Blocked away from the world without social media or even google, China will test the traveller in you to its limits. Here’s what I did in my three week work stint!
What I did in China is quite interesting because there’s nothing much I could do. First because I was on a hectic work trip and second because all that there is around you in China is Chinese. Understably so, what else will you see in China, Chinese of course. But there’s something called an alternate language with which you’re able to communicate with someone from outside. English the most common of all. But NO!
They speak Chinese, they write Chinese, they eat Chinese, they think Chinese, they…..everything just Chinese!! Even the metros and buses have Chinese sign boards and information. The cab drivers too don’t speak anything other than Chinese.
And also most importantly you’re practically cast away in another foreign land where you understand nothing and to add to your woes, there’s no social media that’s not blocked including google and GPS. There were local alternatives to them but of no consequence to a foreigner. Baidu in place of google is like a child’s naive version of a search engine. Since I was on a work trip I had a lot of research to be done so obviously it made my life miserable. No LinkedIn too! Only the last day did I come to know that apple maps works… why didn’t anyone tell me before…aaarrgghhh! If you cant survive without the snap chats and facebooks of the world then use your local country sim card, it might just work.
None the less though nothing could dampen my spirit for long. I braved the language and ventured out armed with a city map, thankfully in English but not of much use and also a diary where I had asked my Chinese colleague to write down my hotel’s name and the places I was going to visit, lest I get lost and I need to ask a local for help. I went to Nanchang, Hefei, Beijing and Shanghai but I have only mentioned the latter two as the former two were literally just work!
This historic square in China’s capital Beijing would probably be the only and most well known site you must have heard of in Beijing. The forbidden city and the works. Built in the typically Chinese architectura style it is a good place to learn more about Chinese kingdoms and history and spend about half or a full day at depending how deeply interested or enamoured you are. The massacre of the 80’s will of course be a reminder.
I got lost on my way out because they have an exit far away somewhere else from the entry point. I bumped into an Indian woman with two small children and asked for directions only to hear the news they too are lost. A sweet Chinese girl who could see the concern on our faces and could speak a little English helped us escape.
A broad street, a very modern and plush looking one with shops, restaurants and malls on either side. Stroll along to window shop, eat or pick up stuff from the brands you love.
For the adventurous foodie kinds, everyone knows one can try insects and slimy creatures in China. Right there at Wangfujin is a narrow lane called the snack street where small vendors are trying to tempt you to get a taste of their weird rather repelling looking offerings – there’s cockroach fry, worms, octopus and all kinds of rodents you can imagine. I wasn’t so brave hearted so I desisted. Vegetarians stay clear, you’ll faint at first sight!
This area is more of a business district surrounded by tall shiny office buildings. In one of the lanes there, you’ll find a row of restaurants offering Asian cuisine of different countries.
There are also malls near by for some shopping and eating including one of the most famous one Parkview Green. You can’t miss this one, thanks to its pyramid inspired architectural design made of glass.
For some of the best art works, brands and restaurants, you must pay this mall a visit at least once when in Beijing.
Beijing Olympic Park
A massive landmark of course with its bird nest design!
South Luogu Lane
Despite a weekday this was one hell of a crowded market. It was a narrow street lined with cafes and shops for clothes and souvenirs. If you’re looking for a relaxing stroll and window shopping, avoid. All you’ll see are people and super expensive stuff!
It was really love at first sight. As I drove down from the airport towards my hotel I saw on my right what i’d only seen of Shanghai on google images or TV and I had a huge grin on my face. There it was, the beautiful Bund! I knew I am going to enjoy this city looking at this sight.
Since I arrived on a Saturday evening, I threw my luggage in the hotel room, changed and headed straight for a walk to the Bund. With the view of sky high structures that glittered and where lights danced on their shiny glasses and those colourful lit up boats gliding on the Huanpu river, it was all so spectacular, shiny and bright!
To be honest those meandering lanes got me too confused to reach the actual Yuyuan garden considered as one of the top tourist places in Shanghai but where I did reach was a market where there were knick knacks of all sorts from dresses to souvenirs to perfumes and what not. Perfect for a little local shopping.
I have always had this fascination with the tallest towers of the world. Just to see what the birds eye view would look like from the highest tip of the city. By far the NYC view from World Trade Centre is my favourite followed by the Shanghai Tower. And I feel when you’re already in love with the city aove sea level, you’d love it from the top too. The river cutting across Shanghai, looked just as brilliant before and after the sunset from high up the 118th floor.
Another absolutely wonderful way to behold this beauty of a city. The advantage of a boat ride is that one could glance from one end to another floating on the water and see both the sides of Shanghai standing opposite to each other, a modern side and the traditional one.
The yacht ride which was part of the tour bus package was such a stylish one with just a few of us onboard for perfect amazing views!
Oriental Pearl Tower
Now this tower is the one which is the face of Shanghai. You google Shanghai and the Oriental Pearl Tower will surface across your screen. Its a TV and Radio tower that lets lights swoon and sway in the dark. You could also go on top or just use it as a landmark for direction in case you get lost.
Pudong is the modern day district of Shanghai which sprung up with cutting edge structures to serve the business community of China and overseas. The area houses some of the tallest towers like the Shanghai Tower, Orinetal Pearl Tower and Jin Mao tower.
Xin Tian Di
This place reminded me somewhat of Khan market in Delhi, the way its been built stylishly raw with brick wall aesthetics, open spaces, lots of swanky eateries and boutiques. I ate in one the viatnamese one.
There is also a small museum which is where China’s communist party was formed. You could stroll down there to dig a little deep into Chinese political history.
This is one of the most popular shopping streets in Shanghai. A long stretch of straight road with shops, malls and eateries on either side similar to the one in Beijing I mentioned above. You could shop all you like at great rates and eat from a choice of several. I went in the night to make some good use of my Saturday and bought some clothes on sale too before I walked all the way back to the hotel through the stunning Bund view.
Astor House Hotel
While talking about Shanghai, I must also mention the Astor House hotel where I stayed fantastically located just off the Bund area on the Huangpu road. If contemporary and stylish hotels are what you’re looking for to spend your days at in Shanghai, Astor House is not the hotel for you. Its an 1846 structure which will give you a whiff of its old charm with its interiors matching just right to transport you in the olden era. The rooms might have a tear or two in the wallpapers but overall well kept, though at night you might feel a chill down your spine in those dim lit corridors.
To give you a little celebrity like feeling it’s good to know that famous personalities like Einstein and Charlie Chaplin too have stayed in this hotel including one of America’s president. A short tour around Astor House will give one an idea of its history and significance as a building.
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