buildings along the bank of the Huangpu River. On the other side of the river rise the skyscrapers of Pudong. The sweeping panoramic view and contrast of old and new is mesmerizing and definitely attracts the crowds at all times of the day.

I then headed up East Nanjing Road - the Oxford Street of Shanghai only far, far busier and brighter. These cute tourist trains wiz up and down the street while crowds of people swarm everywhere. It's sensory overload even in the daytime without the neon lights.

Halfway up East Nanjing Road is the Shanghai No. 1 Food Court - somewhere which turned out to be a favourite destination. I popped into a sushi conveyer restaurant for lunch - each plate was 60p so I can officially never go to Yo Sushi again.

After lunch I headed up to People's Square. Skipping the queues at Shanghai Museum I headed to Nan Shi, the old town.

First stop was Dajing Pavillion - a peaceful temple which made for a nice sanctuary after the crowds of The Bund and after navigating my way down an un-paved dusty road to find it.

I'll spare you pictures of one of the more authentic sites in Shanghai - the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market. Let's just say the focus was very much on the latter. I rather quickly made my way out and found this little guy in the back of a fruit van mewing at me as I walked past.

The most famous site of the old town is the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar. The area now is very touristy but the gardens are beautiful and peaceful. Despite being surrounded on all sides by high rise buildings once inside the gardens are very serene. I spent a nice hour or so getting lost amounts the pagodas and fish ponds. The Bazaar is a different story - super busy, very touristy but fun all the same.

Staying in the old town for dinner I headed to Songyuelou, Shanghai's oldest vegetarian restaurant. Dinner was cheaper than the sneaky Starbucks coffee I'd had earlier in the day!

Heading back to my Shanghai home via East Nanjing Road - the shops are open until 10pm and at night locals gather on the street and queue at street food stalls.

Tuesday was my 27th birthday!

I hopped on the metro to the French Concession. The French Concession was one of my favourite parts of Shanghai - there's not necessarily a lot to "do" but its a lovely place for a wander and there are so many cute coffee shops and bars to hop between. The wide, tree-lined streets feel very European and the streets are dotted with villa style houses. I headed first to Xintiandi and then to Tianzifang which are both great for shopping and people-watching.

I couldn't resist buying these little iced coffees whenever I saw them for sale. It's actually Nescafe so hardly authentic.

Dim Sum for lunch at Dim Sum Garden. Shanghai is the city for eating dumplings.

One of the most interesting museums I've been to and one of the strangest museum-visiting experiences I've had. The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is located in a basement flat within a residential complex. I'd been warned of this by a friend and had a map but still felt convinced I was in the wrong place. I was clearly spotted as the car park attendant popped out of his box to give me a card showing how to find the museum - after wandering around the flats feeling slightly apprehensive the red mats gave a clue that I was in the right block. Inside the museum houses an amazing display of propoganda posters giving an insight into the Cultural Revolution - the dazibao posters providing a chilling contrast to the ones depicting a rosy utopia.

Lastly, it wouldn't be a birthday without a Chinese birthday cake (and an hour-long blissful Chinese massage earlier in the afternoon). Can I spend all my birthdays on holiday from now on?

Have you been to China?



  1. Oh my what an adventure, I love how u went on your own. I am going on hol on my own in November, only in this country, but I'm so looking forward to it, I'll get to do exactly what I want!! Did you prefer it to going with others?

  2. Oh wow, how fun that we just got back from a solo trip almost at thesame time - ok, mine was far less exotic, but still! I thought it was fun how people would always ask "aren't you scared to go alone?" and such things - did I say I slept in my car every night? I lived a dream of mine and now that I'm back, I can't wait to leave again!


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