SHANGHAI: The Culture
From South Africa I end up in China (eventually). After talking about it for so long I finally got to visit Mainland China. Sure it was just 4 days in Shanghai, but talk about a culture shock! This girl in the right-hand photo standing all alone in front of her parent's shop is the only time in this trip I remember not being overwhelmed with crowds. Even then, the peace only lasted 15 seconds. Not the place to go for personal space, but definitely a place worth seeing!
SHANGHAI: The City
One of the best and most reliable hubs to enter into China is Shanghai. Officially the world's largest city while also boasting the longest metro system in the world. Making it easy to get around wherever your next destination may be.
Cities are always a safe bet, they're somewhat similar in every country. Trust me, you'll need something easy and familiar when first arriving in China. I've been to Japan, Korea, and many other places in Asia, but China is just different. From their heavy control of internet privacy to their technological advancements in urban development (WeChat is life). China is a bit of a learning curve.
Fret not, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Travel is about pushing the limits of your comfort zone. Something ever more difficult to do in this age of connectivity.
The best description of Shanghai would be, conservative people in a liberal environment. Everything in this city screams progress but the people are still stuck in this bubble, a bubble made by the Chinese communist party.
SHANGHAI: The Past
One of my favorite spots on this short journey into Shanghai was Zhujiaojiao Water Town, located in the Qinqpu district (a suburb of Shanghai). As a whole, it boasts a history of more than 1,700 years. With some of the standing architecture here being dated back to about 5,000 years ago. Considered to be the best preserved ancient town in the area. Shanghai’s Venice definitely catches the eye with its one-of-a-kind bridges scattered across its many lakes and rivers, almost as if caressed by its willow trees, shops, and courtyards. It looks and feels like a thing of the past. Best part of all, it’s absolutely free to see. Though boat cruises are for sale.
It is also known as the Peal Stream, and it occupies an area of 47 sq. km. all crisscrossed by rivers and canals, with 9 long streets running along the rivers and thousands of buildings of the Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture encompassing both sides. There are 36 ancient stone bridges in this town.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are some buses that take you directly to Zhujiajiao Water Town, such as the Hùzhū Gāosù Kuàixiàn (Chinese: 沪朱高速快线) from people’s square but buses can sometimes be confusing, and everything is in Chinese. If you’re anything like me, you may get lost. My best recommendation is to take the Line 17 Metro (passes through the airport) as the metro is so easy to use and it is in English. Once out of the station, it’s a 15 minute walk to the town, or you could be lazy and take one of the traditional Chinese Rickshaw's into the village area.