A flying visit to Shanghai and Taipei

Two more awesome nearby cities

After much procrastinating, I finally flew over to Shanghai for a few days in mid-November. I’d been wanting to visit a friend there for months, but kept not organising it and getting put off by the expensive and time-consuming Chinese tourist visa application process. Kiwis can travel pretty much anywhere visa-free, so I guess I was spoiled. Anyway, it turns out there’s another option where if you enter China while holding a ticket to a third country (and fulfill a bunch of other requirements) you don’t need a visa. So … Shanghai and Taipei!

Shanghai

I stayed in an AirBnB apartment, and my host was kind enough to take me on a tour of the city on my first night! I'd been told Shanghai is an international city, but I didn't realise how commercial it is as well. It's a little jarring to see a beautiful old temple with a bunch of shops underneath ...

Speaking of international, I was astonished at how many great foreign food places there are in the city. It's the first time I've had a decent pie since my last trip back to NZ!

Near the pie shop my host and I stumbled across this fun street performance - watching someone wave a ball around to music is oddly mesmerising

There were also heaps of great bakeries and cafes which made me homesick for Wellington ... but I was outraged to discover that the Mandarin for "flat white" is literally "Australian white"

After some more wandering around the blissfully quiet and suburban Hengshan Road district near my apartment, I managed to meet up with Miya by the main river.

I was staying on the more residential western side of the city (Puxi). On the opposite side is the modern financial heart of Shanghai (Pudong), best seen in this famous night view

Shanghai has historically been more open than the rest of China, so there's lots of beautiful Western architecture from the embassies and outposts of Europe and from the Shanghainese emulating them

We then went to a very local-feeling restaurant where I tried (and spent a long time trying to get the hang of) eating local delicacies like hairy crab, mini lobster things, chicken feet and durian fruit

These lobster things were definitely the highlight - the soup was spicy and fragrant and absolutely delicious. It just looked a bit indimidating when this bowl was overflowing with them ...

We also attempted to go to a famous garden, discovered it was closed, and then spent a while wandering around getting souvenirs.

My favourite: A Chinese version of my name illustrated with dragons and carp

Taipei

Taiwan has an interesting relationship with China. It’s not recognised as independent by many other countries, but it still counts as a “third country” for the purposes of visa-free travel. I didn’t get to learn much of the history while I was there, but I did get to eat lots more delicious food, particularly in the famous night markets.

Spring onion pancakes are amazing, to the point where I tried (and partially succeeded) to make them at home literally the day after I got back. This wasn't the best one I had, but it was fun to watch it being made!

I also happened upon some kind of festival in the night market. I'm not sure what these are, but they looked impressive!

And back again

I’d definitely like to go back to both places for longer, but for very different reasons. I didn’t get much of a taste of Taipei in the end so I want to go back with a guide and experience more of the cultural side of the city. Parts of Shanghai, on the other hand, feel like a taste of the multiculturalism and great coffee that I miss from New Zealand, so considering it’s 3 hours flight away instead of 14+, I’d definitely be inclined to stop over there for a mini-break on my way to pretty much anywhere else.

And finally, my desk when I got back ... my team was inspired by a certain James Veitch video I showed them, and the ducks are now a key part of our office culture

Posted on 31 December 2019
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