We arrived early in the morning from Xi’an on the overnight train. We needed to hop on the subway from the train station to make our way to the hostel. All throughout China we found the subway system extremely easy to navigate. We made our way to the correct stop and got off in the middle of Shanghai. Our hostel was a short walk and we made our way there and checked in. Our room was technically a room for 3 so we had a bit more space to spread out which was nice.
As we made our way through Asia one of the common things we saw was a bathroom that was also your shower. There was no real separation other than the curtain so the water gets all over the bathroom floor. It’s designed that way so it wasn’t a big deal, it’s just interesting that it’s all in 1 unit. I believe they do this mostly because it takes up less space.
As we left the hostel we saw some signs posted by the elevators. Every place we stay in China had warnings about how the people there are going to try and take advantage of you. Lovely.
When we arrived in Shanghai the first thing we did was take a walk down to see the iconic skyline you see in so many photos!
We spent the next few days in our hostel attempting to get caught up on the blog and also get some work done. We also don’t do a lot of planning ahead and figure out what to do when we arrive. Unfortunately it proved to be nearly impossible to do anything on the internet here. The wifi provided at the hostel had plenty of speed, but only if you are visiting the websites that the China government has approved. This means that the vast majority of websites that we use (facebook, google, etc) will not load in China.
To get around this you can use a VPN service. The VPN service routes your traffic to a location outside China, then browses the web through this outside location so you have access to everything. We had some decent success using a VPN in Beijing, but in Shanghai (for whatever reason) the VPN would not work. We read that China is getting better at block VPN services and I ended up trying a total of 3 VPN services (pay services not free ones) and none of them were able to get through to the internet. The most frustrating part of the experience is that the internet was perfectly fast depending on what you were browsing but for other things would not work at all. The government restrictions on the internet were so severe we could barely plan what to do or get any work done at all.
Over the next few days we walked around each day checking out the local area we were in. There are we were in was extremely busy as you would expect with a city packed full of people. The interesting part about the city was that the main areas you see were very nice and normal looking, but as soon as you got off the main street everything was pretty run down. We came across a few nicer areas but generally speaking the city was extremely dirty and buildings looked like they hadn’t been renovated for many decades. We did make our way down to a park that was a nice place to escape the crowds for a bit!
After spending a few days in Shanghai, Ashley found a place that was a Canadian sandwich shop that was a 15 minute walk away. The food in Shanghai was not all that great for the cheaper street food or standard local restaurants so we were ready for something different. We arrived at the Sandwich shop and instantly knew we were in the right place. I happened to be wearing my Bronco’s shirt and a guy says “Go Bronco’s!”. We ended up grabbing a table next to them and striking up a conversation. He worked for Apple in their retail space and he was there to help open stores in China and make sure that the culture in the China Apple stores was similar to the US.
After a brief chat they were leaving and asked us what we were up to that night. We had no plans and they said there was a beer festival that night and invited us to join them along with some of their friends. Ashley and I were both excited because this was the first time we had talked to someone in 3 or 4 days and we also didn’t really know what to do each day in Shanghai so we finally had a plan!
To top things off, the food at this place was amazing. Neither of us had really liked the food so far in Shanghai and the sandwiches here were amazing. Even better? They had real Dr. Pepper imported from the US. Eating here was the only time I’ve paid $45 for two people to eat sandwiches and a Dr. Pepper and felt I got my moneys worth!
That night we made our way over to the beer festival and managed to find the group of people we were hanging out with. The crowd at the beer festival was almost exclusively Westerners and it felt like ever Western person in Shanghai had converged on this one location. There was no pushing and shoving, no cutting the line, and order had been restored to the world. They also had a lot of beer options and excellent food. It was glorious.
The group we met up with were almost all from the United States and they were amazing people. They all worked for Apple and all had great things to say about the company and their experience! This turned out to be our favorite day in Shanghai by a long shot!!