The second week of class was pretty standard, the other exchange students and I did not plan too much besides school since we knew we were taking a big trip the next week. October 1 is the Chinese National Holiday, and it commences a week of holidays known as Golden Week, when everyone in the country is off work. Naturally, everyone travels. A group of six girls and I decided to take the train to Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou, for a tour of the sites. Our group was me, from the US, Sophie from Germany, who is also my roommate, Louisa and Sarah, from Germany as well, Maria from Spain, and Emily and Shosho from Ireland. It was a really great group, and we were lucky since we could get entire rooms in our hostels.
Early on Saturday morning, we departed the train station for Shanghai on a 6 hour high-speed train, travelling 310 km/hr at its peak. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Shanghai, our hostel was an hour away from the station and it was pouring rain. We jumped into taxis and had a lazy night eating in the Pudong area, where the hostel was located.
We had an early start on Sunday, which was October 1, so the official holiday, which is a little similar to July 4th. We started walking towards the Financial District, where the most iconic tall buildings were located, and took many pictures of the whole city. As we were walking around, we stumbled upon Shanghai Tower, and it only cost 120 yuan to go up to the 118th floor. Little did we know, this is the second tallest building in the world! Luckily, the smog was under control that day, and we could see a 360 degree view of the entire city — it is amazing to see how many tall buildings there are; Shanghai really dwarfs Manhattan.
Next, we headed across the river to the Bund, the famous walk that lets you overlook the Financial District. We arrived at dusk, and had another lucky moment. An old Chinese man that spoke perfect English told us that the buildings would light up red in celebration of 68 years of the Peoples’ Republic of China in just 20 minutes. We stayed, and the lights were beautiful and definitely worth it, though we did have the downside of everyone taking our photo because we were a group of 7 western women.
We slept in on Monday, since we tried out the Shanghai club scene, and took the subway to the French Concession area of Shanghai and the shops on Nanjing Road. Our ultimate destination was the Propaganda Museum, which is tucked in the basement of an apartment building. It is a pretty sketchy location, and though it is authorized by the government, it feels like it isn’t. There is a great gift shop where I got some postcards and a shirt picturing a Chinese propaganda ballet, one of only eight shows allowed to be performed during the Cultural Revolution. After, we made it to AP Plaza for some shopping a few minutes before it closed, and we were determined to return the next day. One the way back to the hostel, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant, with a menu solely in Chinese, we perservered with Google Translate, and we are all still raving about dish 101. Sophie said that “the fried lettuce was on fleek.” That night, we travelled to a rooftop bar to overlook the skyline for overpriced cocktails, but the view was worth it. The city lights turn off fairly early, and it was eerie to look over the nearly dark city skyline.
On Tuesday we decided to combine highbrow and lowbrow culture. We travelled to the City God Temple and Yu Gardens, with what felt like half of the population of China! The architecture was beautiful, and very Chinese, with pagoda-style roofs, but it was hard to enjoy with so many people around. The entrance to Yu Garden was fairly expensive (for China), so most of us split off, heading over to AP Plaza again. This time we were very successful; I purchased Beats headphones, a Longchamp backpack, and a Chloe purse all for $60 USD. We then collected our purchases and headed back to the hostel for an early rest since we had to catch a 6am train to Suzhou the next day.
Our trip to Suzhou and Hangzhou to be continued!