There was a bank holiday that went by in Hong Kong and also a very special someone’s birthday, so the natural thing to do seemed to be to take said person away for a little weekend trip.
I wanted to surprise him by going somewhere we’d never been, and for some reason Shanghai was calling. It seemed like the perfect place, close enough to Hong Kong to make a weekend of it and far away enough to make it seem like a holiday.
When you’re planning something which is a surprise, and you’re me, it’s kind of difficult because I get so excited I find it really difficult to keep things to myself. I’m also not so great at organising travel based things.
The day before we flew on this surprise trip I was having breakfast with my office and someone asked me if I had visas. I very confidently said that we can get them at the airport when we land in Shanghai. Turns out, no, you can’t and such a service does not exist. Oh. Dear.
It’s 11am and we fly the following day at 9am. Visas take 4 days.
It's not looking good, is it? I message everyone I know who travels to China on the reg. Someone messaged me back and says there is a place in Central where you can get emergency visas on the same day - but it might be too late because you need to get in there before 10am. It's now 11:30am. I run to the travel agent, and long story short, turns out having a Persian name, welling up in front of complete strangers, totally ruining the surprise for the birthday boy, and paying loads of Hong Kong dollars will get you a visa in 5 hours. Win!
We arrived in Shanghai and the hotel was simply stunning. It was dark and moody inside and the air was perfumed with something that smelled amazing.
First thing's first, we ate. The hotel had a delicious looking afternoon tea, so we ordered one each. This was really unnecessary and frankly, quite shocking for the other diners as it because obvious a tea was to be shared. We could barely finish the cakes and had to get the leftovers sent up to our room.
After cake-fest we headed to the Jing'an Temple. The weather was China-moist, grey and sunny at the same time, which I'm used to - but if you're not - I would recommend natural fibers and little of them.
One of the nicest things about Shanghai was the abundance of space. The roads were wide, the pavements wider and parks were pocketed around the city. It was such a welcoming difference from condensed living in Hong Kong.
After picking up and petting all the stray, flea ridden kittens at the park, it was back to the hotel for an outfit change and get ready for tourist time on the Bund! We accidentally walked onto a rather wild roof party (we were searching for a bar to enjoy the view) and enjoyed some free cocktails, which is ALWAYS a plus. We headed for dinner - a little bit tipsy - and wolfed down so much food you cant imagine.
Nothing beats getting into a bath after a long day. I miss bathtubs so much - I always make a point of having a bath when we go away.
We tried to wake up early the next day and headed for hotel breakfast, which was actually awesome. If you had breakfast included as the package, you could order infinite amounts from the à la carte as well as help yourself the buffet. Yes, that's right - infinite! I am such a greedy pig.
Off we headed for some culture! We arrived at the Yu Garden, which was heaving with tourists, like bees at the hive, but instead of hive it was the Yu garden, and instead of bees it was bashy tourists with no sense of personal space. Fun! Having said that, people were very accommodating in clearing the way for photo taking, hence the empty picture.
A trip to the Yu Garden was also a highlight - very pretty and traditional. I think this was probably the highlight of the trip.
We went to the National museum which is comically shaped like a post modernist, communist style handbag. I have to say, I really enjoyed the building. There was a pretty long line, which we managed to endure through a lot of Snapchat filters.
On our last day we wanted to hit up the Natural History museum, which was recently completed by Perkins+Will. The museum is set in a sculpture park of beautiful - well you guessed it - sculptures. I have to say, the building at first had a very Disney Ride-esque feel to it. It almost looked like there may be a hidden runaway train ride entrance lurking somewhere and that a dinosaur might pop out from behind a wall. Sadly, it didn't.
I have to say, the only let down at this point of our whole Shanghi trip was the little boy and his Grandfather, stopping for a quick wee at the entrance of the cafeteria in the muesum. Nice.
We ended our last few hours (to cleanse the sight of the weeing boy) with a trip to the French Concession. Full of wide leafy avenues and plenty of cute cafes. It was so unexpected!
If you can, you should try Shanghai. It won't dissapoint!