Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shanghai, China - Big City Adventures

Shanghai is the largest Chinese city by population and the largest city proper in the world.  Population of Shanghai is over 24 million.  Population of Canada is over 35 million.  Needless to say, traveling to Shanghai on our first international trip was stepping way outside our comfort zone.  (More info on that decision - Why China?) To put it in perspective: I grew up in a small rural Alberta village - population 900.  Joel grew up in a small rural Alberta town - population 2000.  We went to University and met in a city with a population of 800,000 (at the time). Today we live on an island in a small community that is 8km away from the nearest city that has a population of 80,000.

We travel and adventure exactly for that reason.  To step outside our comfort zone.  Our family adventure and travel motto is to challenge ourselves physically, mentally, and push ourselves in a wide range of activities, experiences, and personal accomplishments.  Not gonna lie; I prefer to adventure in the wild than on a crowded busy city street but Shanghai has made me realize that adventure can be had in the biggest cities in the world.

Looking down Nanjing Road, a pedestrian only street, in downtown Shanghai, China

More often than not we are hiking beside giant ancient trees.  Shanghai was no different.  Ok, it was different.  Giant buildings!  The Pudong District of Shanghai used to be mainly farmland and countryside but in 1993 things changed.  Buildings began to sprout up, growing Shanghai into an international centre for economy, finance and trade.  Today, these building are currently or have been the tallest buildings in the world and China.  

Shanghai World Financial Centre

The Shanghai Tower (currently the tallest tower in China), Shanghai World Financial Centre (2008 highest observation deck in the world), Oriental Pearl Tower, and the Jin Mao Tower are stunning man made structures.  Not only was I in complete awe with the sheer size of the buildings towering over me...Ben and Liv were also aware of the grand setting they were standing in.  In fact, it was their enthusiasm that lead us to the observation deck of the World Financial Centre.  No fear of heights with these two travelers.

Pudong is located along the east side of the Huangpu River.  On the west side of the river is the Bund, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai.  From the Bund, the entire Pudong skyline can be seen with the busy river traffic of the Huangpu River in the foreground. This along with walking Nanjing Road, a pedestrian only street full of shopping, was a highlight of our stay in Shanghai.

The famous skyline of Pudong

Given our rural upbringing and where we live now, traveling on public transit is rare.  We spent six days in Shanghai and everyday we traveled on the metro.  The adventure of riding the metro was figuring out what line to take, how many transfers were involved, figuring out the ticket machines in Mandarin, passing through security checks, and physically getting on and off the metro.  Our first time was rough but by the end of our stay in Shanghai, we were metro pros! Reading topographic trail maps is a breeze compared to metro maps.  I loved how quickly Ben and Liv adapted to this type of travel.  They loved the metro and were often leading us through the metro tunnel maze.  

Just another regular commute on Shanghai's Metro.  Spacious.

Our travel was not limited to just the metro.  Shanghai has some pretty crazy high speed railways.  We rode a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing.  Aprox. 1300 km in about 5 hours traveling between 250-300km/hr. Fast, yes.  But even faster was the Shanghai Maglev Train.  This train connects the Pudong International Airport with the metro line.  It takes 8 minutes to travel 30km.  Maximum speed of the Maglev train is 430km/hr.  Now that is fast!

The Shanghai Maglev Train, one of the fastest high speed rail in the world.

Shanghai was were we began and ended our trip to China.  We used our time here to adjust to the culture shock, recover from jet lag, and experience what a foreign big city has to offer.  Rarely do we spend time in big cities so we took this opportunity to explore the Shanghai Museum of ancient Chinese Art, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, and the Shanghai Zoo.  These were big hits with Ben and Liv.  Joel and I were very aware of how important it is to include things that interest the kids in our travel.  We have an understanding in our family; we support each other in all we do.  That means doing things for others and in turn, others will do things for you.  The zoo was not something Joel and I wanted to see but it meant the world to Ben and Liv.  

Exploring Shanghai was very different to the back country exploring we, as a family, are accustomed to.  That was precisely what we were looking for.  Travel is about exploring a different world, learning about different customs, cultures and stepping away from regular life and into a life of dream and wonder.  I will always have a desire to travel and make memories all over the world with my family, big cities included.  Thank you, Shanghai.  Thank you, China.

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