A guide to dining , visiting and seeing Shanghai, China. Plus, two life lessons that I learnt along the way.
On September 11th, 2018, I packed my life up in three oversized bags and moved to Shanghai, China. Josh signed a one-year contract with the Kunlun Red Stars (KHL) hockey team. I decided that I would finish my last semester of my undergrad degree “abroad” and live with Josh. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!
I feel so blessed to have experienced four amazing months in this beautiful city. From the moment I arrived, I was madly love with my new home. The architecture was utterly breathtaking. The skyline is by far the most magnificent skyline I have ever seen. If you love to shop, Shanghai is the place to be. There are so many second hand and vintage designer shops. Or if that is not your style, you can easily find a beautiful modern mall at every corner. They have all the latest trends and designer clothing. It can be overwhelming, but in the most magical way. I would describe Shanghai to be similar as New York but with a Euro twist. There is a French Confession located in the heart of the city. Because of the large French and British population, there is a helpful and large expat scene.
I have never been one to take risks and move somewhere for more than a month. I am a homebody – the very definition of it. That said, moving to China was by far the best decision I have made in my life thus far. I discovered so much, not only about myself, but about the world around me. We occupy such small spaces in this world. Getting to absorb different cultures humbled me in ways I could never of imagined prior to my adventure.
There are two lessons that I took away from my time in Shanghai.
Lesson 1. Gratitude
I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude when living in Shanghai. While the city is magnificent, the air was was polluted in the fall/winter, and the food and water is not the same quality as it is at home. The food standards in China are not safe for expats. Tap water is dirty; therefore, food can be easily contaminated. Learning to cook with just one stove top and without using tap water was oddly challenging. It made me realize that here in Canada we are so blessed to drink clean water out of the taps, to mindlessly wash our raw veggies with water and to not worry about our food sources. Surely there are ways to buy clean water and food, but it comes at a pretty price. That said, I had the most amazing meals in Shanghai. Dining out is a must. Do not be afraid to try new foods in fear you may be sick. I was sick a couple times, and I did not regret it, for the experience of eating like the locals was worth it.
Lesson 2. Let Go Of Control
Let go! Let go of perfectionism. Let go of expectations. Let go of fear. Let go of control! One lesson I truly discovered in Shanghai was that sometimes you just have to trust that you are put in this moment in time because you can handle it and you will grow from it. Challenges in life, will not only teach you things about yourself, but it will allow you to persevere on the path you are meant to be on. As Oprah would say: your path is already there, you just need to go with your intuition and follow it. If you get sick, or if you get lost… You will be okay. Everyone around my inner circle knows me as a planner type. In Shanghai, I had moments my anxiety was sky-high because I could not predict or control things I wanted to. I had to learn to stop worrying about the future and deal solely with the present moment. One step at a time.
I came home from Shanghai with a new sense of calm. Something clicked inside of me that my higher self is guiding me and I just have to have faith. It is also pertinent for your sanity to remember that for every challenge you face and get through (even those times you thought you couldn’t see the end), you got through it… and you will get through this again.
On a lighter note, I thought I would summarize the places you must visit if visiting Shanghai. I am sure there are more places that are not on this list, but I have narrowed it down to my personal favourites. There is so much to see and do in Shanghai!
Places to See:
- Xintiandi: The heart of Shanghai for expats. Go shopping or get something delicious to eat.
- East Nanjing Road (Pedestrian Street): Shop your heart out near The Bund. It is beautiful during the day and night.
- The Bund: If you only have time for one place in Shanghai, you must see the skyline. There are so many great restaurants with amazing views of the skyline.
- K11 Art Mall: This is my personal favourite. The mall is filled with small trinkets and cute shops with artsy contemporary vibes.
- Shanghai Disneyland: Disneyland is a given. Josh and I froze our butts off in December but it was magical at Christmas time.
- Yu Yuan Garden: Shop outside the gardens for souvenirs. Make sure you are ready to bargain for your goods. The Garden is breathtaking, serene and peaceful on a beautiful day.
- Jing’an Temple: Beautiful architecture and a taste of the peaceful Chinese culture.
- Science and Technology Fake Market: Start practicing your haggling skills. Try and get fake designer goods or little trinkets to bring back home.
- Tianzifang (Old City): A quaint tucked away corner of Shanghai laid out with cobblestone alleys. They have taken the old city and modernized it into something spectacular. Order a coffee and shop around.
Places to Eat:
- No 3. on The Bund: So many good restaurants to try. Our favourite was Mercado.
- Wagas: Quick, healthy and safe food! This place was a lifesaver. It is also fairly affordable.
- Sproutworks + Liquid Laundry: These two resturants are owned by the same person. They make amazing food and it is completely safe for expats. Sproutworks is best for lunch or breaky. The food is nice and healthy! Liquid Laundry is also good for a weekend brunch or late night dinner.
- Bull + Claw: If you are looking for an incredible brunch or dinner, this is the place. Bottomless drinks and the food is to die for.
- Mr. and Mrs. Bund: I will be honest, I did not have the best experience here (I was not feeling hot). But my boyfriend raves that his food was five-star. Get that French taste of Shanghai’s rich history.
- DOE: my favourite cute coffee shop located near Xintiandi. A place you can get my favourite Oatly Oat Milk Barista Style.
- Refinery29: This place was a staple for us. If you need a quick but delicious meal.
- Bar Rouge: I am not a bar hopper, but Josh loved a night out at Bar Rouge. Get a picturesque view of the city while you get your dance on.
China Travel Tips:
- Download a VPN: Due to the Chinese Government geo-blocking sites, any URL’s that do not end in .cn will be prohibited. Yes, that includes Instagram, Facebook, email, Twitter… everything! You will be without any internet if you do not download a VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN.
- Take out RMB (Chinese Yuan): This is the currency they use in China. Make sure you take out lots of cash because lots of places do not take your usual credit cards.
- WeChat: WeChat is the app of China! You will be asked to use it to pay often, WeChat Pay. You will most likely not have WeChat Pay set up, but you can also use it to message back and forth with other people or companies in China. It is really helpful. It even has a translator built in it!
- Use the Metro: Traffic in Shanghai can be really slow moving. I recommend getting a metro pass. It is way faster than taking a cab or Didi and it is so convenient/easy. Download the Metro Shanghai app for directions or use your Google Maps Directions (with a VPN).
- Download DIDI: Open a US Apple Account and download the DIDI car app. It is the Chinese Uber.
- Use a Translator App: I used the Google Translate App all the time. While Shanghai has a expat scene, I recommend downloading the app. Many people do not speak fluent English (totally fair – it is China after all).
- Buy Wipes: Private and public places sometimes do not have toilet paper. Bring your own.
- Buy a Mask: If you are health conscious like me, bring a good-quality air mask for the days the air is highly polluted.
- Be a Safe Walker + Driver: Be safe on the streets of China. Much like other Asian cities, there are lots of scooters and cars that do not obey traffic signs/lights. Even on sidewalks, always keep your head up.
Overall I had a blissful experience in China. I cannot wait to hear if Josh resigns back with the team. If Josh does resign back with the China team, they are relocated to Beijing! I am beyond excited for the next chapter if that is the place we will be.
With Love, Emma