A week in China part I
I’ve survived. A week in the most populous city in the world. A week in a city where I knew only two phrases of the language (hello and thank you go along way). A week in a city where social media (except for instagram?) is blocked. A week in a city where cheese is practically non-existent. Yes, I survived. After staying in Shanghai for a week with one of my dear friends and his new family, here’s just part 1 of my trip.
You’ve probably seen the above tower before – the Oriental Pearl Tower – it is after all Shanghai’s most famed landmark. Much like the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Harbour Bridge, mere images of this structure don’t really give it justice. Like something out of a sci-fi film, looking up at the tower is a surreal experience. Even more so when done after a few appletinis at night when the tower, and the city in general, puts on a neon light show of Vegas proportions. Like most tourists we took in the views one night from a rooftop bar at the Bund, but my favourite city skyline view was from the balcony of Morton’s Steakhouse at the luxurious IFC mall – but then again maybe the happy hour drinks and free steak sliders had something to do with it.
While the number of skyscrapers in the city is lengthy, Shanghai surprisingly doesn’t have the built-up concrete jungle looks of other international cities like New York and London. I was really surprised by how green and spacious it was. Streets were lined with trees, parks – particularly where we were staying in Pudong – were seemingly everywhere, while the city’s wide boulevards made the city feel incredibly spacious. While there was never an entire shortage of people, it certainly wasn’t the chaotic and crowded hub I had been preparing for.
While the footpaths weren’t as crowded as first thought, make no mistakes, the roads in Shanghai are bat-shit crazy. Red lights are rarely obeyed and a stream of scooters is constant. As such, crossing the road can be a heart palpating moment – even when you have right of way. Despite such dangers, my friend threw me into the deep end on my first day with a bike ride to lunch. Much like my bike ride in Paris, it was a slightly scary yet victorious moment.
While I was glad I conquered the streets on wheels, I kept to walking and taking cabs for the rest of the trip, wavering only once for a slightly crowded but still manageable subway ride. With little to no language knowledge, catching taxis was the saviour of our trip. Though cab drivers don’t tend to speak english, they’ll happily takn you to where you need to go pending you have the address written down in Mandarin. While this saved countless lost moments, it was also incredibly cheap, with a 20 minute taxi ride costing an amazing AUD$3. A luxury I could totally get used to. Although be warned – not all taxis will pick up westerners, even if you’re two little girls. Westerners in Shanghai are often associated with drunken buffoonery, which is true only 60% of the time.
And then of course there was the food. A luxury I knew I was set for – and it lived up to its expectation. We had it even better as we were staying with locals – grandma’s handmade dumplings and freshly cooked crab were significant life highlights. But it’s hard to really go wrong in Shanghai. My food court AUD$5 ramen noodles were well underpriced and even the street food – questionable lamb skewers – my friend assures me are the best 3am snacks.
The standout meal of the trip though was the feast we had at the newly opened Da Dong. With a request to try Peking Duck, my friend’s restaurant selection was a standout. Not only was the Peking Duck life-changing, but the rest of the experience was incredible. From a chef entertaining our table with dry-ice created merengue sweets to a delicious adventure featuring prawns, asian greens and jujube apples, the meal was one of the best I’ve ever had with Da Dong being a fantastic place for tourists to experience local cuisine in incredible surroundings. And no, despite Da Dong specialising in sea cucumber, I didn’t actually try it. Partly because my friend recommended not too because it doesn’t really have a taste and partly because I was slightly scared.