Weekend in Shanghai: trains, dumplings & more

Number of Chinese cities visited: 2

Number of people who have mistaken me for Chinese: 11 and counting 

Ticket to Shanghai

After a night of drinking and wandering the Beijing nightlife with a friend from middle school, I woke up abruptly on Friday morning, checking the clock to make sure my dad and I hadn't missed our train to Shanghai. Thankfully, traffic wasn't too horrendous and we arrived at the station with an hour to spare, just enough time for a quick espresso. For the next six hours, we sat in first class on a high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, flying past smoggy village, factories and farms at an impressive 304 km/hr. 

We arrived in Shanghai feeling hungry, exhausted and sore from the long journey. The second we stepped off the train, I was awestruck by the insane volume of people pouring through the station from every direction. I was drifting amidst a sea of Chinese families, businessmen, school groups, friend groups and every other kind of group you can imagine. So. Many. People. 

One thing we learned on day one in China: there is no concept of "personal space." Everyone shoves, pushes and cuts in front of everyone else without a moment's hesitation. This fact was even more painfully obvious in the overcrowded train station. We eventually managed to figure out where our hotel was and fought our way through the thick swarms of people to the subway. Once we arrived at our beautiful Marriott hotel, we got situated, and immediately set out on a quest to find some dinner. 

The great dumpling quest

When I first realized I was actually going to China for vacation, images of soup dumplings immediately popped into my head. So, on our first night in Shanghai I knew I wanted one thing for dinner, xiao long bao. We did a quick Yahoo! search (Google is blocked in China) and found that a nearby restaurant called Nanxiang Man Tou was famous for its juicy dumplings. Getting our hands on these little xiao long bao couldn't be too difficult, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. 

We followed instructions from our phones and took the subway to the restaurant. When we arrived at our destination, we looked around in confusion--the restaurant was nowhere to be seen. We looked up the address again and realized we somehow had it wrong and the restaurant was actually a 10 min walk away. So, my dad and I trekked along in the rain to our renewed destination. Upon our arrival, the restaurant is again nowhere in sight. Starving and incredibly frustrated, we looked up the address one more time and realized that Nanxiang Man Tou was located in an entirely different part of town. Who knew that dinner plans in Shanghai could go so horribly wrong? 

Flash forward to a taxi ride later and we finally found the famed xiao long bao. We ordered as many dumplings as our hands could carry and sat under an overhang, watching the rain fall as we slurped the juicy dumpling insides with straws. Were they filled with pork? Seafood? Who knows... All I know is that this was not a bad first night in this beautiful city.