CISABROAD BLOG · February 11, 2014 · 4 Min Read
Seven Surprises You’ll Find in Shanghai

This post was contributed by Amanda Zetah – student at Colorado State University, world-traveler and travel writer.

1. Xiaolongbao

Xiaolongbao is a wonderful dish involving large dumplings that are full of hot soup and have some sort of meat stuffed inside. The trick is to nibble a hole into the skin of the dumpling, suck out the soup and then eat the shrimp or beef in the middle. Street markets are the best place to get these for relatively cheap and they top them with this spicy soy sauce that is to die for.

Enjoying Xialongbao

Enjoying Xiaolongbao

2. Celebrity Status

For some odd reason, the Chinese found the need to stare at me everywhere I went. I guess I can understand a bit where they are coming from, being that I am a 5’10” Caucasian woman and I was traveling with my friend who is about 6’3”. Needless to say, we stood out nearly everywhere we went. On multiple occasions, Chinese teenagers would giggle, point and stop us so that we could all be in a picture together. I stopped toddlers dead in their tracks as they looked up at me in awe.

3. Zhujiajiao 

During my last few days in China, we chose to visit one of the smaller water towns, Zhujiajiao. Shanghai was a shock to me because it is three times as large as New York City. I had never ridden a subway before or navigated such a large city, mainly due to the fact that I am from a tiny town of only 200 people. Because of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the small-town vibe of Zhujiajiao. We rode around the canals in a majestic boat, sipped some authentic green tea, and bought a few jade Buddhas from local kiosks. Zhujiajiao remains one of my favorite places in all of China.

The town of Zhujiajiao

The town of Zhujiajiao

4. The Great Wall of China

It seems obvious that the Great Wall is on this list, but it absolutely blew me away. It’s everything that you’d expect and more. I’d recommend seeing it during the summer months, because it was only ten degrees when I went to visit and I nearly froze to death! I had to huddle inside the restaurants at the bottom in order to gain feeling back in my hands, but it was completely worth it. It traverses these beautiful mountain ranges and is incredibly majestic. Be careful with the pollution though, my asthma was going crazy while trying to hike up the wall.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

5. VPN = My New Best Friend

Because China is a Communist country, they restrict the Internet sites that they allow citizens to view. It was nearly impossible to get on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Youtube, and all the other sites that I usually frequent when I’m back home in the states….and then, I discovered the magic of the VPN. A VPN allows you to log in and completely bypass all of the restrictions set in place by the Chinese government. Voila! After plugging in the VPN, I was able to Skype, watch Netflix and enjoy complete freedom on the Internet.

6. Shanghai Fabric Market

It was a long subway ride to get here, but it is the greatest place in the entire country. The Shanghai fabric market is full of cheap brand-name clothing and tailors who are eager to custom-make any clothing for you at dirt cheap prices. I am now the proud owner of a fancy pea-coat, some pencil skirts and a few blazers that are tailored to fit. The best part? It only cost me 100 RMB, which is the equivalent to $16.50! After shopping for a few hours, grab lunch from all of the street vendors outside. They offer delicious lo mein, dumplings and chicken feet custard (don’t judge, it’s delicious). My favorite is this little old lady who would make spicy egg pancakes for only a few RMB — you’ve got to try it if you get a chance!

Eating lunch outside the market

Eating lunch outside the market

7.  So Many People!

I’ve always heard that the population density in China is a little different than it is back home, but I never quite believed them until I was in a Beijing train station getting jostled by a large group as we waited to board the train back to Shanghai. I had a slight advantage because I am a head taller than most, but I have never felt so claustrophobic in my entire life. The moment the doors opened, it was a mad dash to grab a spot. By some stroke of luck, I was able to get on the train, but so did half the population of China. I’m not even kidding, there was a man using a large “people-fork” to shove people into the train.

A great way to explore the city of Shanghai, China is by studying abroad! Experience China on your own for a summer or semester with CISabroad.

Did you experience any surprises while traveling in China? Leave a comment below! 

The CIS Abroad blog is run by Zoë Crabtree, Jenn Weisgerber, Siobhan Tripp, Emily Negard, and more folks on our marketing team. Head over to the “Meet the Team” page to learn more about us as individuals. On the blog, we share student-written content and information for students, advisors, other study abroad professionals, and families of students studying abroad. Check out our Facebook and Instagram for more from us and our students!