A couple years ago I had the chance to visit Shanghai, China. For a few weeks, I explored the glittery Pudong neighborhood, the beautiful French Concession, the bustling Yuyuan Gardens, and more.
I chose Shanghai because I’ve always wanted to visit a place that reminded me of Blade Runner, one of my favorite films. Shanghai was the first place that popped into mind, so I booked a ticket, got my visa (hooray for living in Washington, DC – I was able to get a same-day turnaround!), and flew all the way across the world. I got to my hotel at about 2:00pm, and contrary to all of the best advice about getting sunlight and eschewing a nap to avoid jetlag, I instantly fell asleep for about six hours. When I woke up, I walked to my 14th-floor window and saw shiny, neon buildings and light shows.
I was so, so, so happy to be there. I’d taken Chinese history and culture classes every semester of college, and had always dreamed of coming here. I didn’t get to take very good photos, but here are a few from that trip.
Pudong from across the Bund
On one of my first days in Shanghai, I took the metro (VERY easy to navigate even if you don’t speak any Chinese) across from the Pudong area, which is the more modern neighborhood you tend to see in photos of Shanghai these days, and strolled down The Bund, a historic area that offers a stunning view of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Bottle Opener, and other famous buildings. This view is incredible, but it’s really only one TINY part of Shanghai!
The pedestrian bridge in Pudong
About half-a-mile from my hotel was Shanghai’s pedestrian bridge, which offers an easier route to get to famous landmarks and areas of commerce separated by the main highway. It’s also the access point to the Oriental Pearl Tower, which gives absolutely stunning views of the city if you’re able to go to the top.
A couple of snail statues along the highway toward the Oriental Pearl Tower and other iconic buildings
One thing I found a little “uncanny valley”, if there is such a thing for nature and habitats, is the parks and greenery throughout Shanghai were devoid of birds, had cricket speakers in the trees, and were all extremely neatly trimmed. Trees were planted exact distances apart from one another. I was glad to see some green spaces, as unsettling as they felt for someone who grew up visiting National Parks and mangrove swamps.
One of the wider streets in Shanghai
Once you’re in the Old City – which is the main and largest part of Shanghai – it’s easy to get lost wandering the tiny, cramped side streets. It was a wonderful experience to explore and wander, and if you have a basic map of the city, it’s easy to find main streets and metro stations to help figure out where you need to go. The above photo is from a wide street, and the below one is a medium-sized street that was delightfully cramped.
Another street view in Shanghai
If you’re the kind of person who needs a lot of personal space, maybe don’t go to Shanghai. Or at least psych yourself up for it – I’m definitely not a touchy-feely person and I like to have a personal bubble, but knowing that this bubble wasn’t a “thing” in China and getting used to the idea beforehand got me into the right head space to enjoy walking around, getting jostled, and mass-froggering across the street.
Yuyuan Gardens, a historic spot and more recently, a popular shopping center
I did quite a lot of shopping at Yuyuan Gardens! I collect silk scarves, and was able to pick up about a dozen here. Inside, you’ll find a bustling, crowded market, but if you make your way outside, you’ll have a much more peaceful view of beautiful lilies and gorgeous historical buildings.
About the Author
As the managing director of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at email@example.com!
Featured image via Unsplash.