I was relieved to find that getting to and from China was incredibly easy. The flight was only about an hour and a half and we had no trouble going through security or customs. However, we did meet teachers in Busan who didn't know they needed visas for China so they were unable to go. Remember your visas, kids.
Once Alix and I got to Shanghai, we boarded the Mag Lev, which is a high speed train that takes you from the airport to the heart of the city. The train topped speeds of 431 kilometers/hour which I believe turns out to be around 267 miles/hour. We were able to navigate the subway system and find our hostel, The Phoenix, easily. We got lucky with our accommodation once again. Great location, cheap, extremely comfortable. Couldn't ask for more.
Alix and I found Mike, who I met back in Hong Kong; he flew over for a few days from Chicago. We spent our first night strolling along The Bund, the beautiful river that runs along Shanghai (and I think) separates two parts of the city. I love seeing new skylines for the first time and Shanghai's was nothing short of breathtaking.
The next day we really didn't have a set plan, so we decided to just wander around the city. We found a market, which was kind of like a giant dollar store, and got lost in it for a while. We decided to visit the jade gardens which we found recommendations for online. We didn't realize the gardens were gated, so we spent a good amount of time looking for open flowers and trees. We finally found them with a little help and spent some time relaxing and enjoying each other's company.
We also walked around the "old city" which is exactly what it sounds like. If you imagine old time China in the movies, this would be the set. It was beautiful, nonetheless. And it had Dairy Queen.
I think we regretted our lack of research the most on our third day. We wanted to visit a fishing village, but unfortunately didn't know much about the city itself or how to get there. After a failed trip to the bus stop, we decided we would go our separate ways. Mike did a little sightseeing while Alix and I went to a fishing village that was more touristy but much closer. In the end, I'm happy we decided to go where we did. It was convenient and provided all we wanted to see.
While walking around, we found a little cafe and decided to stop for a coffee. We started talking to a university student who wants to move to America to receive her masters in Engineering. She told us that the cafe is famous for its postcards and you could write a postcard to your future self that they will send to you when you like, whether it's in one year or ten. Alix and I both wrote postcards to ourselves, she'll receive hers in a year and mine will be sent in two. It was a nice, unexpected surprise and actually provided a lot of insight. I was able to clear my mind on that little piece of paper. It will be interesting to see where I am and what I'm doing when I get it in the mail.
Overall, I don't think I spent enough time in Shanghai to truly get a sense of what it was about. Alix and I did a little research, but I think we were a bit unprepared on what to do and how to do it. Yet with that being said, we still had a fantastic time and Shanghai left a very good impression on me. The people were friendly, for the most part the city was clean, and everything was so cheap. When we were lost or look confused, people would come up and offer to help us. That doesn't happen in every city and though it was a small gesture, it meant a lot.
It really is true that it doesn't matter where you're at but who you're with. I'm lucky to have such easy-going travel companions no matter where I go. I love discovering new cities, but they wouldn't be as memorable if it wasn't for the remarkable people there discovering the city with me.