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Shanghai & Zai jian August 10, 2010

Posted by manningdaniel in Travel Log.

The remainder of our time was spent in the financial capital of China, Asia, perhaps the world – Shanghai! Like Tianjin and Beijing, it is an administrative region all on its own.  It has the second longest subway system in the world after London but has plans to surpass them within the next 15 years.  Ok enough with the random facts.

Living and studying in Shanghai was so completely different from Tianjin the two are incomparable.  Tianjin was very tame and comfortable by the time we left – there was no subway system and we knew how to get around by walking and bussing.  Shanghai, however, was always busy, always bustling.  The number of foreigners in Shanghai was truly incredible; we were seeing people that could probably speak English every hour or so.  It was really different.

Our campus was also definitely a change.  Sometimes referred to as the Harvard of China in terms of the beauty of its inner city campus, Shanghai Jiatong University was a really amazing place to stay.  Our classroom was now only a 5 minute walk from our newly renovated hotel – the Faculty Club. Also, there was extremely delicious food, both Chinese and Western within a 10 minute walking radius from campus. One number one favorite Chinese restaurant (in terms of both food quality and price) was located just off of campus.  We went there so often – usually getting the signature pan cooked baozi of Shanghai – that two people on our program decided to individually order everything on their menu over the course of our time there and translate it into English for them.  By the time we left, they gave the restaurant an exact replica of their menu, only in English.  Once they understood what we were doing – they really appreciated it since they get a decent number of foreigners and their menu is only in Chinese on the wall.  Our other favorite place to eat, on the Western side of things, was Wagas.  This delicious place served relatively cheap pasta, salads, wraps and smoothies. The discovery of this restaurant in our last week was phenomenal and we definitely enjoyed eating Western food once again. Just for reference, it was about $6.80 to have an entire pasta meal and side salad there, which was on the pricier side for us.   All eating at our favorite Chinese restaurant could occur for $2.17 or less.  Our most expensive meal in Shanghai was $14.50 at really nice restaurant overlooking the Bund and the water.

Clearly I’m a little hungry writing this particular post, however, there was much more to do in Shanghai than simply eat.  There was so much to see!  Set aside from the endless streets of malls and shopping areas, there is the number one tourist attracting of Shanghai – the Bund.  It is a series of about 15 huge buildings that overlook the river in the very center of Shanghai.  They are all rather old and built under European architecture influences.  There are literally endless flocks of people bustling about to look around the Bund.  It was a really interesting area, and one that I definitely recommend others go visit.

Another really great thing we did was visit the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center, the tallest building in China.  It is across the river from the Bund and, without question, we took the “psychedelic” underground sightseeing tunnel from one side to the other.  Going to the 100th floor of the building provided a breathtaking view of the city at night.  Also, side note, I purchased a laser pointer outside of the building that can reach the ground from the 100th floor sky bridge – making the experience so much better when I could point to things and people from so far above. It was $5.97.

The last really fun thing we did in Shanghai was visiting the Yu Yuan Gardens.  I really loved Chinese gardens and architecture while we were over there, especially their extensive use of water, sculptured rocks and reflections as tools of beauty.  And this garden definitely did not disappoint.  It is a really famous area in Shanghai in combination with a huge bazaar surrounding the gardens themselves (which I passed through with only purchasing a traditional rice hat – which I bartered down from $11.74 to two hats for $6.18 total – epic success).

Overall, my time in China was an experience that I will never forget, and it has definitely been something that will leave an indelible mark on me.  I will always be more understanding of people living here with a native language that is not English.  I have also grown in my confidence about being able to communicate and function in other areas of the world.  Making a sincere effort to attempt to communicate in a location’s native language and customs really helps break down barriers and establish friendships.  I think the greatest thing I learned, and that I hope I never forget, is to approach the world and new situations with humility, respect and open-mindedness.  China really took us all back to ground zero when we realized we couldn’t communicate at all – that we would have to rethink everything we’ve taken for granted in the United States.  It showed us that we could make our own life there both fun and interesting if we took the time to respect and appreciate it for what it had to offer.  Living in China for two months was simultaneously the most bizarre and unique experience I’ve ever had – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Zai jian China – Good bye! Wo shi laoshi.

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