Traveling with HDK: Shanghai

After our amazing 24 hours in Istanbul, we finally boarded the plane for an overnight journey to our final destination: Hello Shanghai!

The flight itself was actually quite pleasant – 10 hours passed quicker than expected. All I remember was sleeping, eating, watching random films and fighting with Monika for the leg space. Next thing we knew, we found ourselves filling in the immigration papers and stepping our feet on the Asian soil for the first time. 

Equipped with a Lonely Planet travel guide and some instruction from our apartment host, we took the super fast magnetic train and in about 10 mins, we stepped out of the train in centre, immediately hit by the atmosphere and smell of Shanghai. The smell I will probably never forget and that will chase me down in my worst nightmares. 

We somehow managed to buy tickets and took a subway to our metro stop in the area of French Concession where our apartment was located. The area itself is a place where the European and Chinese culture meets: it has a strong community of expats and foreigners living in Shanghai as well as being home to working class locals. 

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Our apartment was located in one of the ‘lanes’, very authentic Chinese way of living. We reserved it through airbnb service allowing you to rent apartments or rooms for a short time, so you can experience ‘living like a local’ for the price of a cheap hostel. Our apartment was all about authenticity: miniature shower attached to the kitchen, wooden bed and an amazing terrace with a view to the whole lane. Everyday we would meet our neighbors cooking in a little kitchen in the staircase as there were no doors to apartments, just random rooms and bathrooms with no division. Thankfully, our apartment was located on the top floor, giving us a bit more privacy. 

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The first few days were spent on the Design Shanghai 2014 – the main reason of our visit. The place itself where the exhibition was held was amazing: big pavilions looking like a temple from outside with a numerous wings, each of them representing different type of design. We got the chance to see hundreds of designers from all over the world, see luxurious cars being build from clay, hold some of the world’s most iconic designs in our hands as well as attend some interesting lectures related to our degree. 

The rest of our trip was up to us, so we decided to explore as much Shanghai as possible. We also met up with Ian, local from Shanghai who used to be our classmate during his exchange in Gothenburg. Thanks to him, we explored the best spots where locals eat, try some of the strangest food in the world and explore Shanghai from various different perspectives.

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And as pictures can say way more than words, here is a little taste of Shanghai 🙂

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Food was definitely a big part of the trip: wether it was crazy street food where you can buy smoked almost anything from pigeons to little octopus or trying to order in local restaurants

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In order to get the most authentic Shanghai experience, we tried to do as much local things as possible: casually dropping by for a foot massage, experiencing the traditional tea ceremony, crazy street motorcycle-taxi rides or just observing locals playing games on the street in the morning sun.

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We also visited couple of Buddha temples and “thanked” for this trip by burning some traditional wooden sticks.

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As design students, we could not miss the opportunity to get some tailored-made clothes! It was great fun, me and Monika spent hours playing with the fabrics and colours in order to design our dream coats whilst boys were getting there measures taken for the best-fitting suit and haggling for the best price.

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Majority of our evenings were spent in rooftop bars catching up with Ian and simply being amazed by the changing skyline of Shanghai as the sun set down. It was one of the views that you will never get tired of.

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Overall, if I was supposed to describe Shanghai in one phrase, I would say: the city of contrasts. At one moment, you are admiring some of the most amazing architecture of the world; 2 metro stops later you find yourselves in the middle of crazy crowd rushing down through dirty streets, yelling and spitting everywhere, buying raw meat on the street to bring back to their families living all in one tiny bedroom.

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It was an amazing and very eye-opening experience that I never even thought of when I arrived to Sweden. But thanks to our travel scholarship from HDK, it made it all possible and allowed us to create memory for lifetime!

Puss och kram,
Lucia

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