Camping on the Great Wall

If you liked my last blog post about our Silk Road trip to the deserts of Gansu province, then you’re in luck – I have another epic China travel experience to share!

Doesn’t it feel great when you’ve been sitting on a travel dream for years, and then you finally take action and make it happen?

Camping on the Great Wall of China was one of those things for me. I’ve been thinking about it since first setting foot on the Wall in 2008, but never managed to make it a priority. Until now.

A few weeks ago, six girlfriends and I flew up to Beijing to embark on our Great Wall Adventure. We booked a private tour with China Hiking for a 2 day, 1 night 16 km hike from the unrestored Gubeikou section of the Wall to Jinshanling.

Sorry if I sound like a broken record after just having raved about my Silk Road tour, but camping on the Wall was INCREDIBLE! Definitely a top 3 China trip for me.

Just being on the Wall is obviously a cool experience, but it’s completely different when you’re the only one there. For almost two days.

The scenery is amazing, and the unrestored ruins are far more interesting than many of the more accessible, restored sections.

This adventure wouldn’t have been the same without this 👇 group of girls. Not only did we have a great vibe traveling and trekking together, but I feel like we conquered so much. We pulled through the demanding hike, survived a thunder storm and pouring rain during the night (including water pouring into the tents), we were scared of strange noises coming from the pitch-black night, and we dealt with being super gross and dirty like champs.

Despite being completely wiped out after the two days, I was left with more energy than I’ve had in a long time.

If you’re looking for a unique experience where you can combine nature, being active and bonding with friends and family, all while hanging out at one of the 7 wonders of the world, then camping on the Wall is for you.

A few thoughts…

  • The whole team at China Hiking was fantastic to work with. They were so positive, flexible and professional from start to finish. They listened to our expectations and wishes, and recommended a hiking route to match. They helped patiently with planning and answering our questions. And our guides for the hike, John and Dan, looked after our safety while taking endless photos and Boomerangs.
  • The Gubeikou-Jinshanling hike is stunning, but I would have preferred to skip the last 1-2 hours of the second day when entering the restored, more popular section of the Wall in Jinshanling. It’s more crowded and just doesn’t compare to walking on the more secluded parts. Besides that, I loved every second of the hike.
  • China Hiking provided all the camping gear (tents, clean sleeping bags, headlamps etc). During the trip, we stopped at two different farm houses for meals, freshening up and charging phones and camera batteries. The camping gear was conveniently dropped off and picked up at the farmhouse, so that we didn’t have to carry everything all the way.

This is a trip I’ll never forget.

Find many more pictures and videos from this awesome hike in my Instagram Stories Highlights under Great Wall.

Best of 2018 – Part 2

Best Thing I Did for Myself

After being inconsistent with working out for a LONG time, I finally decided things had to change and joined Pure Yoga & Fitness in the end of last summer. I hesitated for a while because of the 1-year commitment and fairly high membership price (plus the place feels a bit snobby at first), but joining has been one of the best decisions I made last year. Now I do yoga almost daily, switching it up with other classes at the Fitness side every now and then. Pure has actually managed to do something I thought was near impossible in my case, which is make exercise a daily event that I genuinely look forward to (ok, not EVERY day, but most days). Even though I’ve always liked working out, scheduling in a session and actually getting there has always felt like a pain in the butt. I’m not sure if it’s the yoga itself, the convenience of the gorgeous studio being so close to my house, the push from the monthly price tag, or all of the above, but I’ve finally managed to happily make exercize a part of my daily routine. Yeah! 💪

Best Photo

I’ve realized that I love taking photos of people the most, especially in natural light and in a natural setting. In 2019 I want to experiment much more with light and become a kickass portrait photographer. In need of a portrait? Get in touch and let’s schedule a shoot!

Shanghai portrait photography

Despite my love for capturing real moments of people, my favorite shot of the year is probably this one starring the Oriental Pearl Tower. The location is on Beijing East Road right in front of the Peninsula Hotel. I love the architecture of the buildings alongside of the road leading up to The Bund and eventually the Pearl Tower on the other side of the Huangpu river. On a clear day this also makes for an amazing backdrop for portraits, especially late in the afternoon with the softer light coming in from the west.

Shanghai photographer

This picture was shot with my Canon EOS 6D camera and 35mm lens, ISO 100, f/8, 6.0s.

Best Moment

The most memorable moment of the year lasted for about one week. The Golden Week. Robert and I decided to spend the October holiday in Shanghai for the first time, and despite it being incredibly painful to see friends’ Instagram posts from dreamy beaches all over Southeast Asia, it turned out to be a super nice week in China. The weather was gorgeous, so we spent every day outside either eating brunch, biking around, sunning on the roof or checking out new places and neighborhoods. We finally also had the time to visit some Shanghai sights that had been on our list for the longest time, like Zhujiajiao watertown and Longhua Temple, both beautiful historic places and well worth visiting.

Zhujiajiao watertown shanghai

Zhujiajiao is one of Shanghai’s famous watertowns, and actually the first one I’ve visitied. As one would expect on a public holiday in China, it was packed, but we arrived early in the morning and got about an hour of quiet-ish time before the serious masses rolled in. I’m not a huge fan of the crowds and stinky tofu stalls in every corner, but I did love the quieter alleys with charming cafés and restaurants out by the water, away from the main walking path going through Zhujiajiao. I’d definitely go again, but next time will be even earlier in the morning and preferably not during a major Chinese public holiday. I can imagine Zhujiajiao being the perfect place to find a cute little café right by the water, read a book or get some work done, and, for a moment, forget that we live in a city of 24 million people.

Zhujiajiao Watertown Shanghai

Longhua Temple was another pleasant Golden Week surprise. I didn’t even know about this place, Robert had just passed it on the way to a meeting and decided we should check it out. So we biked down 30 minutes from the French Concession and found the peaceful, thousand year old Buddhist temple with tons of cute kittens running around the grounds. I mean, anywhere with kittens gets two thumbs up from me, but the temple and grounds were definitely worth seeing, too. Somehow the place was almost empty despite it being the middle of Golden Week, which of course made it much more enjoyable. The area is pretty small, so about an hour on the temple grounds is enough. If you haven’t been yet, make sure to go. It’s perfect to combine with a walk or bike ride on the West Bund, which is one of my favorite outdoor areas in Shanghai.

Longhua Temple Shanghai

Best Book

I’ve had a very slow book year and only managed to get through 5 or 6 books in total (half of which I read on the beach in Vietnam during Chinese New Year). Nevertheless, my favorite was definitely “Leftover in China – The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower” by brilliant Roseann Lake. It discusses China’s women – single women in particular – and their massive role in the country’s economic future. Truly a great read: funny, entertaining and very informative, allowing the reader to get an understanding of the complex values and traditions of Chinese culture, which have been further complicated by the colossal generational difference between old and new China.

The book is filled with anecdotes of people that Lake has met during her time in China working as The Economist’s China correspondent. I was fascinated to read about how learning the art of sajiao (撒娇) – a type of temper tantrum put on by a woman that allows a man to feel needed and manly – can be a crucial success factor for a Chinese woman in finding a partner; how parents create online dating profiles to their children or try to find partners for them at actual marriage markets (like at the one in Shanghai’s People’s Square every weekend); how silk reelers of the late 1800s preferred to stay unmarried in order to keep their job and relatively high income, and found ways to legally marry dead single men, to the point that women started complaining about the limited number of eligible dead men to marry. So interesting. So worth reading.

Thank you 2018!

Best of 2018 – Part 1

Wow, 2018 just flew by, didn’t it? (And so did half of January…) Many say it’s been a bit of a strange, quick year, and I couldn’t agree more. I wrote exactly 4 blog posts, which means there’s definitely room for improvement in 2019, but also that I didn’t share much of what I’ve been up to. So here comes the first part of a few random bests of my 2018!

Best trip

I’ve been traveling a bit less compared to the past couple of years, but still managed to get in a few good trips every 1-2 months. In March, Robert and I went to Kaohsiung, Taiwan for our friends’ awesome Polish-American-Taiwanese wedding, and had life-changing beef noodles in this simple little restaurant. In June, I spent a beautiful summer week in New York visiting my parents and some dear friends.

The best trip of the year, however, was to Osaka in December. It was my first time visiting Japan, and I LOVED it. It was a very short 2-day visit, so I didn’t really have time to do anything besides check out some must-see and must-eat places, but I stayed long enough to get a sense of the overall atmosphere. Paired with Japanese food and their wonderful service culture and hospitality, Osaka turned out to be one of the nicest places I’ve been to in a while. Can’t wait to go back to Japan.

Best professional moment

It’s been a very interesting year professionally. I’m still on the board and managing marketing for IPWS, and we’ve had a fab anniversary year celebrating 25 years of connecting professional women since the organization was first founded in 1993. If you’re in Shanghai and looking to expand your professional network while gaining valuable insight through quality content events, make sure to check us out.

I was also invited to join the board of Explore China, an organization that helps the Nordic region remain competitive in the global market by exposing top talent to the innovation, scale and speed of today’s China. Through Explore China, a batch of university students are invited to China for a 2-week inspirational programme to visit and meet with world-leading companies, entrepreneurs and experts. Last year’s pilot programme was a huge success with visits to companies like Alibaba, Baidu, Didi Chuxing and Mobike. Application for Explore China 2019 is currently open to all Swedish university students – go go go!

Aside from the day-to-day, two things in particular stood out in my professional year 2018. The first is that my passion and love for photography turned into a profession. How cool is that! I do more and more photography projects, mostly shooting portraits, Shanghai-cityscapes and events. I still have incredibly much to learn and tons of lenses to buy, but it’s pretty cool to be able to work with something that genuinely brings me so much joy and happiness. The second big highlight of the year was when, out of the blue, Nat Geo Travel reached out and wanted to work with me. I mean, again, how cool is that!

Best purchase

Without a doubt, my S’well water bottle. Who knew a water bottle could bring me so much joy, haha. That little thing is the best, it keeps water cold for 24 hours in the +40 Celsius summer heat, and vice versa in the winter. (Yes, I now drink hot water like a Chinese person.) Plus it’s environmentally friendly with gorgeous design. Ah and I’m so happy, I just got a second bottle from Robert for Christmas! Both are purchased through Baopals on Tmall from this seller.

Best dress

Every year in December, the Finnish-Chinese community in Shanghai throws a big black-tie party at the Fairmont Peace Hotel to celebrate Finland’s independence day. This year was no exception, and I was so happy with my outfit for the night. For the second year in a row, I had my dress made at Angela’s, a small tailor boutique specializing in evening gowns. I can warmly recommend Angela, she’s very professional and friendly, and speaks perfect English. Her prices are a bit higher than tailoring at the South Bund Fabric Market, but quality and results have also been significantly better, at least in my experience. Her location is also much more convenient with a shop in central Jing’an. Find Angela’s on 141 Maoming North Road, or feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to connect you on WeChat.

More 2018 bests coming soon!

5 Reasons Why I Love Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline Shanghaista Blog

It’s probably obvious that I’m very fond of Shanghai, but it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. When I first visited in 2010, I pretty much went by the tourist guidebooks and saw what visitors were recommended to see. Sure, the Bund was pretty, East Nanjing was crowded, and it was fun riding up to the observation deck at the World Financial Center. But to be honest, nothing really stood out, and Shanghai didn’t seem that special. But man, was I wrong.

Over the years, I somehow became more and more fascinated by Shanghai, especially after talking to people living here and just loving it. It became my “if I could live anywhere in the world”-city, and bam, in 2016 Robert and I suddenly got an opportunity to make it our new home. And that’s what it really feels like now, home.

Here are five reasons why I absolutely LOVE this city:

1. The People

Shanghai has an amazing mix of people from all corners of the world and all walks of life, all contributing to an amazing and exciting vibe in this crazy city. Since arriving here two-plus years ago, it’s been surprisingly easy to meet likeminded people, build a network, and find friends who will be a part of my extended family for life. I’m sure any place with good people easily becomes the best place in the world, but what I haven’t seen elsewhere is the amount of interesting and inclusive communities providing extremely valuable platforms for connecting, learning or just doing stuff together. Here’s a link  to China Classifieds’ WeChat post about a few big Tech and Business Communities in town, and for fitness people, don’t miss joining the free workouts with very popular fitness community, FitFam Shanghai.

Personally, I found my tribe with IPWS. IPWS provides a platform for international professional women to connect and develop, mainly through monthly content and networking events, panel discussions and mentoring opportunities. And once a year, IPWS organizes the best leadership conference in town, the IPWS Leadership Summit. I eventually became a Board Member and the Marketing and Communications Executive for IPWS, and it’s been such an amazing journey growing our 8000+ community of absolutely incredible women. If you’re a professional woman living in or visiting Shanghai, make sure to join! We’re on a summer break right now, but will be back in September with new events.


2. The Food

Ahh the food. So many amazing places, so many delicious choices. A few of my current favorites are:

  • For brunch, my long-time fave is Liquid Laundry (their smoked salmon potato rosti in the picture below), but I highly recommend Pelikan and Highline as well.
  • For lunch, Egg is consistently fantastic, and so is Boom Boom Bagel and Little Catch.
  • For dinner, I love The Commune Social, Hatsune (a big favorite since my Beijing days), Gemma and Pelikan.
  • For Chinese food, I like the popular “foreigner-friendly” Chinese places Sichuan Citizen and Di Shui Dong. Shameful, I know (many in the expat community are judging me right now, haha), but what can you do, I still think the food is delicious! Din Tai Fung also never disappoints.
  • For home delivery on Eleme or Sherpa’s, my go-to’s are Nepali Kitchen, Saigon Mama, Mostexpress and Holyhigh.
  • Places that I can’t wait to try soon are Mercato, Taian Table and the brunch at the W Hotel.

By the way, a wonderful thing about Shanghai’s food scene is that many of these incredible places are very affordable. You don’t have to break the bank to have spectacular dining experiences (although you can easily do that, too!).


3. The Energy

One of the most addictive things about Shanghai is its stimulating energy. It’s probably similar to what New York was back in the day – development is super fast and you never know what the day will bring. Things are happening. Anything is possible. But somehow in the middle of all the fast-paced craziness, the city also feels warm and cozy. Shanghai is one of the world’s largest cities with over 24 million people, but it still manages to give me a wonderfully homey vibe, especially in my neighborhood, the Former French Concession (which is right smack in the middle of the city). The contrasts of old and new, east and west, rich and poor, all contribute to a pretty fascinating atmosphere.


4. The Opportunities

With all this amazing energy, massive development and awesome people, Shanghai of course offers unique opportunities to professionals. You truly never know who you’ll meet and what projects you could be involved in tomorrow. It’s a very exciting place to be in, and once you get a taste of it, it’s hard to let go. Every week there are interesting events and activities going on, offering great opportunities for networking and professional development. You can get pretty far just by being active, curious and open minded.

Personally, Shanghai has brought me tons of opportunities. Through IPWS, I have met amazing, influential people, while working in my field and developing especially as a China marketing professional, which is exactly where I want to go. I’m now also speaking, reading and writing Mandarin, which was a huge goal of mine and has opened many doors. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten so much inspiration and energy to pursue my passion for photography and content creation, which in turn has brought me amazing projects with NatGeo Travel, Kempinski Hotels, the Finnish Business Council and Explore China, to name a few.

Version 3

5. The Convenience

Move to Shanghai and say goodbye to spending time on mundane tasks like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. When I buy groceries, I do so from the comfy couch in my living room by logging in to Epermarket and having everything delivered the same day (free if you order before 3 pm!). If I want to stay in, but don’t have time or energy to cook, I order takeout through Eleme or Sherpa’s where I can choose from hundreds of restaurants and cafés, and receive it at my door 30-45 minutes later with barely any delivery fee. If it’s Friday night and Robert and I want to have a glass of chilled rosé on the rooftop, I can get a cold bottle delivered by BottlesXO within an hour. Beautiful, right? Additionally, China’s dockless bike sharing companies have made getting around town a breeze. In a city with congested traffic, it’s a dream! Grab a Mobike and zoom around for 1 RMB, and when you’re done, just leave it anywhere (well, ideally on the part of the street that allows parking). Additionally, China is going cashless and cardless, fast. I’ve heard from friends who have left China that the biggest adjustment is not being able to use WeChat Pay or AliPay anymore. That it’s like going back years in time and development. And I totally understand, mobile payments are vital here in everyday life, regardless if you’re getting a cup of coffee, paying for a dress at Zara, going to the dentist or buying a house. I barely have cash or cards with me anymore, and with our apartment door working with a fingerprint scanner, I don’t even need keys when leaving the house.

Chinese ecommerce is of course also contributing to a very convenient lifestyle in Shanghai. You can get pretty much anything and everything at, Taobao and Tmall, and have it delivered in no-time. If you’re having trouble navigating the platforms in Chinese, Baopals is an excellent option to do your Taobao and Tmall shopping in English.

And what would this post be without mentioning WeChat, the “messenger-gone-everything-app”, as Jing Travel so eloquently put it. Life here is not only convenient because of it, but in fact it would be awfully difficult, near impossible, without it. WeChat is my email, phone, messenger, social media feed, notice board, wallet and so much more, all rolled into one. And it’s awesome.


For these, and so many other reasons, I love calling Shanghai home. Did I miss anything? Add in the comments below!


Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog here!

My Travel Essentials – China Edition

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

Chinese New Year is around the corner, and that means it’s time to pack our bags and head south for some much needed beach and sun! I love traveling, and I actually still enjoy the ritual of packing, the anticipation of getting on a flight, and the moment to relax in the air. Sure, air travel is far from glamorous these days, and everything doesn’t always go as planned, but I still get excited about it, at least most of the time. Here are some of my travel essentials to make sure my travel experiences are nice and smooth.

Travel light

When possible, I prefer to travel with carry-on luggage only, as this saves time and minimizes the risk of a bunch of my favorite things getting lost. I also like the challenge of it since I’m a hopeless over-packer by nature, so packing the right things and surviving with a small suitcase brings me some strange sense of satisfaction, haha… Anyhow, to make the most of it, I use one of the lightest cabin-size luggages available, the Rimowa Salsa Air. I love Rimowa’s design and the fact that most of their suitcases are extremely light, but for the price tag, turns out that the quality is more than disappointing. I haven’t had too many problems with my cabin-size Rimowa, but my two bigger Salsa Airs that I check-in on longer trips are just not durable. The exterior has cracked on both suitcases, and nearly all wheels have fallen off one by one. Granted, that these bags have been on the road a lot, but Robert and I bought Rimowas in order to have quality suitcases that wouldn’t break… Very frustrating!

In addition to the cabin-size luggage (and a normal purse), I bring a super-light, foldable Boston Bag from Muji, as there’s usually risk of unexpected shopping that might not fit in your carry-on suitcase. When tucked away, this bag barely takes up any space, but still being durable and very spacious when folded out for use.

Invest in smart travel accessories

Speaking of Muji, they have an amazing selection of travel accessories. I pretty much get all my travel related tings there, as their products are functional, high quality, reasonable price and simple, clean design. Some products that I love are:

  • The slim passport case: It’s functional and very light, so it doesn’t take up too much space or add extra weight in my purse. It still has plenty of room for all your frequent flyer cards, boarding passes, currency, and, of course, your passport.
  • Clear cosmetics case: Perfect for carrying liquids in your carry-on. The volume of the bag is approximately according to international flight regulations, so there’s no need for hassling with ziplock bags when you have this one.
  • Travel bottles: Muji has dozens of different types and sizes of travel bottles, jars and pots. To save weight and space, I use these for face creams, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, medicine etc. I also use samples of my favorite products (especially the ones that are sensitive to air and light exposure) that I usually ask for when buying products at Sephora or in department stores. 
  • Garment cases: Muji’s foldable garment bags in different sizes are brilliant for keeping clothes and things neatly organized while you’re on the road. I use one for underwear, another for tops, and a third one for bottoms. They also work perfectly as laundry wash bags for delicates.

A few other (non-Muji) items always in my travel bag:

  • Airplane headphone jack adapter, so that I can use my own headphones with the in-flight entertainment system. Additionally, I bring a headphone jack splitter, so that Robert and I can both watch (and listen to) movies on a tablet, laptop or smartphone. These things are tiny, inexpensive and SO worth buying if you travel a lot. Get them at the electronics store at the airport.
  • Following the previous, I obviously bring my own headphones as well, as I know they’re comfortable and have good sound. Very important on long-haul flights!
  • Power bank and travel power adapter to ensure I can power up electronics and avoid panik.
  • Water. Lots of water. And an emergency snack, usually fresh or dried fruit, mixed nuts or a granola bar.
  • Disinfectant hand wipes, hand cream and redness relief eye drops.

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

Arrive looking fresh

Flying isn’t known for its beautifying effects. When flying long-haul, I usually take off my make-up, and do a moisturizing face mask to fight off the extremely dry cabin air and keep my skin somewhat balanced. Sure, sounds like a bit of a hassle, but this makes an enormous difference in how your skin looks and feels during and after the flight. I use Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water to easily remove make-up, and follow with Dermalogica’s Skin Hydrating Mask, which is pretty much unnoticeable and can be left on for several hours. Wipe off the face mask and pop in some eye drops before landing, and you’ll look like you slept like a baby. (For more in-flight beauty inspiration, check out Lisa Eldridge’s vlog here!)

When in China…

Now, when it comes to air travel in China, there’s a couple of things you need to know. Some additional rules and regulations apply, so being aware and prepared can make a big difference to your trip:

First off, smartphones and tablets must be turned off during the flight, so having them in flight mode is also a no-go. If your plane doesn’t have an entertainment system, make sure to bring a book or magazine to keep yourself busy. (I heard rumors that this might be changing soon, fingers crossed!) However, laptops and mp3 players seem to be fine to use. Luckily, I still have my old iPod that I now bring with me when I fly. It’s also a nice little throwback to my favorite music from 5-10 years back.

When it comes to personal care products, any type of aerosol in your carry-on luggage will most likely be confiscated. This means no hairspray, mousse, spray-deodorant etc. For me, the problem is hairspray, as no hairspray equals bad hair days. Solution? Find a non-aerosol liquid that works as a hairspray, and pour it into a pump-spray bottle that’s less than 100ml (find them at – you guessed it – Muji). However, hairspray or any other aerosol toiletries have never been a problem in checked-in luggage.

Also, never travel with nail polish – it will be confiscated. It doesn’t matter if it’s in your carry-on or check-in luggage: the sensors will pick it up and you will be asked to dig it out and hand it over to the inspector. I’ve learned this the hard way, and haven’t dared to try my luck in the past year. Please let me know in the comments if this regulation has changed!

Find more info on China-specific regulations on Travel China Guide’s website here.

Shanghaista Travel Essentials

What are your travel essentials? Any good tips for air travel in China? Please share in the comments below!

Happy Monday folks! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! x