Photo Diary: 48 Hours in Shanghai, China

We arranged our flight to Japan so that we'd be able to spend 48 hours exploring Shanghai, China. Our flight was inevitably going to have a layover in China, so I intentionally booked the flights with the longest layover on the way to and from Japan. Rather than sitting in an airport for six hours with nothing to do, I thought it made sense to give ourselves enough time to leave the airport and check out the. city. 

Japan left me so enamored, I haven't put any time into sharing photos and thoughts on our experience in China. It was an experience that is important to reflect on though, as it's one that definitely challenged me mentally and a bit emotionally—it was the kind of experience that will force me to grow in ways.

It's easy to sit down and write about beautiful places and all of the postcard-like photos and experiences, but I think it's important to share the struggles of traveling, too—the less glamorous side of it all. I don't ever want to come off as offensive or disrespectful of a place or a culture, but I do want to remain candid and honest when I share my experiences. Nowadays, we all say how everyone tries to present the picture-perfect life on social media, so I want to also talk about the not-so-perfect stuff.

Shanghai was rough for me. I'm sure a fair amount of it was culture shock on my end, but some things were hard to adjust to. Two children squat down and peed on my sandals in a high-traffic pedestrian area. We were ungraciously kicked out of four separate taxis, each time being shooed out with a hand gesture like a grandma trying to be rid of a stray cat. Restrooms were filthier than any I've ever seen; it was hard to find one that had toilet paper and wasn't covered in urine.

People on the streets were constantly clearing their throats and spitting in all directions, with no concern if you're in the line of fire. While they're at it, many will launch a snot-rocket out as well. I was grabbed by the arm, pushed, shoved and physically moved by strangers constantly. Of the 21 countries I've now been to, this is the one where I felt the most unwelcome.

That said, it was still an experience I'm grateful for. I enter every new place with the most open mind; I really do my best to be a sponge everywhere I go, ready to absorb anything and everything I encounter. I want to learn, be exposed to new things, people, languages, food and religion. I love asking questions, and the feeling of being somewhere so foreign and new that my questions and curiosities are endless. 

I'm not going to lie and say I loved Shanghai, because I didn't. But I do stand by the belief that we grow in the best ways when we are put in uncomfortable situations. And boy was I uncomfortable. But in the end, I've learned a little more about a culture and people on the opposite side of the world, so that's a win and the root of why I'm so passionate about traveling. 

On a positive note, I'm happy to report that Shangai's food game is straight fire. We ate some of the best xiao long bao (steamed soup dumplings) ever! Also a roasted duck filled with rice (see photos below) that was incredible. And late at night, once most restaurants and shops have shut down, the street food carts roll out in full force. We ate a giant, delicious pile of stir-fried noodles for $1.10. Yes, please!

Sorry if I'm being hard on your, Shanghai. I sometimes wonder if I could have a better experience if I went back again for round two. Until that day (maybe) comes, I will hold on tightly to the happy memories of tasty dumplings and—more dumplings. 

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