Before you have even visited a place you have thoughts and opinions about it. A quick Google search will easily let you find other people’s opinions too. I haven’t visited Beijing yet but I have already decided in my head I am not going to like it- too many people, too expensive, and pollution so bad that schools have been cancelled. In the spring I went to Portland in and before I even went I already decided I liked it- it was more to see if I wanted to live there. I watched enough Portlandia and did enough Google searching to firmly decided, “I like Portland.” Shanghai is a two hour train ride from Chuzhou so it was only a matter of time before I visited. I concluded I am city girl and Shanghai is a big city so I will like Shanghai.
The first time I visited Shanghai was in mid October. I left on a Friday evening after teaching my last class. A local I connected through Couchsurfing met me at the train station and the showed me some local eats. I got to try Yang’s Dumplings and a little noodle shop. Both were delicious and affordable. My host was “way out there” but I didn’t mind as I got to see another side of Shanghai. On Saturday I looked around a the sites, ate more Yang’s Dumplings (only eight yuan for four!), went shopping, and had dinner at a delicious Thai place with an online learning partner.
But there was just something I didn’t like there. There was simply too many people. It was overwhelming and it was difficult to enjoy myself. It probably didn’t help that I choose to go to “tourist areas” but even on the subway it was so crowded. I went to the famous “The Bund” and it didn’t impress me much. Perhaps it was because of all the people. (And I still prefer the NYC skyline.) The Oriental Pearl Tower was fun to look at as its so funky looking. I got some great vintage postcards that I plan on framing in the future and I saw a cool little puppet show too. I would come back to Shanghai someday. I decided it had good food and good shopping. Both of which I like.
And the plan to come back to Shanghai never happened. I had no burning desire to go so I didn’t. All my shopping needs were satisfied in much closer Nanjing. I also discovered Nanjing had Yang’s Dumplings so there was no need to go to Shanghai. But last week I got some inspiration. I two goals for my weekend in Shanghai: visit Thames Town and get an orange shirt for an online job. Thames Town was a pretty epic day adventure that filled up my whole Saturday. I thought about visiting some of the other European towns but as they were two hours from central Shanghai it would be my whole Sunday. It didn’t want to spend my whole weekend riding the metro.
This time I decided to stay at a hostel in a central location across from a subway exit. I realized getting to my host’s apartment cost as much as a night at a hostel and sometimes hostels are just easier than dealing with a host. After dropping off my backup I decided to go out and see what was around and grab some water. Well, I basically choose the perfect hostel by accident. Not even five feet from the hostel was the small noodle shop I was shown my first night in Shanghai. On Sunday I had a perfect morning with fresh pork dumplings and a vanilla latte from Starbucks. Granted at the Starbucks two different English tutoring session were happening and I realized I am really good at tuning out Chinese. English on the other hand is difficult so I just put on my headphones and listened to Adele.
That afternoon I found both an orange shirt and orange sweater at H&M. Before leaving I debated if I would give The Bund a second chance. It was a rainy days and I love rainy days. I find them perfect and magical. Plus, the rain was scaring away many of the tourists. I was a short walk from The Bund so I decided I might as well give it a go.
While heading over I noticed another way to get to The Bund. It wasn’t “off the beaten path” but it was a road next to the main road with no tourists which filled me with delight. I am pretty sure it was an alleyway but a few other people were walking it so I was fine. While walking I listened to a live band playing at a hotel.
I enjoyed The Bund so much more this time around. The rain made the lighting nice and there was a slight fog everywhere. It wasn’t too crowded. Somehow that fact that I choose a different way made it an enjoyable experience. Instead of crowds and western shops I saw a cute little tea shop, security guards, laundry, and construction workers. I liked the architecture too. I was happier with my small choice. I also saw other streets I wanted to explore. There was so much more behind those busy streets and expensive shops. I hope to visit Shanghai once more before I leave China. I am really glad I gave it a second chance. Perhaps the third time will be a charm.