By Juhi Bansal
We travelled to China late last year and it was one of the best impromptu trips we have ever done. We had about 8 days to ourselves so we decided to limit our trip to Shanghai and Beijing only. Shanghai is like any other metropolitan city across the world- fast, clean, “drop your hat” high skyscrapers, cosmopolitan crowd and food. But, it also has an old world charm- be it the floating tea houses or the charming French Concession or the uber cool Xintiandi. Here are my two bits on planning a short trip to China.
Where to Stay
It is always better to stay close to public transport whatever location you decide on. We were in Shanghai for 5 days out of which we stayed 2 nights in an Airbnb in People’s Square. It is centrally located with access to all points of interest and has two metro lines close by. For the second half of our stay, we moved to a hotel in the financial district which was also close to a metro station so getting around was much easier.
Shanghai Circus World: The ‘ERA Intersection of Time’ show at Shanghai Circus World is a cultural extravaganza. Traditional Chinese martial arts and acrobatics together with a spectacular combination of visuals, live music, special effects, elaborate costumes- it is totally worth the money. Iy enjoyed it as much as we did.
Xintiandi: One place we kept going back to. Has some of the best eateries or if you’re looking to spend a night about town- it is Europe in Shanghai!
French Concession: Whether it is Huaihui, Tianzifang or Xujiahui, each section has its own charm. From fashionable pedestrians to cool cafes to roadside shopping, every corner is mesmerizing.
Hu Xin Ting Floating Tea House: It’s a beautiful 18th century tea house floating in the middle of a lake. Do try the tea here.
Yuyuan Bazaar: Quaint little traditional bazaar. Find some fun baubles, street food and lots and lots of other stuff.
Bund: It is the Riverside Promenade. Do take a walk around especially in the night when it’s all lit up. We saw atleast 30 pre-wedding shoots happening at the Bund on one single evening! It was so pretty! You may also want to eat at one of the fancy restaurants that overlook the Bund. Such an amazing view!
Shanghai Zoo: We made the trip especially for the giant pandas! They are so cute- definitely my spirit animal!
Other places of interest: People’s Square, Yu Garden, Nanjing Road, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Disneyworld.
Cabs in China are quite cheap. (compared to Europe and US). There is no Uber but they have something similar called Didi which is quite good and fast. Mostly cabs will reach almost where you are standing in wait but sometimes they can’t spot you and the driver will call. Most of them do not speak any English. In fact, almost all of them can’t understand a word of English so there is no way you can explain to them where you are. We did use cabs in China but mostly when we were at a prominent spot and there was no need to communicate with the driver.
I quite like the metro system in Shanghai. It is quite wide spread (you can club it with taxis and almost everything becomes accessible), clean, frequent and most importantly- instructions are in English. It is so convenient; you would need no help whatsoever.
There are two things you should know before you look for Vegetarian Chinese food in Shanghai.
1. The Chinese are ardent meat and sea food lovers. Most places don’t even have one vegetarian dish on the menu.
2. A very high percentage of Chinese people don’t speak any English at all. So you can’t even make them understand what you’re looking for. While #GoogleTranslate is a big help there is always a small chance your food will still end up having a little bit of meat in the form of broth because you couldn’t communicate properly. While finding non Chinese vegetarian food is very easy- Tripadvisor is a big help in that regard, we wanted to taste the local food and flavours. I also asked a couple of friends for suggestions plus our hosts at our Airbnb in Shanghai spoke English.
We really wanted to try the local cuisine and although we struggled in the beginning, managed to find lots of veg options eventually. You can check out my detailed post on Chinese food and etiquette here.
(I shall soon bring part 2 of the article which will have some important must-knows about China and how to make the best of your short trip to Beijing).
Stay Gorgeous xx