I spent last week in China. I got to visit Beijing the first weekend, and Shanghai the second weekend.
I didn’t have much luck with taxis during the week… there are many, but for some reason do not like to stop for foreigners. So I figured I would go by foot and subway. So I started the day off on the subway. Everything is in English, and it is very easy to use.
I took it to the Yuyuan Garden stop, so I could visit the Yu Gardens and Bazaar. I got their very early which allowed me to walk through the gardens without any crowds.
I walked about an hour and came out to walk through the Bazaar, where there is every kind of shop you can imagine. Holy crap. There were hoards of people. It was so crowded I couldn’t believe it. Hoards. And of course, Starbucks.
There are all kinds of shops, but if there is one thing that is annoying about China, it is shopping. If you go into a store, you immediately have 5 people trying to “help” you (meaning sell you things and bug you until you purchase something). This is very annoying, and once it has happened to you a couple times, you avoid going into shops. So I figured I would just walk around, window shopping.
Again, so annoying. At least 15 different people came up to me and wanted to sell me a designer watch or handbag. And I only walked around about 30 minutes. So, no exaggerating… every 2 minutes someone asked if I wanted a Dior handbad or Chanel watch.
In the mid 19th century, the British negotiated with the Chinese to create an international concession*, a zone of self rule. The French decided they wanted their own concession… so there is a part of Shanghai with villas and apartment buildings of French style. I LOVED this part of the city. Much less hustle and bustle of the more central parts, very interesting, European architecture. There are some historical buildings that have been turned into hotels or restaurants, while keeping their original look.
My favorite part was Sinan Mansions*, a group of 1930 homes that have been transformed into bars and restaurants. It was quiet, quaint and I ate outside, taking advantage of the 75 degree weather.
I then walked to Nanjing Road, one of the famous shopping areas of Shanghai, with a good mix of local and US / European stores. I did a bit of shopping then headed home.
I had an amazing week. Lots of things surprised me, though what surprised me the most was feeling I was at the heart of something big… living, observing, experiencing history in the making. The country and city is changing so quickly, you can see it, feel it, and are surrounded by it.
Ever been to China ? How did you like it ? Would you like to go ?
(*References from the Eyewitness guidebook)