In December of 2010, I made a very quick (and very rainy) trip to Shanghai.
Oriental Pearl Tower in the Mist
Wikipedia says, “Shanghai is the largest city by population in the People’s Republic of China and the largest city proper by population in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities of the PRC, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010. It is a global city, with influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology, and transport. It is a major financial center and the busiest container port in the world.” That being said, I didn’t find it too crowded or uncomfortable. Maybe that’s because the weather was yucky the whole time and people were hiding indoors.
A very empty People’s Square
To tell the story of my trip, I’m going to go out of chronological order and tell the story of my near-scam first. After that I’ll share the nicer highlights of Shanghai.
One of the most popular things to do in Shanghai is to walk along the Bund and view the skyline at Pudong. Despite the rain, I trudged through the business district from my hostel to the Huangpu river to catch a gray and misty view of Shanghai’s famous skyscraper skyline.
At the hostel, there had been warnings posted on the bulletin board. Handwritten notes said, “If someone offers to take you to a tea house- SAY NO- It’s scam.” This piqued my curiosity but didn’t over concern me, so I set off towards the Bund.
On the way, I saw this AWESOME Chinglish sign.
While looking at the limited view of the buildings, a group of three Chinese tourists approached me and asked me to take their picture. I obliged, of course, and then one of the girls started asking me a bunch of questions. “Where do I come from?” “How long do I stay in Shanghai?” “Do I like China?” etc. I barely had time to answer a question before she was asking another. She said they were students from Xian and studying English. After a few minutes of intense questioning, she asked me to go to a teahouse. I said no that I don’t drink tea and hightailed it out of there.
Initially, I was shocked and appalled! First, I hate being seen as a target. I’m a traveler, a woman of the world! I’m supposed to be better than that. However, I am whitey-white-white-white and I guess that can mean “easy mark” to some people.
And then I was pissed, I should have done something. I should have stalked them and prevented them from talking to anyone else. I should have yelled and caused a scene. I should have done something more than just walk away and let me move on to someone more gullible.
Later back at the hostel I googled (well, yahoo searched because google is banned) the “Shanghai Tea House Scam” to see what the deal is. Basically, if I had gone with them to the tea house, I would have been served some decent tea at super-inflated prices and been expected to pay for their tea as well. Other tourists have ended up with bills of $200 to $500 USD when clearly no tea should cost that much.
Luckily I dodged the scam. I don’t even like tea anyway.
What a view, eh?
My trip to Shanghai wasn’t all the bad. I had a nice drink at the original Blue Frog bar (only important because the Macau branch was a popular hangout when I lived there).
Armed with my trusty umbrella, I also saw a lot of the city on foot.
A welcoming shrubbery
Trash collection bikes
No visit to Shanghai would be complete without the obligatory stop at the Shanghai Museum. It’s huge, it’s free and it’s filled with all manors of cool Chinese art (bronze, ceramic, stamps, jade, etc). It can be a challenge to take it in at your own pace because the Chinese tourists stop and take a photo of every single object. I’m sure they thought I was crazy because I only took pictures of the pieces of genuinely liked.
The Shanghai Museum- even the building is art. It’s shaped like a ding (bronze vessel).
A favorite ding from inside the museum. Too bad the building doesn’t look like this one…
Some other highlights.
See more photos from the Shanghai Museum and the rest of Shanghai here.
Read more about my other Asian Winter Odyssey travels here.