Shanghai in 72 hours

The city of Shanghai, China moves so fast that it seems to barely be able to keep up with itself. And fast you will move the moment you step off the airplane at PuDong Airport – a train which boasts a max speed of 431KM/H rockets you to the subway line covering 50 kilometres in a mere eight minutes. Necessary? Probably not. A fun ride? You know it. This is just the start of all the intriguing pieces to Shanghai’s perpetual puzzle.

Speaking of, the city itself literally never ends. Pockets of buildings sprawl as far as the eye can see, featuring Victorian, Chinese, modern, post-modern, and post-post-modern architectural designs. And everywhere you look there are people, and people, and even more people. However, it is not just a Chinese population; Shanghai truly shares an international culture, as you are able to hear many European languages throughout any number of side-street cafes and bars. Surprisingly (or not), there are not too many Western accents filling the air. Blame the media, or the travel agents. But just know, this city is completely safe and Western-approved.

I had the pleasure of visiting this up-to-the-minute city and was granted a local-eyes’ view thanks to my good friend Ji and his university buddy Harry, who both call this mega-o-polis home. We had roughly 72 hours (give or take a time-zone or two) to cover all the bases of the sprawl, and thanks to their excellently crafted travel plan, we knocked it out of the park.

Now, to risk sounding any more like a featurette for some Travel Magazine you half-mindedly flip through while you wait for your next cavity filling, I will spare you the rundown of events. Highlights, though, are listed below. And photos can be viewed here.

In no particular order:

– Seeing two Starbucks without having to turn my head.
– Rush hour subway ride (Harry could not get off the train at the stop we agreed to meet because it was packed tighter than a can of unused aerosol).
– Climbing 100 stories in less than two minutes (elevator!)
– Harbor view A: European
– Harbor view B: Modern
– Meeting up with Justin on night two, sharing a brew from Thailand.
– Being badgered by countless street vendors and “Rolex” salesman.
– Ji’s parents apartment filled with delicous Shanghainese foods.
– Pay toilets.
– Electric scooters, no helmets, piggy-backing a-okay.
– Kanji recognition.
– Friends in new places sharing old stories.

Thanks to Ji, Justin, and Harry for an absolutely amazing experience in Shen-City. The City of Hu truly is uniquely visitable.

Dear Yakushima, I am in Love

A four-hour ferry ride from the southern-most coast of Japan’s Kyushu Island lies a shamanistic little rock known as Yakushima. People from all over God’s creation come here to revel in all the natural wonderment the circular island has to offer. From the rock-happy beaches to the crystal-clear sea, to the fairytale forests to the magnetic mountains, to the outdoor onsen to the eight-person cafes, this chunk of land is truly an anomaly, and in the best sense of the term.

The rain falls in droves on Yakushima, but rather than a nuisance, it is part of the island’s allure, bringing together that sixth sense of nature. The rainfall is as vital to the persona of Yakushima as the moss-filled forests, or the packs of Yaku-monkeys that stare back at you with a common interest as you careen the sharp mountain roads.

It is rare a place can have so many facets working together to create an environment so exclusive and spectral, yet at the same time, so familiar and receptive. One trip around the island’s modest circumference and you will be intrigued. One peek at these photos, and you just might visit sooner than you think.