Shanghai and Japan: Day 1
Hello again. It’s been a while since I posted a trip on here and this one is special. My mom, Joy, and I are visiting Drew, my brother, at the end of his studies in Shanghai, China where he has been “mastering” his skills in Mandarin. He’s actually really good! We are spending about 4 nights in Shanghai, then about 7 days into Japan split between Kyoto and Tokyo.
Drew studies at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics – which is right around where we will be staying at a Crowne Royal Hotel. Unfortunately, Google – Facebook – Snapchat – Instagram and more are all blocked by the Chinese government. Posting and reaching out to people back in the States is a challenge, so a lot of this publishing may wait until we are in Japan.
We arrived at the airport in Shanghai on May 8th – and guess what – WE HAD NO VISAS. After some preliminary research, we learned that Shanghai has a 144 hour ‘special visa’ which you can get at the port of arrival as long as you have a ticket leaving to another country within 144 hours. Unfortunately, very few of the airline personnel actually know about this, so we had a lot of pushback at the gate in Newark to just get on our flight. However once in Shanghai, there was a clear special line labeled ‘144 hour visa’ at customs that was easy to go through. Saved us a couple hundred dollars which will be invested in Pokemon paraphernalia in Japan.
Drew picked us up at the airport. It was immediately obvious my mom and I would have been screwed without him. He spoke to the taxi driver and quickly got us on our way. The first cool Chinese thing to notice is the use of QR codes to pay for things. Everyone uses QR codes, from cabs to street vendors. Once you buy something, you open up your app, scan their code, plug in the price and they get a notification saying you paid.
Being with Joy, this was a bit more of a luxurious stay than what I am used to in Asia. I’m looking at you Hai. Our hotel was between Fudan University and SUFE – the BC and BU of Shanghai.
The first day we walked through Drew’s university and on a large beautiful street resembling Newbury in Boston. A couple of things stand out in Asia – for example, the prevalence of mopeds & bikes.
The “Hubway” here is called Ofo – probably spelling that wrong. It is pretty funny actually, where Hubway has bike stalls, Ofo has literally thousands of bikes just sitting around the city. You grab one, unlock it with your phone for half a Yuan, go to your destination, then just kind of put it down anywhere for someone else to take. Walking through the streets we saw Ofos in all kinds of weird places, Drew even said some people will put them up in trees so they have it for later. This also led to a giant bike graveyard of broken bikes, which looked like a cool post apocalyptic scene.
The university itself was very pretty and easy to walk through/navigate. Some things to note, I did see a handful of foreign students like Drew (they stick out like sore thumbs) and a lot of cats.
The inside of Drew’s dorm was… bare. Still better than Allston. Other fun fact, this semester abroad program actually cost $12,000 less than an average semester in Boston. The program is run by Butler.
Fun fact, the students at SUFE have to rack up a certain amount of physical activity per semester. Drew said it was about 40 miles around the track, which averages to around half a mile a day. However, a lot of these students leave it until the last few weeks… leaving large groups of students doing last minute night shifts on the track as seen above. Lol.
The rest of the night we spent hanging out at a coffee shop and grabbing some neat foods. Unfortunately, I was too delirious from being awake 17+ hours straight, so I failed at taking decent pics. Will try better tomorrow.