Shanghai & Beijing, China
For Spring break I travelled with 80 of my classmates to Beijing and Shanghai for a business trip. We spent most of our days in business professional attire visiting different companies, touring factories and hearing from entrepreneurs that found success in China. It was absolutely fascinating and we all learned valuable information from the people we met.
We started off in Shanghai, touring a famous garden palace and taking a bus tour through Pudong, the area of the city that looks like it is straight out of a science fiction movie. Then came the company visits and hours and hours of traffic. We tried to get a view of the city from the top floor of the World Financial Center but the smog was too heavy to see anything. At night we explored Tianzifang, the “arts and crafts enclave” in the French Concession area of Shanghai, took pictures in front of cool Chinese murals and had the most incredible wonton soup for dinner. Speaking of food, if you ever find yourself in Shanghai, Shanghai Snack is the place to go for fried dumplings and soup dumplings. The man in the second to last picture is the one responsible for the fried dumplings, which you can get right out on the street. He is a master chef. Honestly I would go back to Shanghai just for Shanghai Snack dumplings. They’re that good.
Our next stop was Beijing, where we had a lot more free time to explore the city and a lot more smog to breathe in. No joke, as we landed in the Beijing airport there was smog inside the first floor of the building. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget — and not for a good reason. We walked around Tiananmen Square, shopped the fake markets and bargained for
good better prices on weird tourist shirts (mine says “I have climbed up the great wall” with a dramatic painting of the wall — it’s size XXL, goes down to my knees and has a mystery stain on it, but I got it for 30 RMB and I will love it forever). After more company visits we went to Wangfujing Street, the street famous for its variety of bugs and obscure intestines on a stick. I ate a scorpion. Only one. It was crunchy and that was about it. I would not recommend it, but I also wouldn’t discourage you from doing it. It’s a good fun fact for future family gatherings and summer camp ice breakers. I had rainbow dyed dumplings that night, which I enjoyed 100% more than my scorpion friend on a stick.
On Saturday we woke up early to climb the Great Wall. We took a chairlift up, struggled up the steep/sideways/falling apart steps, and took a toboggan down. It was one of those weird “I’ve learned about this place multiple times and have looked at textbook pictures of it and now I’m actually here” moments. That afternoon we walked through the Forbidden City at a leisurely enough pace to take jumping photos and ridiculous tourist photos (and even more ridiculous photos with random children… it’s true — some Chinese parents will ask for you to take photos with their children. It’s an interesting experience). Sunday morning was an early one. We woke up at 5:30 to see the sun rise and flag raising in Tiananmen Square. It was a little less than I was expecting it to be, but it was cool nonetheless. The square was even more crowded than it had been during the daytime, and the sunrise was absolutely stunning. We finished the afternoon with a trip to the Temple of Heaven which was just unreal. The detail inside the temple was unlike anything I have ever seen and is definitely worth the 28 RMB to see.
If you get the chance, go to China. It is really difficult to get around if you do not know the language, and you may not know what is in the food you’re eating, and you the smog may hurt your lungs for a while, but it is an incredible cultural experience worth taking. Shanghai Snack is a must. So is the Great Wall, Pudong, Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. I am completely exhausted from my nine-day whirlwind of a trip to the country and am a bit relieved to be back to normal at school, but I am so grateful that I got the chance to go, learn about business in China and experience the culture.