First Trip to Mainland China–Shanghai November 2013

Last fall, Josh and I both started feeling like we needed to go to China–we felt drawn there. When we first moved to Hong Kong, we weren’t sure if the daughter we would adopt was in HK, China, or elsewhere in Asia. But we started feeling like she is in China. Josh had an opportunity to attend a convention in Shanghai in November, so we jumped on it and took the trip.


It was a fun family adventure. Josh had to work a lot of the time, but the kids and I had fun going out into the city and exploring. We felt very safe there. (We were in contact with a couple from our church whole live in Shanghai–they gave us lots of tips and we met up with them which was great. And other friends who have visited before gave us lots of tips.)

Shanghai was interesting. It’s China’s showcase city, and they try to make it the biggest and best at everything. They want the tallest buildings, ritziest malls, biggest Disneyland castle in the world, fastest magnetic levitation train in the world (we went on it–see picture below), etc. But unfortunately, to achieve this, they force people from the homes that have been in their families for many generations, tear them down, and construct something modern in it’s place. I was surprised by all the fancy, expensive buildings/stores/restaurants etc. Mixed with extreme poverty.



Just like in Hong Kong, there weren’t many kids around. There were some notable differences I noticed between Shanghai and Hong Kong (from my limited experience):

*Hardly any locals speak English in Shanghai. Whereas in Hong Kong (at least in the city), most Chinese people speak at least basic English. All the Chinese I have been learning over the past year was useless, since they speak Mandarin in Shanghai and Cantonese in HK. I really really missed being able to get around a little with Chinese….

*I thought taxi drivers and traffic in HK were bad, but Shanghai was easily 50 times worse (I’m not exaggerating). Red lights are optional in most cases for at least 1 or 2 waiting cars, so crossing the street requires being alert at every moment. And I could not believe some of the stunts our taxi drivers pulled getting us from point A to point B–needless to say, I prayed a lot during our trip and I was glad to make it home to HK safe and sound.

*There are police everywhere in Shanghai! I’ve never experienced anything like it. It seemed like there was a policeman/woman or two or three on every corner….

*There’s a lot more grass and open space in Shanghai. And Shanghai is a lot easier to get around in by foot than the city in Hong Kong. Except for the electric scooters that ride on the sidewalks in Shanghai and almost run you over.

Here’s what you really wanted. The pictures.

Here we are at Nanjing Road, The Bund, and the Oriental Pearl Tower (Magdalena’s middle name is “Pearl”, so we refer to it as the “Magdalena Pearl Tower”).

Yu Garden–our favorite. Lots of rock formations and open space for the kids to run in. The Chinese garden at Huntington Library has a lot of elements in common with this one, but Yu Garden was built in 1559, so it’s the real deal. We spent hours there, and the kids would have been happy to spend hours more. Notice the lady trying to get Magdalena to pose for a photo with her daughter. Lots of Chinese people want their kids to take photos with Magdalena and James, but their kids aren’t usually as interested :).

Rides at the People’s Park. The staff operating the rides weren’t too concerned about safety. On one occasion, they started the ride right after I got in, before I had a chance to put seatbelts on myself and James. One operator smoked a cigarette during the ride, and another one talked on her cell phone. I thought it was funny.

Qibao Water Town. There are several water towns (think Venice, Italy) in the area surrounding Shanghai. This one was built during the Song dynasty, between 960-1126. The trained monkeys were interesting. But a little creepy. “Where’s Waldo” in the second photo?

Other miscellaneous photos.

1-2: A giant plant formation of a snake, since 2013 was the “Year of the Snake”.

3-4: This area was right outside our hotel. A bunch of streets full of pet shops, cricket shops, etc. It was quite filthy, but very interesting.

5-I was surprised to see a billboard for “Catching Fire” right next to the People’s Park–I would think the movie would be banned in China….

6-Another photo op for Magdalena (the Chinese are actually more interested in photographing James, but he will have nothing to do with it).

7-From the looks we got from passers by, apparently kids don’t roll down grassy hills in China very often.

8-A giant flag of China made out of poinsettias.

We also had a taxi drop us by the orphanage (Social Welfare Institute), just to check it out. They wouldn’t let us in, but they were friendly at the security gate and they gave us a DVD about the orphanage to watch….

It was a great trip and we are glad we went. But it was good to get home. Arriving in the airport in HK was so different from the first time we landed there–the first time it felt so foreign and unknown. But this time, it was home sweet home.