Before I’d been to China the visions I had were somewhat different to the reality. Perhaps I have been blind to it and somewhat ignorant to the beauty. The people I know that have been go there on business and are usually tired or don’t get to fully experience its glory so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I was given the chance to travel there with work. I instantly fell in love with Shanghai, the reality is the buildings are works of art and the city is somewhat futuristic so you feel like you’re on the set of a sci-fi film. The fashion is the next thing that amazes me, the style is just so quirky and they take my love for ath-leisure and monochrome to a whole new level in Shanghai.
Hitting das bund – although I know it’s far from being German I can’t help but hear ‘the bund’ and think of it in a German accent as ‘das bund’ so this is how it became known on our trip. The Bund is a waterfront/ boardwalk area in Shanghai where Chinese and international tourists alike gather to amongst other things people watch the fashionable Shanghainese. If you get chance you should get a boat along the river it’s meant to be really nice, we didn’t have time so we did the next big thing and took the cable car along the tunnel under the water. It’s more expensive than getting a taxi but it’s like a mild techno rave with lots of flashing lights so I felt it was worth it for the experience! There are also a lot of nice bars and restaurants overlooking the river which are really nice.
Futuristic buildings aka works of art. Staying in the Eton Hotel and being upgraded to a suite with a huge bath was obviously in itself pretty good but then I was instantly in awe of the view over Shanghai. The buildings are unreal and the time and effort put into these works of art is somewhat inspiring and to be admired. Obviously the grey smog is not as appealing as the blue sky and fluffy clouds we often see in England, if you weren’t aware this is due to the pollution and mass population. When some of our suppliers visited England they couldn’t believe how clear the sky was which is so sad to think some people never experience the beauty of things we take for granted. For 3 months this year before the G20 summit factories in certain areas are ordered to close to reduce pollution and help clear the smog. Hopefully that will help the environment…even if only for a short while!
Shanghai brewery and amazing burgers
As much as I like Chinese food and trying new things it’s also nice to have some good old reliable food like a classic hearty burger! If you get the address up beforehand on your phone in Chinese to show the taxi driver it’s much easier than trying to explain because the chances are they’ll not have heard of it. It’s a quirky area and the brewery is a funky little place where you can sit outside if it’s nice and they have good music. They have a brewery on site and the drinks are really good in particularly the beer and cider. I went for a classic beef burger with avocado as I have it a lot at home, whether I was influenced by the fact I have been faced with chicken feet and unknown meat roulette for the past week or so but the food was fantastic and I would definitely recommend it! There are also bars and clubs in the area so be sure to check it out.
The shopping in Shanghai is amazing from unique one off shops from local designers to the world wide well known luxury high end designers, theres something for everyone. However, those that know me know I do love a good market. Every time I travel somewhere be that London, Cambodia, Paris or Shanghai I suss out the market scene. Shanghai is renowned for its fake goods market at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, it’s a big underground shopping centre with loads of stalls with fake designer clothing, bags sunglasses and pretty much anything you might want. The key is to barter hard, they drive a hard bargain but stick to your guns. We were with a Chinese colleague so she helped out with some but due to negotiating being part of our jobs we did really well, even the Chinese people we spoke to around the market couldn’t believe how cheap we got everything for! If you’re lucky and you show an interest they take you into their secret room in the back, it’s like a covert operation which involves knocking on doors and waiting for the coast to be clear because if the police come they get in to trouble. They don’t usually let Chinese people into the back rooms due to the fear they will tell the police so it’s only for westerners, however because she was with us our Chinese colleague loved coming in the back and seeing all the best of the best bags! It was definitely worth going in for the best quality and newest styles so maybe if you’re in the elite like us you’ll get chosen too! Oh, one to bare in mind though, don’t do what I did and get carried away and forget that you’ve actually got to transport everything around China with you for the next week, massive FML!
Coffee and the safety of Starbucks
If you’re like me and in any doubt of where to go for coffee in England I head for Starbucks. You know what you’re getting and you know what you’ll pay. So why should China be any different. Like me you might also be surprised that China have Starbucks, and lots of them for that matter, they also have telephones and the internet! (Sarcasm aside though they don’t have Facebook or You Tube). With regards to the food in China, don’t worry about it. There’s so many different options and I tried some really tasty dishes that I’d never tried before. Obviously there’s the weird and wonderful like pig knuckles and fried baby bird but even the locals don’t eat some of the strange dishes and turn their noses up at it, I think they just do it to us foreigners for novelty purposes.
(Strangely enough I don’t go round taking photos of Starbucks as I didn’t think it would be relevant, silly me. So instead I took a photo of me judging every hotel by the coffee selection it had to offer. The photo on the right is some strange shelled creature, I was offered a Starbucks scone in a bet that I wouldn’t try one…. Obviously I had been craving the scone for some time and not being one to back out of a bet tried one. I won, and yes, yes the slimy peculiar beings do taste as horrible if not worse than they look and including the Chinese people at the table I was the only one that tried them.)
The great firewall of China
So as I mentioned above China is on lockdown and sites such as Facebook, You Tube and Snapchat are all blocked, I think they’ve just recently got access to Instagram, correct me if I’m wrong. One reason is amid fears it could be used to organise political protests, following the 2009 rallies the government now aggressively control the internet, it is a dictatorship after all so what they say, goes! I’m not saying that not having Facebook is a bad thing; I personally don’t like it and think that people are far too interested in living their perceived social media life rather than actually just enjoying themselves. However, that being said it is annoying when you try to Google or research things (not at all to check my Facebook/ Instagram/ post some sick sightseeing selfie in Shanghai on Snapchat) so we found a way around it. All you need to do is to download the app called Onova Protect, it’s a free VPN app that gets around the server somehow and allows you access to any of the sites which you would be able to access in England. It’s a pretty amazing tool to have so I would highly recommend it, maybe just log out of Facebook though and have a detox while you’re away.
Shanghai fashion is on point it puts us to shame, they make such an effort and have such good style, I say ‘they’ I am obviously generalising but the majority of people I saw were well dressed on the whole. I would definitely recommend visiting Shanghai, they’re currently building a Disney land which will also be open later this year so even more reason to visit! China as a whole is a must see, the food and people are fantastic and I found them to be very welcoming which I didn’t expect. China has many faces from mountains, beaches and islands in Xiamen, shopping in Shanghai and so many different local cultures. Next stop, Hong Kong techno style!
Much love OTA xx