On the 30th of May I woke up in Donegal, Ireland. On the 31st of May I fell asleep in Shanghai, China. Between these two points was 9367km and a 12 hour plane ride. A long journey, but I needed to travel far away to get a true culture shock. And China certainly shocked.
First, a bit of context: I journeyed to China with my classmates and lecturers, for a business-slash-educational-slash-fun trip. It was a week long and we visited Shanghai before taking the high-speed train up to Beijing. So without further ado, take a peek at my pics from Shanghai...
These photos are mostly taken from the first day, when our lecturer gave us a non-stop walking tour around the city. We barely had a moment to pause and take photos of the city landscape surrounding us, so mostly we just stared wide-eyed. As we explored the city, I was struck by a few surprises...
The first thing of note was the extent to which we were outsiders. We were so out-of-place that stares and pointing fingers were commonplace. And then there were the photos. People would whip out their phones and take photos of us Westerners, sometimes sneakily, other times not-so-much. At one point we were posing for a group photo, with the Shanghai skyline as our backdrop, and there was around 10 random people staring back at us and taking photos. Myself and the other two redheads were particularly popular, no doubt due to the novelty of our hair. On a few occasions I was asked by the curious to get in photos with them. Of course, I obliged... Anything for my fans! haha!
My next realisation was just how lost you could get here. I've become comfortable with day trips to European countries, where many people are able to speak English (putting my own language learning skills to shame). Plus, many words in European languages look and sound similar enough for you to get by. Mandarin, however, is an entirely new playing field - not only did none of the words sound remotely comprehendible to me, but they have a completely different alphabet. An alphabet which, to the untrained eye looks like scribbles, albeit beautiful and intricate scribbles. Utterly indecipherable for an ignorant Westerner such as myself.
Another point of note was the style in Shanghai: It was incredible! Prior to my trip, I had read online commentators warning that the Chinese steered clear of colours and frowned upon loud Western clothing. Much to my delight, I found that this was not the case at all! The style of the young locals was amazing, with some opting for the tulle skirt and heels combo that I adore. I was impressed... I only wish I had been on-the-ball and took some street style pics so I could share the great outfits I spotted.
The pollution was an aspect of Shanghai that hit me immediately. After touch down, it was a matter of mere hours before my skin felt oily and dirty. Fast-forward a day or two and I found that my skin had broken out in smog-induced spots. The haziness of the photos above are testament to the smog of the city.
While I may sound a tad negative in mentioning the pollution of the city, I'm eager to stress how much I loved Shanghai. As well as being in awe of the buildings surrounding me, I felt safe in the city. Okay, the driving was insane (taxi rides were... stressful), but the city itself has a pleasant, safe atmosphere, which is such a relief when visiting a new place.
Well, there you have it. My first impressions of the crazy, the wonderful, Shanghai. Look out for my next post where I'll be sharing pictures of my favourite spot in the city!