Only in China!

A picture says a thousand words. Frederick R. Barnard

I love China!
My favorite aspects of living here are the things you see that get lost in translation, whether it be in words, or in cultural differences. I enjoy observing how our cultures differ and have learned much about tolerance and understanding when people do things differently than me. Many things here are the same, but oh so many are different.

These are a few of the many things we have experienced over the course of our two years living in Shanghai. They have made me smile and I hope will do the same for you. I can only imagine what the Chinese think when they come to America and see all the crazy things we do!

The Chinese tell it like it is




Food safety is always a top priority

I may not get hair in my food, but I sure hope they’ve washed their hands!
Yep, that’s a dog at the table behind me.
There’s nothing more appealing than fresh vegetables with a hint of cigarette smoke.
Steak, anyone?

Split bottom pants are all the rage with the youngsters

The locals are experts in efficiency



And they can sleep practically anywhere! 

Just another day in Ikea. But the thing I love is the empty bottle of wine next to him.
A driver taking a nap in a lobby

But sometimes things just get lost in translation

“magic seeds refresh your dream life”
I like this kind of health food!
Club B.M.? I wonder if they have nice bathrooms. Lol!
IMG_0597 2
 A life lesson for us all

Then there are those things that you can’t explain no matter how hard you try

A claw machine for cigarettes.
There are no words.

And there you have it! After two years, things here continue to make me smile. I hope these pictures gave you a little chuckle today. We all need things that are just a little different to help make our world a happier place.

A special thanks to Jenny Kuchel who shared some of the memories made during her 12 years living in China. 

Finding the EXTRA in the Ordinary

Sometimes something happens that is extraordinary. You may have experienced it a hundred times before, but this time it is different.

Last week it snowed in Shanghai. Some people referred to it as a blizzard. Schools across the city had a snow day on Friday. In reality, snowfall totals were about one inch. Back home in Michigan, we would hardly bat an eye to such a small amount of snow. However, here in Shanghai, one inch of snow is enough to shut down an unequipped city.IMG_7629

Now back in Michigan we are used to a few snow days per year. Schools actually add a week to their calendar to allow for such days. But a snow day here? Unheard of. A bad air day, perhaps, but never a snow day.

You can imagine the palpable excitement amongst the children when they woke up on Friday to find that not only did they have the day off of school, but upon looking out their windows discovered there was actually snow blanketing the ground. The neighborhood was buzzing with excitement and snowmen were popping up everywhere. This excitement was not limited to the children. Gardeners walked around in awe admiring the snowmen and trying to figure out how to clear snow from the roads. Some of the children in our neighborhood had never seen snow. In fact, some of the workers had never seen snow either. People stopped in their cars to take pictures of trees, and snow-covered rooftops. Watching others enjoy something for the first time brought new excitement and joy to me as well. I found a sense of newness in something I had experienced many times before at home.


Along these lines, I was reminded that since we are living abroad, away from our every day, things become new again. You are afforded a fresh perspective on life. It is such a blessing. Many times we fall into a routine knowing what to expect out of people, out of the weather, out of our errands, etc. It is such a huge opportunity to see things anew again and to get excited over the ordinary.IMG_7660

There is an old saying: “the devil’s in the details”. I beg to differ. I say God is in the details. When you look at life through fresh eyes, you experience new richness and detail you may have only walked past before. I took two long walks during our snowfall. Walks I had taken many times before. However, things look different when covered in a blanket of snow. A quiet hush falls upon the earth allowing you to walk and just be still. A bridge I have passed dozens of times before caused me to stop and take it its graceful lines and architectural detail. It looked beautiful dusted with snow. A small green bush with red berries dazzled in the sunlight because it was coated with a layer of ice. God is in the details. I am thankful for the snow. Because it was such an extraordinary occurrence here, I took the time to slow down and see His artistic hand upon the ordinary things I pass every day.

The snowstorm also reminded me to never give up hope. Sometimes we need the confidence of a child to remind us how to have hope, and that sometimes finding answers to your prayers may come when looking at the outcome from a different perspective. My 11-year-old, Jack said to me on Wednesday night, “tomorrow will be a snow day”. To which I responded, “it’s highly unlikely, don’t get your hopes up”. The next morning we woke up and school had not been canceled although it was snowing outside. While I thought Jack would be completely forlorn, he happily looked out the window and said, “see, I told you it would be a snow day”. Well, he was right! It was snowing, so it was technically a “snow day”. The next day school was actually canceled due to the snow. Jack simply said, “see, I told you we would have a snow day”. Wow! What an example of child-like faith, and always looking at things with a positive perspective. I know it sounds simple, but it was a powerful reminder to me to always have hope no matter how unlikely the outcome may be.IMG_7568

Every day things happen that are ordinary. My question to you is how do you take those things and make them EXTRAordinary? Take time. Slow down. See things from a fresh perspective. Find beauty in the details. Most importantly, never lose your child-like faith, and always hope for the best. One last thing, if you have snow where you are, put on your snow boots, get out there, and build the best darn snowman you have ever built before!


Shanghai Walks: a trip back in time

There is something in Shanghai that is very exciting and alive – the idea of a city with two different souls, one from today and another from a long time ago, is amazing.

-Alessandro Michele

The city of Shanghai paints a somewhat unusual picture. It is difficult to describe the discrepancies you find here on so many levels. The have’s and the have-not’s; old art-deco buildings amongst new futuristic skyscrapers; glitz and opulence a neighborhood away from street food, entire families sharing a two-bedroom apartment with no heat and laundry hanging from windows. All this and more is what makes the city such a fascinating area to explore.

Last weekend we pulled out our trusty Shanghai Walks book and did a walk entitled, “Suzhou Creek & the Real Shanghai.” For about 2 1/2 hours we wandered up and down the streets behind The Bund learning about the British and American Settlements in Shanghai in the 1920’s, as well as the Jewish migration from Europe and Japanese take over in the late 1930’s. To walk the streets of so much history is fascinating.

Our walk began on The Bund. For those of you who do not know the area, Shanghai is essentially divided into two parts by the Huangpu River. On one side sits the new section, or the Financial District, also known as Pudong. The other side is the old section, called Puxi. A river separating the future from the past. You don’t get any more literal than that. So, our walk began on the historical side of the city. We walked out to the river to look across at the towering skyscrapers that make up the iconic Shanghai skyline. The Oriental Pearl Tower looks like something you would find on the moon with it’s three bubbled levels and smooth silver detail.IMG_7411

From there, we turned around and headed into Puxi. Our first history lesson was that in the 1920’s the British and Americans established settlements in neighboring areas of this side of the river. Just looking at the buildings along The Bund convey the strong British influence during the time. It seems more like you are walking up and down the Thames than the Huangpu River. Gorgeous neoclassical marble buildings with ornate detail all convey an old-world European charm.

Money and culture flooded into Shanghai during this time. Theater, religion, and recreation all became popular pastimes amongst the ex-pats and wealthy locals living in the area. It is fascinating to walk along the Art Deco buildings in this section of town and feel so far removed from Asia. These buildings hold many stories, and opulence remains with stores like Cartier, Patek Philippe, and Gucci lining the streets.

It seems the British and Americans lived in harmony with the Shanghainese until Japan invaded in the late 1930’s. At this time, Japan bombed the city then proceeded to invade, taking over the once peaceful area. The lower-class Shanghainese were forced to move a bit farther away from The Bund, establishing their own neighborhoods. Our next walking point took us through these communities. What a contrast to the wealth we saw a mere two streets closer to the water. Dirty streets, laundry hanging out to dry from every window, local street food vendors offering some great (and not so great) looking dining options. No Ferraris or Rolls-Royces roll through this area. Here, they are replaced by scooters carrying entire families, chickens, and who-knows-what. But even in this section of town, the culture is rich. Perhaps not rich in monetary terms, but in their deep culture. I’m sure just as we observed in the streets closer to The Bund, these roads have changed very little. I can imagine walking down this area in the 1930’s and experiencing many of the same sites, smells, and customs that we do today.

Turning back towards The Bund is a large area under construction. Out with the old, in with the new. The remnants of thoughtfully designed Art Deco apartments stand in a crumbled heap. If those walls could talk, I’m sure they would tell tales of the glory days when the future looked bright and money and opportunity endless. I understand the push forward to make new and refresh cities, but it saddens me when there is not a middle ground. Back in the day buildings were not necessarily made to last here. They were put up quickly and lived in hard. Many of them could not be restored even if building crews wanted to, so they must be torn down and built anew. I suppose you could look at it as an opportunity. New walls to hold new stories. But I love the past and grieve a bit when it is not preserved.


Our walk concluded back where we started, standing in front of the Peninsula Hotel on The Bund. We put our pinkies up and went in for a much deserved afternoon cocktail. I thought as we sipped our delicacies what a contrast it was to an hour earlier when we paid 25RMB for our lunch made by street vendors on the local streets.

Shanghai is deep and layered in its history. It was fascinating to walk the streets and imagine life here in the 1920’s-’30’s. Shanghai is also a contrast of past and future, of the wealthy and the poor. But through it all, despite our history or backgrounds, we still manage to come together and make the city special.

Our walk opened my eyes to many things I have passed time and time again but never took time to really “see”. If you have the chance, step into history. Don’t just read about it in a book. Walk the streets. Stand where you are and take it all in. Imagine a time of days gone by when life was different, yet somehow much the same as today. I am thankful we did, and I know you will be too.

Special thanks to Barbara Green, Tess Johnston, Ruth Lear, and Carolyn Robertson for walking the Streets of Shanghai and writing The Streets of Changing Fortune: SIX SHANGHAI WALKS so we could too!IMG_7522


A Different Kind of Christmas

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
-Bing Crosby-

Although living an ex-pat life means constant change and adaptation, there is one tangible thing that has kept me grounded. Our home back in the U.S. I always knew no matter how many different life scenarios we faced while living abroad, we always had the comfort of our house to return to whenever we went home. A place where, for 12 years we hung our hats and made memories. A place where our kids grew up, traditions, and routines were created. I knew where everything was, painted every wall, hung every picture, planted every tree. Yes, our home remained a place of comfort and stability in our ever-changing world.IMG_2809

Now, while I say this, I will admit, it is a bit of a glorified picture of our house back in Michigan. I won’t even go into the headache of owning a house half-way around the world. Renters that did not keep up with maintenance, mail that got missed which led to overdue bills. A yard that was not properly tended to. It seemed every time we went home I would play catch up on all the things that had been neglected over the course of six months. It was a hassle and a lot of work. The last time we went home, I traveled there alone with two of our boys. After a 14-hour flight and arriving home utterly exhausted, all I wanted was a hot shower and cozy bed on which to lay my head. However, we arrived to find the hot water heater broken. Many hours, tears, and dollars later, it was replaced, and I was able to relax. Things like this seemed to happen every time we went home.

Last spring, we were blessed to be given a chance to extend our assignment overseas. We had been hoping for such an opportunity as we wanted to get our oldest child here to graduate high school before we headed back home. Since we knew we would be staying longer than initially anticipated, and keeping our house back home had proven to be such a headache, among a host of other reasons, we decided to sell our house. I will admit, while I knew this was a good idea for every reason imaginable, I am not always practical. My heart tugged at me and made it difficult to leave our memories behind. Silly, right? I mean, you can always take your memories with you, but there is a lot to be said about seeing those memories within the walls in which they were created.IMG_0525

But the decision had been made, and I knew deep down it was the right one. So I took a two-week trip home to prepare the house to go on the market. My mom met me there, and we went right to work. After many hours of purging, organizing, and staging, the house was ready. Thankfully, sheer exhaustion kept me from becoming overemotional about the reality of what we were working towards. I became cutthroat in deciding what needed to stay and what needed to go. But still, everything I touched required a decision. 12 years of clutter is not easy to rummage through. But we did it, I went back to Shanghai, and the house went on the market. The first day we received an offer, and the house was sold. It was a blessing, and a heartache but I had prayed God would be very clear in His path for this part of our lives, and I know this was His answer to my prayer. It’s difficult to argue with that kind of clarity.

So the house sold, we moved out, I cried, but we continued to look forward knowing this was what we needed to do. Then came plans for Christmas. All of a sudden my confidence was shaken. No Christmas in our home? No Christmas tree in the corner of the family room? No kids sitting at the top of the stairs waiting impatiently on Christmas morning for the ok to run down and look under the tree? What had we been thinking?

We began talking about all the different ways we could spend Christmas. It wouldn’t be fair to pick one parent’s house over the other to spend the holiday. Our daughter’s house is too small to squeeze all of us in and really, did we want to pay money for a house rental in Michigan in the winter? Who in their right mind would choose such a cold vacation destination unless they had to?

So after going around and around, we chose Seattle, Washington as our Christmas destination. My husband lived there as a child and still has family there. It is warmer, and we figured it would be a bit easier for us to get to; but at the same time allowing easy access for the rest our family to come join us, if possible.

Decision made, we announced it to the family thinking, of course, everyone would want to come spend Christmas in the Northwest. Well, our daughter and her husband could not get the time off of work to travel across the country. Again, I wondered what we were doing. Why did we sell our house and lose the opportunity to spend Christmas with everyone? But, once again I needed a reality check. Sure, we saw all the family when we went home, but it was only for a day, maybe two, tops. Is that really a reason to keep a house? One you have outgrown and can no longer consistently take care of?

So this year we will be celebrating a different kind of Christmas. It is the first one we will not spend with our daughter and, like any mother, it kills me, but also like any mother, there needs to be a time when we let go of our children, no matter how hard it may be. Our daughter now has the opportunity to make her own holiday traditions and memories, and although I will miss her dearly, I am happy for her. I know how special it is to sit in front of your own Christmas tree, bake cookies in your own oven, and hang stockings in front of your own fireplace.


As for us, I don’t know how the holiday will go. Being in a house rental in an unfamiliar place is going to be very different. Will it just feel like a vacation? Will it feel like Christmas? I know, Christmas is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior surrounded by those you love, and we will.IMG_5304 Our oldest son and my mom will be joining us. But I am such a traditionalist. Despite having all the boxes checked in order to have an enjoyable holiday, will it still FEEL like Christmas? I don’t know. It will be yet another way living an ex-pat life has given us cause to adapt to any and all situations. Sometimes that is easier said than done.

Although this Christmas will be different, I am happy and excited to have the opportunity to visit yet another new place. Despite the fact that we will not be in our own home, I know we will continue to make new Christmas memories. Who knows, we could love it so much with all the pressure being off all the Christmas “to-do’s” that we may want to continue this tradition in the future. We will see.

I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and hope you are surrounded by those you love whether in your own home or elsewhere. Merry Christmas to you all!

A Trip to the Market

Perhaps one of the most fun aspects of living in Shanghai is the many types of markets available for shopping. Fabric, fake, pearl, photography, electronics, produce, you name it, there is a market for it. Our favorites are the fake market and the fabric market. Pretty much anything you could need or want can be found in one of these two markets. Except for Bath and Body Works soaps. Oh, how I miss those. But I suppose if they did sell them they would be fake so maybe not the best idea. Who knows what ingredients would actually be in them. Anyway…

Last weekend we took a trip to both the fake and fabric markets. These places do have actual names. I think one is AP Plaza and the other, South Bund Spinning and Fabric Market, but really, who has time to say all of that? We like to keep things simple. We have even simplified names for some of the locals we buy things from. The lamp lady, jacket guy, pancake lady, DVD guy, etc. Mostly because we couldn’t pronounce their names if we tried, but you get the point.

So, our first stop was the fake market, and I was on a mission to buy some Christmas presents. Now one does not walk into a local market and purchase an item at face value. No way! Part of any good Chinese market experience is the haggling.

Not only does Jackson have to negotiate with the vendor, but also with his wife. Which will be the tougher sell? Then there’s Hunter with no money. Sigh.

My ultimate goal is to walk away feeling like I got a good deal. Negotiations usually go something like this,

Me: “How much is this?”
Vendor: “It’s 460 RMB.”
Me: “No, way too much.”
Vendor: “Ok, I give you good friend price. 380 RMB.”
Me: laugh and shake my head, “no way. Still too much.”
Vendor: “Ok, ok, you give me price.”
Me: “150.”
Vendor: Look of utter shock, “You joking me. No way. How about 350?”
Me: “No. Forget it, I don’t want it anyway.” Turn and leave store
Vendor: Chases me down the aisle. “Ok, ok 200 RMB.”
Me: “No, 150.”
Vendor: “Fine, fine, you are killing me. Ok”. Followed by a substantial amount of muttering under the breath while putting my item in a bag.
Deal done.

I walk away knowing I paid what the item was worth and the vendor plays the anger card but knows he/she also sold it for what it’s worth and they will get a lot more from the next sucker who walks into their store. So back to my mission. I knew I wanted some travel wine cups (apparently all the rage this year) And I knew I wanted to pay 22 RMB for them. After walking away empty-handed from two stores, without even so much as a chase down, I was in luck in the third. After a tough negotiation down from 50 to 23 RMB. I figured this was close enough to the price I wanted to pay. When I told her I wanted 36 cups her eyes nearly popped out of her head. Subsequently, I got the, “you’re killing me,” and “I make no profit” line quite a few times so I know I got a good deal.

Now how am I going to carry all of these?


Christmas presents bought, we were onto the fabric market to get some things made. My husband, Brett, wanted a sportcoat made, so we went to a lady he has used many times before. Although she has his measurements on file, she looked at him and said, “we measure you again.” When she wrapped the measuring tape around his stomach, her eyes grew wide, and she said, “you got much bigger.” I snorted, then almost fell on the floor laughing. Poor guy.

The lady who noticed Brett’s “larger” stomach. And yes, Jack bought this hat at the Fake Market. Quite a find!

But hey, don’t ever get too much of a kick out of someone else’s misfortune or karma will get you back. Next, we went to my “shirt lady” so I could have a couple of, well, shirts made. Brett and the boys stood outside the store while I wheeled and dealed my way to a reasonable price. After we left, Brett showed me a picture he took while waiting. This was the sign on the store:CC2FE866-C3D4-4BD3-A36E-5EFB366119EB-11883-000004C6B690F516_tmp

At the end of the day, we all had a laugh and chalked it up to just another adventure in China. Every day there is something new to make you giggle. We certainly are lucky to call this place home.


Shanghai Disneyland Through the Eyes of a Child. (11 tips from an 11-year-old)

I am so excited to have a guest contributor on this post! Jack wholeheartedly offered his assistance when I told him we needed to do some research on Shanghai Disneyland. Yes, this job does have some pretty sweet perks.

Recently we visited the park and put our noses to the grindstone doing some hard-hitting investigatory work. I told him, this wasn’t going to be a visit for pleasure. No way. This was a business trip. We had to do real research. Like, which rides to run to first, which stands sell the best cotton candy, what is the fastest route to Roaring Rapids. You know, hardcore research. 😉

Hard at work.


I hope this guide will help you plan your trip to Shanghai Disney. If you need Jack and me to go back for more research, all you have to do is ask. We would be happy to help!

1. Prepare for your visit.

Make sure you begin hydrating yourself a few days before you go. Maybe carbo-load the night before. You know, like you are going to run a marathon. You need to be in tip-top shape in order to get the most out of your day at the park.

Jack’s pre-Disney energy-boosting meal.


2. Download the Shanghai Disneyland app.

This is a must for checking park hours, pre-buying park tickets, and getting real-time waits for rides. After all, you don’t want to miss a no-wait opportunity for Pirates of the Caribbean if you are stuck in a 2-hour line for Peter Pan. Don’t mess around. According to Jack, a visit to Disney needs to be meticulously planned so you don’t miss out on anything.

3. Bring the right supplies.

In Jack’s terms, this means: let your mom pack everything you may even remotely need during your visit. Sunscreen, snacks, a portable phone charger, face masks (if the air quality is bad…yes, this does happen), tennis shoes, and of course, Mickey or Minnie Ears. I mean really, can you honestly do Disney justice without them?IMG_4832


I hope I have made my point clear with the aggressive use of the all-caps-lock. Trust me, the only thing worse than waiting in a line for 2 hours is waiting in line with Chinese people for 2 hours. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese people, but they consistently push and cut the line like it’s no big deal. That gets old really fast. By the end of your first ride, you will be ready to leave the park (and possibly China altogether).

We stupidly went during Chinese New Year. This was the 45-minute backpack check line before even entering the park.


5. Plan your park route.

Once inside the park, choose which rides you must do and head to them first. Jack’s advice is to wait to get FastPasses until their second distribution in the afternoon. Don’t run right to a FastPass line with all the other suckers. Instead, go straight to the ride and get on before they even get their passes. Just remember it’s not nice to laugh at them as you zoom past on the ride they will get onto 3 hours from now.IMG_4851

6. Plan your dining accordingly.

Jack’s top tip: Don’t wait until dinner to go to the corndog stand by Tomorrowland. It closes early. Trust me on this one. It happened to us once, and as you can tell, Jack is still traumatized. Also, make sure you eat lots of treats to keep your energy up. Jack’s recommendations are Buried Treasure Bars, cotton candy, and (of course) corndogs. You know, all the essential food groups of sugar, food coloring, and artificial flavors that all contribute to the magic of Disney.

Keeping himself energized.


7. Be prepared for the shows.

What we mean is, they are all in Mandarin. We were excited to see the Jack Sparrow show, but were disappointed when literally the only words we could understand were “Jack Sparrow.” It took away a bit of the excitement when we had no clue what was going on. Also, most of the rides are in Mandarin as well. So be ready to hear, “Yo ho, Yo ho a pirate’s life for me” sung a bit differently than you are used to.

8. Top 5 rides.

According to Jack, all the rides at Shanghai Disneyland are pretty great, but here are his top 5 in order of importance:

1. Tron. After all, it is really the only true roller coaster in the park.

2. The 7 Dwarfs Mine Train Ride. Some may argue that this is also a roller coaster. We agreed to give it “baby roller coaster” status which for Jack’s dad, Brett, was all the thrill ride he needed. I won’t say he screamed like a little girl when he rode it but…

3. Alice in Wonderland Maze. Not so much a ride as an attraction but a fun way to get lost in the park.IMG_0153

4. Pirates of the Caribbean. Although it is all in Mandarin, it has been updated and offers some pretty impressive graphics.

5. Roaring Rapids. Honestly, what kid doesn’t love a ride that has the potential of getting you soaked? And on that note, why am I always the one that gets the wettest?

9. Don’t expect everyone who is dressed-up to be a cast member.

For some reason, many of the local girls use Shanghai Disneyland as an excuse to dress like a little girl or an Anime character. We have no idea why but they do add quite a lot to the people-watching aspect of your visit. I asked Jack if perhaps I should dress up the next time we go. He told me to stick my Minnie Mouse ears. Sigh.IMG_4860

10. Be the fun person in the park.

The first time we visited Shanghai Disneyland, we had the privilege to go with (almost) the entire family. It was then that I realized my son-in-law possesses a very impressive skill. He is an amusement park pro and is going to be the fun dad when he takes his own kids to Disneyland. He made-up games while we waited in line. 20 questions, Would you Rather, you know, games to make you feel like you haven’t been standing in the same spot for 30 minutes. We were all entertained and the games made waiting just a little more bearable. Future dad points for you Jackson!IMG_0604

11. Use the single-rider line option.

This is the most important “Jack tip” of all. Chances are you will probably be close to your companion on the ride anyway so cut your wait time by two-thirds or more by choosing this line.

A few more tips

(I am a mom after all and would feel remiss without throwing in a few extras)

  • Bring your passport. You will need it to buy tickets
  • If you will be visiting the park 3+ times, get a season pass. You will be spending about the same amount of money and will be able to get discounts at many restaurants and shops.
  • While most places accept credit card (except American Express), some food stands only accept cash so, bring some RMB just in case.
  • If food in the park doesn’t float your boat, you can leave and eat in Downtown Disney. We highly recommend The Cheesecake Factory. Reentry into the park is free.
  • If you buy your tickets ahead of time, you can enter the park through Downtown Disney. There is an entrance near Wolfgang Pucks. We call it the secret entrance. Little known fact. You’re welcome.IMG_4866

So there you have it, all the most essential Shanghai Disneyland tips according to an 11-year-old (and his super cool mom). We love visiting the park and hope you will too. Now put on those Mickey Mouse ears and get to it!

The (not-so) definitive guide to Shanghai​


Shanghai has become our hometown. Walking along The Bund and looking across the river at the downtown skyline never gets old. If you are thinking about taking a trip to this urban metropolis, you won’t be disappointed. Someone told me Shanghai is the “China of the future”, and being a city of 25 million people means that life is constantly evolving. New restaurants, bars, and shops pop up almost overnight. There is always something new to see or do.

Styrofoam lady. A fascinating common sight. How do they get the styrofoam piled so high?!


This guide is meant to get you started. Check out some of the places online to make sure they are still open, their hours, and additional details. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy help and maybe even play the tourist with you!


Some Handy Tips                                                                                                                ELECTRICITY

Spring (Mar-May)
Autumn (Sep-Nov)
Yuan Renminbi (¥)

Getting around

  • taxi (most taxi drivers don’t speak English so make sure you have your directions printed out in Mandarin before leaving)
  • Metro
  • Ferry to cross the HuangPu River
  • Mo Bikes. Download the app and rental is a snap.
  • Your own two feet


  • Temporarily switch your current plan to an international plan.
  • Inquire whether your phone is eligible to be unlocked. If it is, you can bring an unlocked phone to China and purchase an inexpensive SIM card with a local phone number to use while visiting. Cost for a SIM card=about $30 and can be purchased at the airport.
  • Purchase an inexpensive phone, or bring an old phone with a SIM card and proceed with suggestion from #2. Smartphones are suggested (iPhone or Galaxy)
  • Regardless of which option you choose, download the WeChat app. This app is incredibly popular in China. You can text, voice, and video call anywhere in the world using only your data. Plus, it tends to be the most stable form of communication.

Internet usage in China can be sporadic. Wi-fi signals go in and out. Please bring your patience. The internet may be fast one day, and not work at all another. Also, some websites such as Facebook are banned in China. The only way to access them is through a VPN. If certain sites are very important for you to access while you are here, you may considering researching a VPN you can install on your device.

Thoughts and things

  • Shanghai is 12-13 hours ahead of the EST zone depending on Daylight Savings Time.  You will experience some major jet-lag no matter how hard you try to avoid it. The first three days are the most difficult, but it’s really a full week before you feel normal again. Something to think about when planning your trip’s length.

    Young or old, you just can’t escape jet-lag
  • You can exchange money at the airport or in town. Cash is still the most widely accepted form of payment, and the only form accepted in most markets. Many stores and restaurants accept MasterCard or Visa. Fewer accept American Express.
  • Always carry your passport in case you are questioned by the authorities.
  • Make a copy of your passport, Visa, immunizations, health issues, insurance card, and blood type. Medical care is very different here and you should always have your information in case of emergency. You may also want to check with your insurance provider regarding international coverage.
  • A visa is required for all U.S. citizens staying in Shanghai for more than 144 hours. Check with your local consulate about how to obtain your visa.
  • The Chinese culture believe it is ok to openly stare at something or someone they find interesting. They aren’t being rude, they are just curious. And if you are tall, have blonde or red hair, or dark skin they may ask to take their picture with you. Don’t worry, you aren’t a freak of nature. It’s just the way they are.

    Exercising like the locals in Fuxing Park. Notice the old dude in the back staring at our ridiculousness.
  • Some locals don’t feel the need to…ahem…find a bathroom if necesary. They will just go wherever they want. So if this happens, try not to stand there mouth gaping open in horror. Just look the other way and move on.
  • You will need a converter, and/or adapter for most of your electrical appliances. Most cellphones and computers are dual frequency and do not require conversion. You can purchase one on Amazon relatively cheap. 
  • Water is not safe to drink unless filtered. Brushing your teeth and showering are fine.
  • Some days have a high AQI, or air quality level. This means the air is heavily polluted. Wearing masks may be recommended. You can purchase masks before you leave (VOG masks are the best).

    It looks like we are in a sci-fi film
  • Pedestrians in China do not have the right of way-EVER. Use extreme caution any time you cross a street. Cars and scooters will come at you from all directions.
  • Many toiletries and medications are difficult or impossible to find here. Please bring all you may need.
  • Many toilets are still squatty potty type. Be prepared and always carry tissues or toilet paper.

    Just in case you are confused.
  • Hand sanitizer wipes are useful to carry with you.
  • Tipping is not common practice for meals and services.

Places to see and things to do


  • The Bund: Walk along the water to see the picturesque Shanghai skyline.
  • Lujiazui: See some of the world’s tallest buildings up close. Enjoy authentic xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung. Get a bird’s-eye view inside one of the skyscrapers.

    Delicoius xiaolongbao
  • Fake Market (Science and Technology Building): Need a Michael Kors bag, fake watch, custom suit, or souvenirs? This is the perfect place to go, but be ready to bargain!
  • Fuxing Park: Enjoy a weekend morning outside strolling through the park and watching locals enjoying some downtime. Immerse yourself in the dancing, play a game of mahjong, or talk politics.
    Do you think I could find a hat like this in the fake market?


  • Carrefour: Visit a local grocery store, or wet market to see what the locals eat. Be prepared, many items in the meat department are still alive.
  • Yuyuan Garden & Bazaar: A beautiful traditional Chinese garden oasis nestled in the middle of town is sure to delight. After a tour of the garden, take time to shop for local handicrafts and keepsakes.IMG_1857
  • Foot Massage: A must after a long plane ride or a day of sightseeing.
  • Tianzifang: Get lost in the longtang style alleyways of charming shops and restaurants.
  • City lights at night: Enjoy a cocktail at a downtown rooftop bar. We love Flair for a view of The Bund, and Char Bar for a view of the skyline. Try to arrive just before sunset so you get both a daytime and nighttime view. 
  • Eat, Eat, Eat!!: The choices are endless.



  • Yang’s Fry Dumplings: For another taste of delicious local fare.
  • Shanghai Disney!!! Who wouldn’t want to go to Disney, am I right?

    Don’t tell Brett, but I think I have a new boyfriend.
  • Watertowns: The Chinese Venice. Watertowns have many sights, sounds and smells that make you feel like you have stepped back in time. Qi Bao is the closest to downtown.
  • ERA Circus: Spectacular Cirque-de-Sole style show. Performances nightly.            
  • Shop for custom pieces: fabric markets, lamp lady, Painter’s Street, etc.                      
  • Jing’an Temple: A large Buddhist temple tucked amongst a backdrop of tall buildings. This temple is still active and dates back to 1918.
  • Zotter’s Chocolate Factory. Pretty much like walking into Willy Wonka’s factory minus the Oompa Loompas. You will be sick by the time you leave, but it is totally worth the chocolate coma!  IMG_2504                                   
  • Local tours
    • walking tours
    • street food

      My favorite street food. Chinese pancakes. They are sooo good!
    • temples
    • double-decker bus city tour (a cool way to see the city and get your bearings)

      Want to ride in style? Take the Barbie Bus tour an be a Barbie for the day.
    • sidecar city tour
    • bike tours
    • migrant village
    • Huang Pu River Cruise
    • any tour can be arranged according to interest
  • Museums
    • History:
      • Shanghai History Museum
      • Shanghai Museum of Natural History
      • Post Museum (history of Chinese postal service)
      • Propaganda Poster Art Centre Museum: is cooler than it sounds with3,000 posters from the time of Mao and the Cultural Revolution.
    • Modern art:
      • Power Station of Art
      • China Art Palace
      • Minsheng Art Museum
      • Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art
      • M50
    • Art Deco
      • Rockbund Art Museum (contemporary Chinese)
    • Chinese art
      • Shanghai Gallery of Art
    • General
      • China Art Palace
    • Urban
      • Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. Incredible model layout of Shanghai.
    • Traditional crafts:
      • Shanghai Arts & Crafts Museum
      • Nankeen Fabric Museum. See how beautiful blue and white fabric is made and shop for some to bring home.
  • Markets:
    • Pudong or Hongqiao Flower Market: Flowers, paintings, home furnishings, pets and even floating babies!

      Sometimes you don’t even have to go to a market in order to find treasures.
    • Wet Market: See local food being sold outdoors.IMG_2456
    • Tea Market (schedule a tour)
    • Marriage Market: Walk along the sidewalks and observe people with adstrying to find marriage prospects for their children and grandchildren.
    • Antique warehouse: If you like to get dirty and hunt for treasures this one’s for you! Word of warning, not everything you see is an antique and prices tend to be high. But it is fun to see some of the crazy things for sale.
  • Shanghai Aquarium: Home of the world’s longest aquarium tunnel.
  • Shopping:
    • Super Brand Mall: 8+ floors housing any store you can imagine.
    • IFC Mall: see if you can afford anything here.
    • East Nanjing Road: A walking street with many stores.
    • Many high-end shopping areas in Puxi
  • Take in a show, musical performance, or concert

As you can see, there are endless things to do in Shanghai which is one of the reasons we love it so much. Come on over for a week or two and immerse yourself in “the China of the future”.

Shanghai guide