Little Group, Big City: Weekend Excursion to Shanghai (上海)

Authored by:
Jennifer Rives

Jennifer Rives

Last week on the Nanjing Chinese Language & Culture program, we took students on a weekend trip to the gorgeous city of Shanghai! Shanghai is only an hour and forty minutes away from Nanjing by bullet train (高铁). After Chinese class on Friday morning, all of us made our way to the Nanjing Railway Station to catch our 2:00 PM bullet train to Shanghai. 

Entering the Nanjing Railway Station, by Ruthie Stein

After a comfy ride on the bullet train, we arrived in Shanghai around 4:30 PM. We then made our way to the Jin Jiang Hotel in downtown Shanghai, where we stayed for the weekend.

Bullet train ride to Shanghai, by Sheng laoshi

After everyone dropped off their bags and rested for a while, we had our group dinner at a restaurant specializing in food from the Dongbei (东北) region of China. The students loved the food and its unique flavors.

Group dinner at the Dongbei restaurant, by Sheng laoshi
Group dinner at the Dongbei restaurant, by Sheng laoshi

After everyone was full, we headed over to our first famous spot on the trip: Nanjing pedestrian street (南京路步行街). There, students got to walk around, take in the sight of the tall buildings lit up at night, and explore all of the high-end shopping and fashion that Shanghai is known for. 

Shopping at Nanjing pedestrian street, by Arianna Almaguer
Emily as a mannequin at Nanjing pedestrian street, by Arianna Almaguer

After everyone finished shopping, we went back to the hotel to get some rest for our super busy day ahead. The next morning, after a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel, we all walked to our first stop of the day: the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center (上海城市规划展示馆).

Inside the Shanghai Urban Planning Center, by Ruthie Stein

When we got there, we met up with Sam, our tour guide for the morning. At the exhibition center, he gave us a detailed account of the history of the city of Shanghai. While learning about Shanghai's fairly modern history from Sam, students got to walk around the center to see exhibits and pictures from Shanghai's early days. Students enjoyed seeing the contrast between what Shanghai once was (an area of swampland that no one thought could be worth anything or developed upon) to what it is now (an urban metropolis and the largest city in all of China).  

Learning about the layout of Shanghai, by Ruthie Stein
Discussing images of Shanghai's early days, by Ruthie Stein
Seeing the model of the entire city of Shanghai, by Ruthie Stein
The model up close, by Ruthie Stein
Seeing the city on a 360-degree screen, by Jennifer Rives

After exploring the exhibition center, we went to The People's Park (人民公园), where there was a weekend umbrella market. Umbrella markets are a way for parents to find their children a spouse by writing information about their children on top of umbrellas. The students compared this way of finding dates to the ways in which Americans find dates. It sparked a lot of interest and conversation among students. 

At the entrance of The People's Park, by Ruthie Stein
Walking through the umbrella market, by Ruthie Stein

On the next part of our tour, we walked through the old residential alleyways of Shanghai. These alleyways are called longtang (弄堂) in Chinese. They have been around since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Chinese families still live in them today.

Walking through a longtang, by Sheng laoshi
Walking through a longtang, by Sheng laoshi

Walking through different alleyways, students got to see an authentic Chinese style of living that dates back many years. The old alleyways stood out in contrast against the tall, high-tech skyscrapers of modern Shanghai in the distance.

A glimpse of modern Shanghai from the longtang, by Xavier Zurita

After walking all around the surrounding longtang, we finally arrived at Shanghai's most well-known landmark: The Bund (外滩)! Students were so excited to see the iconic cityscape along the Huangpu River. They took lots of pictures in front of the famous backdrop of the city of Shanghai. 

Group picture in front of the Bund, by Ruthie Stein
Khalil, Reid, Emily, and Calypso at the Bund, by Emily Best
All the famous buildings on the Bund, by Hailey Fagiano 

After admiring the beauty of the Bund, we all went for group lunch on the top floor of a nice nearby shopping mall. This time, the food had a bit of a spicy kick to it. At CIEE, we always try out best to introduce students to all the different types of flavors that Chinese food has to offer. 

Wrapped lettuce with sesame sauce at group lunch, by Hailey Fagiano

When everyone had eaten their fill, we went to the place that students had been waiting for most: a famous fake goods market in Shanghai! The market is located inside the Lu Jia Zui subway station. We gave students 2 hours of time to go shopping and, most importantly, practice their bargaining skills in Chinese. Students came out with some great purchases at great prices that they successfully bargained for! 

Walking into the fake goods market, by Jennifer Rives

With our shopping bags in hand, we took the subway to the last stop of the day: the Shanghai financial district located inside the Bund. Here, students were surrounded by some of Shanghai's most famous buildings, including the Shanghai Tower and, of course, the glittery, pink Pearl Tower.

Some of Shanghai's most famous skyscrapers, by Xavier Zurita
Some of Shanghai's most famous skyscrapers, by Xavier Zurita
The Pearl Tower at sunset, by Xavier Zurita

We gave students 2 hours of free time to explore and have dinner at some of the amazing restaurants in the area. Some students ate Cantonese food inside of a big, glamorous shopping mall, while others ate at the flagship Taco Bell right next to the Pearl Tower. 

Group picture with the Pearl Tower before exploring, by Ruthie Stein
Students in front of the Pearl Tower, by Arianna Almaguer
Tori and the Pearl Tower, by Ruthie Stein

After a full day of exploring some of Shanghai's most exciting places, we all went back to the hotel happy and ready for some rest. The next day, after eating another round of buffet breakfast, we hopped on the subway again to head to Tian Zi Fang (田子坊). Tian Zi Fang was once a residential area in Shanghai. Now, it is a popular tourist destination and a great place to buy souvenirs.

Reid walking through Tian Zi Fang, by Khalil Edwards
Shops at Tian Zi Fang, by Xavier Zurita

We gave students 2 and a half hours to explore the area and do even more shopping! Some students came back with bags full of gifts, while others decided to focus more on the experiences that Tianzi Fang had to offer. One of these experiences was drinking tea and petting cats at a cat cafe, which everyone who went raved about!

Jenna and Maribel petting a cat at the cat cafe, by Melody Dao
Emily holding a cat at the cat cafe, by Melody Dao
Katy and the funny wallet that she bought at Tian Zi Fang, by Ruthie Stein
Tori eating tasty ice cream balls, by Sheng laoshi

Once the group got back together, we took our final group picture of the trip. Then, we made our way to the Shanghai Railway Station to catch our 2:00 PM bullet train back to Nanjing.

Group picture at Tian Zi Fang, by Ruthie Stein
Waiting to get on the train back to Nanjing, by Ruthie Stein

When we finally got back to Nanjing, everyone felt like they had had an incredibly eventful weekend. They all said that they loved Shanghai and would like to go back in the future. Even after all the shopping that they did, the most priceless thing that they got out of their trip to Shanghai was the wonderful memories that they made with each other! 

Hand in hand on the way to the Bund, by Ruthie Stein

 

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