Shanghai :: Your Gateway Drug to China

Please welcome our newest Guest Adventurer… Yvonne from the blog Escaping the Empty Nest. Yvonne has quite an adventurous back story! She and her family sold everything to travel the world and then are settling in Paris. How exciting is that? To learn more about her inspiring story check out her blog. Thank you Yvonne for sharing this interesting & helpful guide to Shanghai.


Why is Shanghai a good place to go if you’re visiting China for the first time?

Because China is a big, fascinating, overwhelming place, and you need to start someplace that’s user-friendly. Shanghai’s your town.

Here are a few reasons why ~

People there are used to Westerners, so you won’t get stared at much and most people know some English. There is less air pollution than in Beijing, less military presence than in western China, and the plumbing is sturdier. It’s less crowded and more Chinese than Hong Kong, and the weather is pretty mild. There is plenty of beautiful, familiar, European style architecture (thanks to colonialism).Disclaimer: I’m not saying colonialism is good. We’ve figured out that taking over other countries is bad. But the Chinese are happily using all those nice buildings that the Europeans left behind, so it’s ok to appreciate them.

colonialism and Shanghai

China is rough, but rewarding. Let me explain.

China is like my Aunt Myra. Feisty lady. She had some indiscretion before I was born and moved to California when she felt that the family wasn’t treating her right. (Leaving Texas is a huge deal. She might as well have gone to the moon.) We heard rumors both about her wild exploits and about her heroic deeds. Then, in her old age, she moved back to Texas and started showing up at family gatherings. Always prickly, she hurt people’s feelings and offended them, but she also made toys for the kids and told great stories. Pretty soon, she was back in the fold, occasionally telling stories about her California years, or refusing to tell and hence mystifying everyone. But she was one of our people, and we took her back, warts and all.

That’s how China is. We heard about China’s glory days in the past, but then it disappeared for a while and rumors flew. Now China is back, trying to get a seat at the table, and we’ve got to welcome it back. If you’re a human being, China is your people, too.

Just like Thanksgiving dinner once a year with Aunt Myra was a treat, Shanghai is a treat. It’s a limited dose of China, and taken in small quantities it can be thrilling.

I advise one of these three ways for you can to get to know Shanghai. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably arrived at that point in life between backpacker and Elderhostel: an adventuresome person who is willing to hike, but places a high value on a good night’s sleep and regular meals.

1. Your cushiest option is the full tour, booked in the US (or wherever you’re from, thanks for reading from distant lands!). You’ll stay in a western-style hotel, eat in safe restaurants, and have day trips to beautiful places. If you get sick or injured, they’ll get you a doctor. The drawbacks are lack of freedom and confinement with strangers. However, this is a popular option and there’s no shame in taking the road most traveled. You’re still getting out of your comfort zone and seeing new things.

I have never taken a tour, because I am not a caged bird and because I think the smell of buses is repulsive. Something about that diesel/vomit combo just doesn’t work for me. However, ask me again when I’m a senior citizen or if I suddenly get a whole lot of disposable income. Many’s the time I’ve watched an air conditioned coach disgorge its passengers into a restaurant’s sparkling private room, cool wet washcloths at each place setting, while I try to keep my dirty exhausted starving family members from killing each other while waiting for our table next to the bathroom. No judgement. I might join you someday.

pedestrian Shanghai

Read more