After falling in love with Hangzhou, our group boarded a two hour bullet train ride to Shanghai, China. I was expecting cramped quarters, uncomfortable seats, and loudness. Instead, I got more leg room than I have ever had on a flight or an Amtrak train ride. The countryside was beautiful, and the journey was smooth and peaceful. The only downside to trains on China? A hole in the floor for the bathroom (this is fairly common in a lot of places for bathrooms). Upon arrival, our coach bus took us from the train station to our local hotel near a shopping center. The first thing I noticed about Shanghai compared to Hangzhou was the noise and crowds. The city was definitely more modern than Beijing, and reminded me of New York City in many ways.
An amazing event we were able to experience while in Shanghai was the 2010 Expo; officially called Expo 2010 Shanghai, China. Within the Expo, over 150 different countries participated. We arrived at ten in the morning and were greeted with German food and beer, Mexican margaritas and tacos, and beautiful buildings each designed to showcase the country’s unique and individualistic style. The Expo was held on the shoreline of the Huangpu River, and the day was hot and sunny. I didn’t care, though, because I was able to drink Colombian coffee, Cuban alcoholic drinks, and visit the showcases of Israel, Germany, Ireland and many others.
Another highlight of visiting Shanghai will not be found in a tour book, but rather stays exclusive to my travel group: an international drinking competition! Full disclaimer – I was banned from participating due to my lack of experience with alcoholic drinks. We had two hotel rooms adjoined, and every person brought a bucket of ice to fill the bathtubs. The teams were: American, Australian, and an International team. What happened that night will stay in those two hotel rooms, but it was definitely an experience I will never
remember forget. The downside of this competition in a hotel room? Getting the Chinese police called on you and having to rush out of the building in order to not end up in a Chinese prison.
Being in Shanghai gave us time to explore outdoor markets, enjoy traditional Chinese food and explore The Bund. I loved Shanghai for many reasons: the city was large, international and diverse, but still very much a Chinese city. I still had culture shock, but not enough to scare me. There were so many different alleyways, tourist attractions, local eateries and others to explore. The people were friendly, the smog was not as bad as Beijing, and the city felt more modern and new.
At the end of my two weeks traveling through China, I felt like a different person: I was more mature, confident, and sure of who I was; I made fifty plus new friends, and I knew our friendships would last; I learned and saw so many new and different things, and probably experienced more in two weeks than most people do in years. The hardest part of the trip was having to say goodbye to my new friends. A few of us were traveling onto the Hong Kong extension, some were flying back home, and some were continuing on their own travel adventures.
As for China – I will be back again. You are a beautiful, stimulating, exciting, crazy country with so many hidden gems and diamonds. Your citizens are some of the kindest, most welcoming and open people I have ever met. You know how to keep someone on their toes, always looking and waiting for the next misadventure to occur. The country is one which you can never tire of, because there is simply too much to explore and too much to understand. China, thank you for an amazing two weeks of my life and for bringing all of these random people from all over the world together. Traveling through China was an experience I am eternally grateful for and will never forget.