Disney Days and Shanghai Nights: Our Travels in Shanghai, China

When you are little, they say that if you dig a hole deep enough, you could dig all the way to China. Well I guess all the shoveling worked because somehow we found ourselves lost in the back alleys of Shanghai, China trying to find our hostel. After a long flight from Osaka and random conversations with a crazy Russian, we headed straight to bed. The next morning we were well rested and ready to explore! 

We grabbed some quick breakfast at the 7/11 (I know, food of champions!) and were off to Yuyuan Garden. Walking through the street full of souvenir stands, American food chains and ornate, modern buildings made the city feel touristy. But turning the corner into Yuyuan Gardens created a stark contrast to the streets before. The gardens showed the stunning beauty of old Chinese architecture that we had expected to see. We enjoyed walking through the willow trees, around koi ponds and taking in all the pagoda roofs. Even with the crowds of people, the garden felt really peaceful. 

After, we continued down Nanjing street filled with high fashion stores on our way to see the Shanghai skyline at the Bund. The skyline sits along the riverbank and reminds me of something I would see in Disneyland. While it doesn’t have the same effect of a congested skyscraper city like New York, the buildings are HUGE! I mean, seriously tall! We decided we had to get closer, and by closer, I mean inside one of these monstrosities! When in China, right? We read that there was a bar on the 92nd floor of the Shanghai Financial Center, and we knew we just had to see it. The views were amazing, even though it felt like we were actually floating in the sky. Definitely a crazy experience, but not for the those afraid of heights! We ended our day with a movie night – Beauty and the Beast live action, in English with all the great, garbage theatre food!

Well it seems movie night and the Shanghai skyline inspired us, because our second day, we decided to visit Disneyland Shanghai! We were able to take the metro directly there, and soon we were walking up onto Cinderella’s Castle. The day was full of rides, character shows, and sing alongs that weren’t always in English. When we were in Adventure Island, a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator jumped out from behind a set and scared the bejesus out of me! It was pretty funny and he was excited to see some fellow Americans! At night, we saw fireworks, a light show and of course the last character performance of the day with all our favorite songs! It felt like a mini vacation from our vacation, and we thoroughly enjoyed our day acting like children!

The next morning, we woke up a bit groggy and stuffy, which we think was due to the poor air quality we were so amply warned about. We finally got out and grabbed breakfast on the go. Then we headed to see the Jade Buddha Temple. The buildings themselves were beautiful, everything in bright red and gold, bustling with tourist and people in prayer. It seems that this used to be a more open, beautiful complex of temples, but the city has since grown up around it. Within the maze of buildings, there were gorgeous and varied displays of Buddhas that kept us wandering for a long time. That night, we had a quick dinner and started packing for our trip to Southern, rural China.  

On our last morning in Shanghai, we were at the train station ready for our overnight 17-hour train to Guilin, when we realized that we had the wrong time and had missed our train! Down on our luck, we decided to try and talk with someone about transferring our tickets to a different train, or possibly getting new tickets for today. We waited in line, and tried to translate our situation on our mobile translator app. After about 30 minutes, we were confused why we hadn’t moved but people were seemingly going through the lines quickly…strange. Turns out, the idea of a “line” wasn’t exactly the same in China, and people were cutting us continually for the past 30 minutes. So, like the locals, we decided to start asserting our spot, and within another hour or so, we finally got to the counter to talk with someone. Turns out our oopsie would cost us $150 more, would take a 19-hour train ride, and it departed in 5 hours. We played games, read and tried to find food while we waited for our next train. After a long and frustrating day, we were happy to board the train and enjoy our sleeper cabin. Off to Southern China we go!

Matthew & Stephanie

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