Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arrival in Shanghai

Over the National Day holiday in China, I had sixteen days off from work. As I was informed this was much longer than the school I work at has ever had. Most people in China have about one week vacation to celebrate the holiday. So I knew that I needed to take full advantage of the time off and explore as much of China as possible. Since I was traveling alone and I don't speak Chinese I decided to stick to the east coast and visit urban areas that I would be able to easily navigate.

The first city I stopped in was Shanghai. Although Beijing is the capital city of China, Shanghai is probably the most westernized city. Having lived in China for six weeks at the time, I was beginning to really miss all sorts of things from back home. I was so glad to indulge in shopping and dining at familiar chains from America. My original plan was to visit as many of the historic sites as possible, but that was waylaid by my desire to shop. Although I did try to visit at least one site each day of my stay. 

I live in a city just outside Beijing and the fast train to Shanghai took about 5.5 hours. A one way ticket was around $90 US. I arrived in Shanghai in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day walking around the People's Park and some of the nearby streets checking out the architecture.  

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Museum

At first, I started to wish that I had taken a job closer to Shanghai so I had access to the same food and clothing stores that I was accustomed too. After a day or two I realized that I made the right choice living in a city that has very few western tourists. Shanghai is a fabulous city to visit and I might make a trip back there later this year. However, in LangFang, I am experiencing a much more authentic side to China that most people never see. 

Most of my family or friends that traveled to China visited Shanghai and Beijing, but very few were interested in exploring the surrounding cities or other areas in China. In a way I understand. If you don't speak the language, traveling away from the urban areas can be a challenge as most people in China are not fluent in English. Plus, China is such a large country that it can take a lot of time to cover the vast space and most people have a limited amount of time to visit. Beijing has so many wonderful historic places to visit, but I encourage anyone traveling to China to get out and see more that this wonderful country has to offer. 

From my experience and knowledge thus far, most people that live in China never get to Beijing or Shanghai or they maybe seldom visit in their lifetime. What we see in those cities is not the reality that most people live. Visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Qingdao I had a glimpse of that reality. Just like anywhere else, each city that I explored was a bit different than the next. The experience makes me eager to get out and see more of China.     

Have you visited China? Where did you go and what did you think?

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