October 2011 — January 2012

A couple years ago I learn Chinese in Shanghai, China for 3 months. Though I kinda forgot the language now, though other memories are still fresh in mind.

I’m lucky to stay in the former French Concession area, now Luwan and Xuhui Districts. Access is pretty easy and the surrounding areas are lovely. I can walk these roads for days and will always find new things (to take photo of) like the people, the buildings, oh the architectures(!), and food.

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Excited, I book a room via AirBnB for a short term stay. The lady, Ms. Polly, is very nice and very accommodating. I keep my heavy luggages in her living room when I’m not using the room and with no extra charge. Her apartment is very near Tianzifang and the Shanghai Metro line 9, Dapuqiao station, under the SML Mall. Transportation, food and entertainment in easy reach. Ms. Polly is also kind and help me with my permit for staying more than 30 days. Here’s also a few tips for 1st timer. Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet have more lists than mine. Here’s my highlight:

1. Have the destination address in Chinese writing. 

If you’re riding a taxi or uber your way around, most drivers don’t know English. Sometimes the places’ name or address have different pronunciation (most Shanghai people use Shanghainese dialect). It’s best to have the address in writing. I print mine so it’s readable and to minimize mistake.

2. Buy a Shanghai Public Transportation Card (SPTC). 

Shanghai Public Transportation card is use for any type of transportations in Shanghai like the Shanghai Metro (including Maglev train), Bus, Ferries, Taxi etc.. See how easy it is if I buy the card at the airport and just tap it to pay the taxi driver instead of paying him in cash. Watch the (taxi) driver closely though. Don’t let them replace your card with another (empty) card. Deposit for the SPTC card is ¥20 and just filled it with credit, easy to top up too.

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3. Always carry wet wipes, tissue and refillable water bottle. Just in case.

Folks, it’s China. No matter how modern the city is, hygiene is not one of them. Granted, some malls/hotels have clean(er) toilets, but just in case ok? Not all toilet have western toilets, though most hotels, hostels and malls have that option.

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4. Internet, Wifi and Phone access

Most hotels, hostels, cafe and restaurants equip with wifi. Here’s the catch: Great Firewall of China. If you need to access Facebook, Twitter and any western social media (like, most of them) you will be blocked. But you can always use VPN to get around. There’s paid and free VPN. Google it. (use Google Hong Kong or Yahoo for your search needs albeit slower, and baidu.com, note that the results from the search engine is limited). I paid for VPN because of my freelance works and need to access beyond the wall. For mobile phone carrier, surprisingly, the internet package from China Mobile is quite generous and the signal is good even when I’m in the province or outside the city proper.

5. Shanghai Call Centre (962288).

I have zero Mandarin beyond Wo Ai Ni, so this help line helps a lot for basic needs like translating places and ask for direction or simple communication for tourists. They provide English, French, German etc operators. They even have Indonesian operators to help.

6. Youth Hostels Association China

Usually I look for hostels in Trip Advisor, Agoda,  Expedia or consult Lonely Planet. In China, YHAC have good selections for credible, clean and fun hostels and easy booking as well. Being a member is also nice because sometimes I get 10% discount or upgrade to a room instead of bunk beds.

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Be aware of:

  • Scam artists, especially at tourist areas. Remember: There’s no such thing as free (sample).
  • Tea ceremony/bar/cafe/eatery invitation from young boys and girls want to learn (insert language/English). This scam is also applicable in India.
  • Massage.
  • Pick pocket: they love handphones and wallets. I lost two handphones; one in Shanghai and the other one in Nanjing).
  • Cheap thrills and knock off. Some people will sell anything, for a price, (want a Gucci or a Prada?) and sometimes they will take you to (???) place. Best to avoid these places.

Shanghai Tourist Information Services 

Yu Garden, 149 Jiujiaochang Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai, Shanghai Shi, 200001. 021/6355–5032.

Other Guides: Lonely Planet, Travel Wiki, Trip Advisor, Shanghai Expat, Travel China Guide, China Highlights, Meet in Shanghai, Smart Shanghai, Shanghaiist

Getting around: Shanghai Metro, Shanghai Metro Map, Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development, Shanghai Railway