Here it is, my Shanghai post (did you like my title?)! Check out this video if you're too lazy to read on! Obviously, all the juicy details are in the actual post, but the video is a neat little summary for when you're busy commuting or such;)
The History of Shanghai in a Nutshell
Until 1842, Shanghai, now a world-famous metropolis and business centre, was just a modest fishing village by the Yangzi River. After that, Shanghai was named a treaty port by the Brits and opened up to foreign investment.
Many of the city's residents chose to live in foreign settlements, which caused a mixing of cultures and an openness to Western influence.
By the 1930's, Shanghai was becoming one of the most important Asian ports and financial centres, due to large trading and banking companies setting up shop at the Bund (I'll explain what that is later).
The city suffered under the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), as the Chinese Communist state took control of all previously private businesses. However, in 1976, the commercial revival began, and Shanghai started to thrive again.
Today, Shanghai is the 2nd largest city in China with around 23 million inhabitants. It is a modern and cosmopolitan city, known for its commercial and financial prowess.
Chinese Visa Nightmares
I don't take any responsibility for the accuracy of this and linked information, as I'm just writing from my own experience.
There are a few types of visas for China, but the ones that I am familiar with from this trip are the China Tourist visa and the China 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit (not technically a visa but you get the gist). I got the regular China Tourist visa from Spain since I didn't qualify for the 144-hour one. To qualify for that, you have to be in possession of a confirmed seat for onward travel to a 3rd country or region, and be flying into China from a qualifying country (see more here).
Anyway, even though I had to pay 126€ for the visa, I could pick it up 5 days after application at the Madrid China Visa Application Centre (bring ALL documents you might think relevant, even if it's not stated in the description...they asked me for my bank statements even though this wasn't a written requirement). I got through customs really easily, I just had to fill in an arrivals card, and a departure card when I left. You can change your travel plans after you've received the visa, since it doesn't state your exact arrival/departure dates, nor the place you'll be staying at.
However, my friends got the 144-hour layover visa, since they were traveling on to Japan. Even though the application process was straightforward and getting through customs a breeze, you have to register at a police station or at a hostel/hotel you'll be staying at within 24 hours of arrival. If you fail to do so, you'll be charged a hefty fine (and who wants that...)!
We went to register, but didn't know we needed the rental contract of the friend we were staying with. This was kind of our mess, but our friend had lost the rental contract! So we had a very grumpy policeman insisting on obtaining the original rental contract and facing a massive fine if we didn't produce it. Oh yeah, and my luggage had been lost as well (good job, China Eastern Airlines...)! What a disaster!
In the end, we had a stroke of genius and booked a cheap hostel for my friends to get registered, but they didn't stay there.
My advice, book a really cheap hostel so you don't have to go through the police registration. They take care of it, and in the end you don't have to stay there. Trust me, the money you pay is worth the emotional and physical hassle of the police registration!
'Nuff said. I'll be writing a post about cultural differences in social etiquette soon, so keep your eyes peeled!:)
Sightseeing & Shopping
Unfortunately, the weather in June was not the best for visiting Shanghai. There was a dense fog over the city for the whole week that I was visiting. That's why the photos are all so grey. However, I still had heaps of fun! Don't be fooled by the bleakness of the pictures. Take a look at my city essentials packing list to see what I could not have done without on this trip!
The bund is the riverside of Shanghai. From there, you can see the famous skyline of the city, so don't miss out on that! I would just advise to avoid the rainy season (June-August). Some local taxi drivers advised that April-May is the best time to travel to Shanghai, since it's not too hot yet, and rainy season hasn't started.
Walk down the length of the bund from Nanjing Lu (see next section). The tall skyscrapers you see on the other side of the river are very impressive, and the vantage point offers great photo opportunities!
- Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road)
Nanjing Lu is THE shopping street of Shanghai. It stretches for 5.5 km and is apparently the longest shopping district in the world!
Luxury shopping malls, department stores, chain stores, independent shops, you can find everything your shopper's heart desires here.
In addition to the usual Western brands (Apple, Nike, Zara, etc.), the street also houses Asian brands such as Etude House (South Korean). I guess you'll just have to explore and see what treasures you can find!
I was only there a short time, so I didn't get to do that much sightseeing. 🙁
This was one of the best things about my Shanghai trip! I had so many amazing meals. Mostly I ate dim sum (since dumplings are my favourite, which you probably know by now).
My personal favourite dim sum place was probably the one in the Mosaic Shanghai. I can't read Chinese, but I photographed the name of the restaurant:
They do have English descriptions of the food, so don't worry! It's an amazing little place, perfect for some casual dim summing (yeah, I just invented that!). 🙂
They serve a modern twist on traditional dim sum, so they have exotic things such as truffle shrimp dumplings (the black one in the photo). The various shrimp dumplings are worth sampling, because they are the restaurant's specialty, and they have a little menu detailing what each of them is!! My favourite were the crystal mushroom and truffle dumplings (no shrimp, on the right side of the photo).
Then, I had another few awesome meals: Vietnamese (Pho anyone?), Hotpot, Chinese (non-dim-sum). Check out the wonderful food! P.S. not a pescatarian for this trip (I took a break)!
For more about my favourite Chinese dishes and what to try when in China, check out my Shanghai food post!
That's it! I hope you found this post interesting, and if you have any more questions about my experiences in Shanghai, please let me know, you know where to find me! 😉
And if you liked it, please share so we can spread the love!