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Welcome to China – First Week in Shanghai
September 8th, 2013Asia, China, Destinations, Most ReadNatalia 9 Comments

So, we actually did it. We packed our bikes, desktop computers, threw in some clothes into a suitcase and moved across the world. Why? I’m not so sure. I mean, we’ve done it before and  we were kind of bored back home. Also, I really want to see some pandas and be closer to India so I can see wild tigers.  After paying Air Canada the amount of a third flight for our bags (they charge an extra $50 on top of a second  and third bag fee just for bikes) and binge watching terrible Hollywood movies on a tiny seat-back screen we landed in the biggest city in the world (it is the biggest in some categories says Wikipedia).


Welcome to China! I have only been here for just over one week and it is already probably the most ridiculous country I have ever visited. It is unique, loud and full of character. Shanghai…where can I start?

I cannot compare Shanghai’s road traffic to any other city. The only comparison that comes close is a busy fish highway on a coral reef. If you think there is no way through, just keep going and cars, pedestrians, ebikes, taxis will make room for your obnoxious ass. The only creature that will probably kill you is a bus. They don’t stop for anybody or anything, not a red light or a big truck. They need to get those people to their destinations quickly, no matter the obstacle! Just today, an asphalt roller was holding up traffic putting along on 2 lane road and in the bus driver’s eagerness to get to the next stop, he flung the bus into the oncoming traffic to speed past the slow roller.



Only in China can you find such confidence

Cycling in the city is actually not as bad as many might think. It is like taking the worst, most stressful 10 seconds of my bike ride in Toronto and stretching them to however long your bike ride may be in Shanghai. Having said that, I feel safer on my bike than I do crossing the road as a pedestrian. I am just thinking of all the things that I would do if I were to get hit by a car. Would I try to break their mirror? Should I slap the driver? I most likely won’t be able to do much because the driver would just drive away. At least that is the impression that I get from the way people drive. Have you gotten hit by a car in China or Shanghai?


Bird’s eye view of the city..not! Scale model of Shanghai at the Urban Planning Museum.

If I am ever in doubt about the 26 million population statistic, I can just head down and take the metro. It is always busy, it is just busier during rush hour.  The subway network in Shanghai is phenomenal. To think that it all came together in the last 20 years is incredible. Shanghai has accomplished more in the last 10 years than Toronto has in the last 60.


In a decadent city like Shanghai, the disparity between the poor and the rich is very noticeable. For instance I live in a “gated community” apartment complex and the neighbouring old, run down, shanty town apartment buildings would share the overly pretentious manicured courtyard and koi pond if it weren’t for the 10 meter fence outlining the property. There are no cheap or old cars, all cars are midrange to luxury brands. The only Nissan GTR I’ve seen in my life was in Shanghai. Before I came to the city I was expecting more beat up cars.

The first week in Shanghai was a complete whirlwind and my first impression is pretty positive. I can’t say I had culture shock but some things will take some getting used to. I’m finally getting used to taking the subway to and from work during rush hour where I am for the first time in my life packed in with others like in a sardine can. Watching a TV show on my smartphone really helps take me out of the surroundings. It will take me no time getting used to cheap same day grocery deliveries, delicious food and confident Chinese that try to use all English that they know, unlike many Koreans that are too afraid of making mistakes. I will never get used to constant horking,  kids peeing in public places and how stressful grocery shopping is on a weekend. It’s all part of the experience. I am in China after all.

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'9 Responses to “Welcome to China – First Week in Shanghai”'
  1. Agness says:

    Shanghai is indeed a busy and dynamic city. You are right about Shanghai’s road traffic – it’s terrible, but I could still enjoy cycling around the city center so it wasn’t that bad. Keep enjoying yourself. Have you already tried some Chinese food? What’s your favourite?
    Agness recently posted…Charging Batteries At HomeMy Profile

  2. Michelle says:

    Yea the amount of people in China compared to Canada is crazy! I spent a summer in Beijing and went back to uni in London, Ontario and it felt so dead everywhere, haha. I’ve never been to Shanghai but have always wanted to! Sounds like a great start so far!
    Michelle recently posted…Some of my favourite things from my time in New York City!My Profile

  3. I lived in Shanghai for two years and actually really liked it. I commuted by bus, so I didn’t have to deal with the subways very often, but the buses occasionally got really crowded, too. And there were a few times where we hit a pedestrian or cyclist. After hitting them, the driver would basically yell at them to get out of the road as they were writhing around on the ground in pain. It was pretty harsh.

    The food in Shanghai kind of sucks (way too sweet and oily), but if you’re in the right area, you have a lot of options from other regions of China or other countries. I ate a lot of Xinjiang or Sichuan food. And of course Japanese–we frequented a Japanese restaurant that had all-you-can-eat-and-drink for 110 RMB.
    Daniel McBane recently posted…Tal to Chame: Falling into a Trekking RoutineMy Profile

    • Natalia says:

      Well that sounds awful! I’m just waiting to see an accident happen as I bike around the city. It’s as if, some people don’t value their own life and blatantly put themselves in danger.

  4. Heather says:

    It’s too bad we just missed each other but I’m super excited to follow along with your Shanghai adventures!!
    Heather recently posted…Goodbye Shanghai! What I’ll Miss and What I Won’tMy Profile

  5. Matthew says:

    You’re right, traffic keeps moving and moving. Its hard to find many bikers on weekdays in the city centre, people are also aware of high risk of accident. But the food is awesome. Love to hear more from your adventures.
    Matthew recently posted…Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre on FireMy Profile

  6. Irina says:

    I spent a few days in Shanghai this summer and really hope your residence has a pool! I remember standing at the observation deck of the World Financial Center and jealously watching people chilling at pool of their condo in Pudong. I could see them behind a big fence 🙂 It was like 42C outside.

    Also, here’s a food secret for you. We noticed that at Costco meat goes on sale after 6 or 7 pm. It’s all cooked stuff like fried chicken, bbq pork, etc… but you would have to wrestle all the Chinese people for it. I still regret not catching that on camera 🙂
    Irina recently posted…Mao & Me: The Faces of TiananmenMy Profile

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