The reason for this holiday was simple, it materialized to fulfil one dream of mine – to go on a solo travel trip at least once in my life. I first began the difficult process of choosing which country to travel solo to. There were several factors to consider
- Safety – Since it’s my first time traveling alone, I don’t want to be too adventurous and go to countries that might be a little bit dangerous. I also don’t want to be helpless, so being able to speak the local language is a must.
- Price – Nothing expensive, therefore Asia will be the continent of choice.
- Things to do – no shopping. Exploring the local sights and cuisine will be preferred, followed by other tourist destinations.
I vaguely remembered it was thanks to Winston that sparked off this idea, roughly about half a year ago. He suggested Shanghai because it is a financial hub with skyscrapers (Pudong) and yet retains much of its historical architectures (French Concession/The Bund).
The opportunity arose during the Deepavali long week-end break, so I immediately applied for leave and booked a ticket on China Eastern Airlines ($435 return). There’s no budget carrier to Shanghai so this was the cheapest ticket I could find. I should also thank my friend for letting me crash at his house in order to save on accommodation.
The first cool thing was the Shanghai Maglev train (上海磁浮示范运营线), which uses magnetic levitation technology and can reach speeds of up to 430km/h!! The ride from the Pudong International Airport (浦东国际机场) was smooth, comfortable, and only took 8 minutes to reach Longyang Station (龙阳路).
From there, the city is well-connected through the Shanghai Metro Network. Taking a bus might be more convenient sometimes, but for a first-timer it can get very confusing to locate the correct bus stop and the correct bus service to take, so I wouldn’t recommend it. You can use this link to plan your journey.
The first place I know I’ll like is Tianzifang (田子坊), which sells a myriad of souvenirs, decorations, and other interesting 有的没的东西. There are also cafes and restaurants amidst the maze of shops, so if you get tired of wandering around and finding yourself in the same area again, you can take a break to rest your legs.
I was highly encouraged to go to Xintiandi (新天地), the expatriate’s hangout for drinks. The Shikumen (石库门) buildings houses many bars and restaurants, but I didn’t really fancy an expensive western-style meal there, so I gave them all a miss.
Another area that was on the top of my list is the Shanghai French Concession (上海法租界). Rows of trees line up the quaint streets; it doesn’t feel like I’m in a bustling city. I was aiming to explore this area on foot, so I walked around for a few hours and when I get tired, I’ll find a cafe to refresh myself with coffee and do some reading.
You might be wondering how I chance upon good cafes in a foreign land. My helpful friends recommended me a mobile app called 大众点评. They are able to share the locations via Wechat, or I can browse what are the popular places around me. You can access the web version via this link.
There were no lack of shopping malls in Shanghai, especially along the whole stretch of Nanjing West Road (南京西路) to Nanjing East Road (南京东路). I went in to take a quick look at Adidas / Superdry and was shocked to find out the price of a tee shirt there is twice the price of a tee in Singapore. That explains why Chinese tourists flock to everywhere else and buy so much stuff; simply because it’s way more expensive back home.
At the end of Nanjing East Road (南京东路) is the iconic landmark The Bund (外滩). Standing here, you can take scenic photos of the skyscrapers at Pudong (浦东) across the Huangpu River. The iconic Shanghai World Financial Centre (上海金融中心) affectionately labelled as the bottle-opener, and the Oriental Pearl Tower (东方明珠塔) are two buildings that you cannot miss, the former being one of the tallest building in China.
If you’re looking to find a special someone during your trip there, you can head over to People’s Square (人民广场) on a weekend and you’ll find hundreds of parents advertising their child at the nearby park. It’s almost like a bazaar, with their child’s CV/Resume exhibited. It was quite an eye-opener to see how important it is to marry off their precious child to someone of a worthy social status.
When you finally get hungry from all the walking, there is one restaurant that I’d like to recommend for affordable authentic food. I heard raving reviews from my friends (Singaporeans, as well as locals), so I don’t think it can go wrong.
I visited the 外婆家 at IAPM, a shopping mall conveniently located on top of the South Shanxi (陕西南路站) Metro Station.
Also, who can forget about the famous 小杨生煎 and 佳家汤包 that are just opposite each other along 黄河路. They’re almost the same thing (dumplings), except that one is fried, and the other is steamed. If you were to ask me to choose one, I’d vote for the steamed option. However, since you’re all the way there and they are really cheap, just order both to pamper your stomach. Kudos to 小杨生煎 for giving me an extra dumpling, probably because I appeared to be a foreigner while ordering.
Eating 12 佳家汤包 (小笼包) for tea was not an easy feat, but it was so delicious I finished them all up by myself. Do go early to 佳家汤包 if not most items will be sold out by early afternoon.
Finally, I have to thank my friends heaps for their hospitality during my stay in Shanghai! They gladly let me crash at their place and brought me around, introducing me to the special places there!!
Group picture taken at an alfresco diner!