I’ve just spent a week in Shanghai with my family. It’s one of the most lackluster trips I’ve ever made and I’m afraid other than family time together, we didn’t do anything that was spectacular or amazing.

It was the National Day Golden Week in China and was a 7-day public holiday period. Many local businesses were closed as the locals travelled back to hometowns to visit family or went on a long break. Most visitors know NOT to visit China during this period because it would be quiet but our schedules didn’t permit us to make that choice so yeah, we were one of the small handful of passengers on a very empty flight to Shanghai and we missed the usual chaos of the arrival hall.

I’ve travelled to Shanghai extensively before this blog went public and so it was definitely not a case of not knowing how to have a good time in this city. I’ve always enjoyed this city.. but this time didn’t go right.

To begin with, while all the foreigners knew to stay out of China that week, the locals were having their holiday here. This was The Bund, a waterfront area where tourists visit to take panoramic shots of the gorgeous skyline of Shanghai with the Pearl of the Orient. If you’ve been to Shanghai before, you would know how WIDE this path is. Yet, it took me forever to move through this crowd to get close enough to get a decent shot. It was mob madness. And true to typical local (China) Chinese fashion, everyone shoved each other to get to the front.

We could barely walk through the hordes of people. Every single person there was Chinese. There wasn’t a single westerner in sight. I finally decided it was easier to take a picture of this madness than a good picture of the skyline.

Traffic conditions on the infamous Nanjing Road (one of Shanghai’s busiest shopping streets) was so bad that the military was mobilised to do crowd control. Duh. I watched a huge bunch of smart looking young soldiers stand proud against the moving crowd, trying to keep pedestrians OFF the roads. The police were walking around with whistles in their mouths controlling vehicles and trying to ensure none of these crazy locals got killed by one of the cars while trying to stand in the middle of the road to take a picture of a building.

The vibes in the city were just not right for us this time. We spent more time sitting in the hotel drinking wine than sightseeing. We practically never left Puxi (the newer western side of Shanghai) and never saw the old fashioned charm that I used to like so much about Shanghai. My camera sat in our hotel safe the entire time. We didn’t eat anything worth remembering. And even shopping was dull. The wine bill definitely did more damage to our wallets than our shopping bags this time.

Well, we did have a couple of highlights in this trip. We visited a charming little place called Tianzifang 田子坊 (Lane 210, Taikang Road of Shanghai) and I really liked it. It was a labyrinth of small shops selling crafts, souvenirs, cellphone cases, accessories and all kinds of quirky interesting stuff. There were also gorgeous cafes and restaurants there. Ladies, be warned that you should go to such places with gal pals or by yourself only. The men will get cranky if they lose you while you disappear into the hundreds of small shops.

I also took my family to the Piano Bar in the Grand Hyatt hotel, on the 53rd floor of the Jin Mao Tower in Pudong. From the bar, we sipped wine and watched the skyline of Shanghai transform against the gorgeous glow of the setting sun. This has always been one of my favourite things to do in Shanghai. Back in the early days of this building, this bar was so popular that they had minimum charges to enter. It was practically empty this time, and two new buildings have been erected that have partially blocked the view of the Bund.

It’s a shame that our time in Shanghai wasn’t more exciting. But we did spend family time together and that was the whole point of the trip, so I’m still glad we went. We have to go back again and do it better next time. =)


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