There’s something wonderful about setting out for a day in the city without having a concrete plan or a final destination in mind.
Last semester, I traveled outside of Shanghai a lot during the weekends, taking advantage of not having class on Fridays. On our weekend trips, our days were usually scheduled down to the minute to make the most of our time, allowing us to see a lot in a short amount of time. Although I always came home exhausted and ready to take it easy during the week, I loved being able to accomplish so much during one weekend trip and always felt that I had seen enough of the city or town to check it off my list!
On the other hand, because we traveled so frequently outside of Shanghai, whenever we stayed in Shanghai for the weekend I usually took that time to rest and catch up on homework and sleep and wasn’t exploring the area around me as much as I could’ve. After living in Shanghai for an entire semester, I still hadn’t seen a lot of what Shanghai has to offer.
This summer, since we intern Monday-Thursday, have class Thursday night and Friday evening, traveling outside of Shanghai is much more limited given our other commitments. Although the kids on my program who arrived in June are focused on exploring the surrounding areas outside of Shanghai, I’ve taken our shortened summer weekends as a blessing and a sign that I should stay in Shanghai to discover the immense amount of opportunities I have at the tips of my fingers and really get to know Shanghai’s ins and outs before heading back to the States in August.
Over the course of my time here, I’ve been compiling a list of shops, restaurants, and museums that I’ve been wanting to visit in Shanghai and have been adding to this list based on recommendations from others and articles that I’ve come across on my various social media newsfeeds. I was ready to start crossing places off my list!
As I embarked on my adventures in Shanghai, instead of feeling like I had to go to every single exhibit, restaurant, or store on my list, I wanted to tackle my explorations this summer with a different approach. One of my suitemates and I decided to pick one place to start our day and then see where the rest of the day led us with no exact plans in mind. We just wanted to explore Shanghai, the areas around the attractions we chose for the day, and let the wind blow us in whatever direction it wanted.
This past Saturday, we found ourselves wandering around People’s Park and stumbled upon the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum. I had never been inside before, but I had heard good things so we decided to check it out. The building consisted of five different floors. The second floor had historic photographs of Shanghai prior to China’s opening up and economic boom. The third floor consisted of a small-scale version of Shanghai and we were able to see all the different buildings in the entire city and understand just how enormous Shanghai really is. And the fourth floor took you into the future to understand the trajectory of Shanghai in the coming years, adorned with neon lights, models of the high-speed trains, and more. This was such an unexpected surprise, especially for someone who isn’t the biggest fan of traditional stuffy art history museums (like me!). After exploring the Urban Planning Museum, my idea of museums was completely changed and after seeing the model of Shanghai, I was determined to continue exploring around this massive city!
On Sunday, I was ready for another adventure! We hopped on the metro and prepared for a one-hour metro ride to Yuzmuseum. Yuzmuseum is famous for an exhibit called the Rain Room. The Rain Room, sounds just like its name. It’s constantly raining from the ceiling as if you were walking outside into a torrential rainstorm. However, the ground is lined with pressure-sensitive tiles so when someone walks out into the room, the tiles sense your body weight and the rain from above stops raining, but just in the location you’re standing, so you never get wet! It was a simple exhibit, but very entertaining. We had a blast testing the pressure-sensitive tiles and seeing how quickly it would sense our motion and register our weight, turning off the water. The rest of the museum had other neat features and mini exhibits, such as a temporary spray paint wall with “spray paint canisters” of light, a retrospective exhibition of the King of Comedy, Charlie Chaplin, and more!
After spending ample time exploring the museum, we headed back out into the humidity and found ourselves right on the water in the West Bund area. We walked along the water’s edge, watching joggers, roller-skaters, and bikers pass by us. We had completely lost track of time until we realized the sun was about to set and came across a skate park adjacent to the boardwalk. We sat down on a ledge to watch the skaters practice their tricks as we simultaneously watched the sunset. I hadn’t seen the sun set in a while because it’s been raining almost every day, so it was a beautiful break from the smog and clouds. As the sun went down, we realized we were still an hour away from our apartment. After a wonderful day of exploration, we mounted bike-sharing bikes and found our way home amongst evening traffic.
Last weekend was a different way of exploring than I had experienced last semester, but was equally as exciting and rewarding at the end of the day. It was amazing to see a few new neighborhoods hidden within Shanghai’s city borders and I can’t wait to see where next weekend takes us and what adventures we find ourselves experiencing!