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.

5 Days on the Silk Road

In the last two months, I’ve managed to check off two big bucket list items. One of them was traveling to Gansu Province in the remote northwestern area of China. What’s there, you ask? Well, let me show you.

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Gansu Province, located on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, is often synonymous with the ancient Silk Road, which in itself is a pretty intriguing reason to go. But for Robert and I, the interest to travel was sparked by two things: China’s Rainbow Mountains and the Gobi desert oasis town of Dunhuang.

ZHANGYE

We started out by flying to the city of Zhangye in central Gansu Province, most famous for Zhangye Danxia Landform, aka the Rainbow Mountains. A couple of years ago I hadn’t even heard about this place, but after visiting, I’m totally blown away by the fact that these kinds of hidden travel-treasures still exist.

The Zhangye Danxia Landform is one of the most stunning things I’ve seen in China, even in the world. Not only the colors, but also the land formations are just unreal. The area wasn’t discovered until about 15 years ago when some locals – completely unaware of how unique their surroundings were – took a NatGeo photographer out to the mountains.

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My thoughts and tips for Zhangye:

  • Go, go, go! This place is incredible. You won’t regret it.
  • The Rainbow Mountains are the main attraction in the area, but keep in mind that there are two other geoparks, too; Sunan Danxia Scenic Area and Binggou Danxia Scenic Area (the last picture above is from Binggou). We visited Binggou (which means Ice Valley, love the name, very Game of Thrones). No rainbow colors there, but different types of stunning landforms and canyons. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see Sunan.
  • The Zhangye Danxia Landform area is big. It has several large viewing platforms and you’ll be transported around by bus once you enter. Visitors are not allowed to walk freely in order to preserve the colorful surface of the mountains.
  • Some viewing platforms require more climbing, which is when you’ll notice the high altitude of Zhangye (between 2000-3800 meters). So don’t worry, you’re not necessarily in horrible shape, it’s just your body not getting as much oxygen as it’s used to.
  • As anywhere famous in China, do not visit during public holidays or high season. I saw some very scary pictures of the viewing platforms being absolutely packed, so you’ll obviously want to avoid that at all cost. So when should you go? A good time is in April-May and September-October which seems to be the shoulder season with pretty nice, dry weather. The downside is that the mountain colors are most vibrant after rain, and the high season months are also the wettest.
  • For a good standard hotel in Zhangye, I can recommend Jinyang International Hotel. The restaurant is very Chinese, but staff extremely friendly and rooms very nice.

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JIAYUGUAN

Once we were done climbing up and down hills in Zhangye, we jumped in our private car (with driver) that we had arranged for the whole trip, and drove 250 km to our next destination, Jiayuguan.

Jiayuguan is known for the Jiayuguan Pass, which was the first frontier of the Great Wall and westernmost entry point to China in the Ming era. It consists of a fully restored fortress, courtyard and wall, but in my opinion, the most fascinating part was hearing about the history with Jiayuguan being the entry point for Silk Road merchants coming in and out of China. It’s where they negotiated for Ming Dynasty visas and entry permits. It was like the immigration hall at Pudong Airport, except probably a lot cooler with camels, spices and silk.

Jiayuguan Pass is worth a visit if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

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We stayed at the Plaza Holiday Inn in downtown Jiayuguan, which by the way does not seem to be a real Holiday Inn. So just fyi, haha. But the standard was ok, staff friendly and helpful, and food pretty good. Also possibly had the hardest bed I’ve ever slept on.

DUNHUANG

On the third morning of our tour de Silk Road we set out to Dunhuang. It took us around 5 hours to drive the 400 km to our next destination. I have to say, I’m so impressed that the highways even in these remote areas of China are just impeccable. It was such a smooth drive in endless, flat desert land with the occasional mountain range popping up in the distance. Beautiful. Loved it.

The city of Dunhuang is in the northwestern end of Gansu Province and right at the edge of the Gobi desert. Now, when I say at the edge of the Gobi desert, I really mean it. When you’re in Dunhuang, you’ll encounter this 👇 sight of the massive sand dunes about to swallow the city at any moment. But apparently the dunes somehow stay put and kindly let life in town continue as it always has.

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I’ve never been to the desert before, so seeing a tiny part of Gobi was a major moment for me. We spent the whole first afternoon riding camels and climbing up and down the dunes. We got awesome orange sand boots for CNY 30 to make walking in the sand easier, but it was still exhausting.

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Dunhuang is famous for two things, the first being the Crescent Moon Lake, an absolutely unreal oasis in the middle of the dunes. Somehow this mysterious crescent shaped body of water has survived endless sandstorms through thousands of years. It’s truly a stunning sight. Unlike at the Rainbow Mountains, there’s a lot of activities and entertainment built around the dunes by the lake, making the vibe a bit touristy. It’s not bad, but I would of course love to experience this kind of place feeling more connected to nature.

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The second well-known thing about Dunhuang is the Mogao Caves. As Dunhuang was at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, it ended up being a cradle of Buddhism in China. 1700 years ago buddhists started to carve out caves for meditation and worship in a mountain wall, and over time it turned into 492 grottoes, or temples, now containing one of the most important collections of Buddhist art in the world.

The Mogao Caves themselves were an incredible, unique thing to see. However, the setup around visiting the place was maybe a bit different from I had expected. Before being able to enter the actual cave area, visitors have to watch two films about the history of the caves, around 30 minutes each, in two different auditoriums. After that, you’re transported by bus to the caves, where you join a guided 75-90 minute tour to see 7-8 grottoes.

It was fascinating to learn about the history and see the beautiful carvings and paintings, but I didn’t expect it to be such a restricted, fully guided experience with not much freedom to explore on your own. Visitors are only allowed in certain parts of the restored area, whereas I would have loved to see more of the non-restored mountain wall as well.

Definitely worth visiting though, just know what to expect.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get any shots of the paintings as photography isn’t allowed inside the caves.

YANGGUAN PASS

Our last major stop of the trip was Yangguan Pass about 100 km from Dunhuang. The place isn’t overly famous and I really didn’t have any expectations, but our guide, Peter, recommended it for seeing some of the westernmost ruins of the Great Wall. And it turned out to be such a positive surprise. In true China style, there was a big touristy complex built with staff dressed up as Western Han Dynasty soldiers in a massive fort and courtyard, but we just skipped that part entirely, hired a donkey and carriage and headed out to the desert to see the ruins.

And this place was magical. But for us, it wasn’t the ruins of the Wall that made the biggest impression. It was the incredible landscape. I don’t know how long we spent just running around the beautiful little hills, taking photos trying to do the scenery justice, and just sitting there looking into the endless distance.

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My thoughts and tips for Dunhuang:

  • If you go, make sure to research tours and things you can do in the desert aside from activities in the touristy Crescent Moon Lake area. I didn’t do this – huge mistake! – and if I ever go back, I would definitely do an overnight camping trip out to the desert, and some sort of longer Jeep safari in the dunes.
  • Lamb is a common food in Dunhuang, we had some amazing local lamb dishes.
  • We stayed at the The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel and I can highly recommend it! They have a very cool, exotic silk road-vibe, but with a pretty high standard all the way through. The breakfast was a bit disappointing considering that everything else was so memorable, but it covered the basics. Stunning views from our room and the hotel rooftop restaurant towards the desert dunes.
  • Dunhuang, and particularly the hotel in Dunhuang was the only place during the entire trip that had good coffee available. If you need a guaranteed coffee fix every day, make sure to bring your own. The hotel was also the only place that served any kind of Western food during our five days in Gansu Province.

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TO SUM UP…

This trip was just beyond any expectations. I chalk it up to two major reasons: 1) Gansu Province having incredible nature and so many awesome things to see, and 2) our private tour guide, Peter + the private car and driver making everything incredibly smooth and convenient for us. Specifically Peter was truly a lifesaver. He’s lived in the US and pretty much only works with foreign clients, so he understood our standards, culture and concerns about things like food safety and hygiene. He’s also local so he knew where to eat and sleep to make sure we’d feel comfortable throughout the trip. I can’t recommend him enough, and please send him tons of regards from Robert and Jenna if you contact him. 
(Scroll down for Peter’s contact.)

Make sure to check out many, many more pictures and videos from our trip on my Instagram Stories Highlights under Gansu Province.

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ITINERARY

Day 1:
Flights: Shanghai Xi’an, Xi’an Zhangye.
Arrive in Zhangye, check in at Jinyang International Hotel

Day 2:
Depart hotel at 5am for sunrise at Zhangye Danxia Landform
6am-10am See the Rainbow Mountains (Zhangye Danxia Landform)
10:30am-12pm See the Ice Valley (Binggou Danxia Scenic Area)
12-1pm Lunch at Zhangye Danxia Geopark
1-4pm Drive from Zhangye to Jiayuguan
4-6pm See Jiayuguan Pass
7pm Arrive at Plaza Holiday Inn hotel

Day 3:
Depart hotel at 8am
8am-1pm Drive from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang
1pm Lunch in downtown Dunhuang
2pm Arrive at The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel
3pm-7:30 pm See the sand dunes and the Crescent Moon Lake, camel ride
8pm Back at hotel

Day 4:
Depart from hotel at 8:15am
9am-12pm See the Mogao Caves
12:30-1:30pm Lunch in downtown Dunhuang
1:30-2:30pm Drive to Yangguan Pass
2:30-5pm See Yangguan Pass and ruins of the Great Wall
6pm Back at hotel
Dinner and sunset with sand dune views from hotel rooftop restaurant

Day 5:
Flights home: Dunhuang-Lanzhou, Lanzhou-Shanghai

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RESOURCES

This article has so much useful information for anyone considering going. It’s written a couple of years back but has tons of valuable tips.

Private tour guide: Peter Sun, tel. +86 189 198 2954, email 1300797890@qq.com

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.

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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 Shanghai Instragrammers to Follow

I’m a big Instagram fan, surprise surprise! But for me, the platform is much more than pretty pictures and seeing what my friends are up to. It’s actually an excellent source for discovering local events, new restaurants, interesting neighborhoods and more. It’s also a great tool for researching and seeing “real” pictures of things like potential vacation destinations and hotels. And, as strange as it sounds, I’ve also made many good friends through Instagram!

There are tons of great Shanghai Grammers to follow. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. @shanghaivlogger
Behind Shanghaivlogger is Magnus, a Swedish expat living and working in Shanghai. In addition to posting interesting and entertaining lifestyle content from China and his travels around the world, Magnus runs the fantastic YouTube Channel, Shanghai Vlogger, and a podcast called Kinapodden. On all platforms, I love Magnus’ positive vibe and commitment to quality content.

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2. @keint_shanghai
I don’t know much more about Keint than what his Instagram bio reveals, but what I do know is that he takes absolutely spectacular photos. I love the content in his feed, which mainly consists of stunning masterpieces, as well as his Insta stories with more casual, lifestyle related material. Keint posts a variety of portraits, nature, architecture, travel and cityscapes. His account is particularly interesting for photo geeks and just anyone who appreciates beautiful images.

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3. @shanghaicoffeedaily
Shanghaicoffeedaily roams through Shanghai’s endless cafés, posting lovely pictures with her wonderfully entertaining impressions of the establishments she visits. As expected, she offers followers great tips on where to get a nice (and not so nice) cup of coffee.

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4. @nomfluence
Nomfluence is run by Rachel, a Shanghai based writer, photographer and food critic who so kindly provides us with excellent restaurant tips accompanied with gorgeous food photography. This account is worth following for the mouth-watering food pics alone, even if you’re not based in Shanghai.

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5. @shanghaicomune
Shanghaicomune is a feature account, which means it posts other Instagrammer’s Shanghai shots, including my pic below. By tagging photos with #shanghaicomune, you have the chance to be featured and showcase your images to a larger audience of Shanghai lovers. There are many Shanghai-themed feature accounts, but I particularly like this one because of the variety of images and styles.

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Honorary Mention: @gerhard_official
Gerhard is an expat living and working in Shanghai, and his breakfast pictures are some of my absolute favorites on Instagram. I love the minimalistic style of his feed in general, but his overnight oats and other food “art” is just too good. Bravo Gerhard!

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There you go, a few fun, inspiring and informative Shanghai Instagrammers to follow! And while you’re at it, don’t miss my account @shanghaistablog as well. Cheers!

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5 Reasons Why I Love Shanghai

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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 JD.com, 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.

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

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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

Sunrise on The Bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Happy new year! We’re two weeks into 2018, and I just accomplished one of my new year’s resolutions – seeing and photographing the sunrise on The Bund. Yeah!

I got up super early this morning, put on my warmest clothes and fluffiest pair of Uggs, got a Mobike on the street, and enjoyed a 30-minute brisk bike ride down the dark, quiet streets of Shanghai. And it was so worth it.

Being one of Shanghai’s biggest attractions and best-known landmarks, The Bund is usually packed with people. But early mornings are very different. The waterfront walkway is quiet and peaceful, with locals coming out to exercise, practice tai chi and fly kites. And the view is spectacular with the sun rising behind Pudong’s iconic skyline.

This morning, the atmosphere was amazing. So much calmness and energy at the same time.

I arrived at about 6:15, approximately half an hour before sunrise. I wish I’d gotten there about 15-20 minutes earlier to catch the moments of first light and color behind Pudong… oh well, next time! And I’m definitely coming back – I’ve been dying to see masters practicing tai chi with a Pudong sunrise backdrop, but couldn’t find any this morning.

What a good start of a new, productive week. Happy Monday!

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Shanghai sunrise the bund

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more pictures!

Shanghai Healthy Eats

Shanghai is so ridiculously amazing when it comes to food and restaurants. It’s so easy to accidentally let your eating get out of hand, haha! Luckily, restaurants with healthy concepts have been popping up for a while now, making it easy and fairly affordable to eat consciously. Home cooking is of course an option, but when you’re short on time, it’s just hard to resist eating out or ordering take-out, especially when it’s often cheaper than buying ingredients for the things I like to cook myself.

Here are a few of my favorites for delicious healthy Shanghai eats:

1. Topping the list is Wheat Healthy Eatery. I used to only get home-delivery from Wheat (not that that’s a bad option), as their restaurant was located a bit off from where I live in the French Concession. Then, a couple of months ago, came the best news ever: Wheat was opening a second branch in the hot corner of Fumin Lu and Changle Lu, only minutes away from my house! This has been my new everyday lunch and hangout spot since the soft opening a few weeks back (so much that I now call it “the office”). The interior is gorgeous, making it such an inviting and nice space to meet up friends or get some work done.

Some of my favorite dishes at Wheat are 1) black rice and salmon protein bowl, 2) beetroot hummus with veggie sticks, and 3) grilled salmon + brown rice, broccoli & cherry tomatoes from the Create your own -option. And the Immunity booster juice is fantastic. Simple dishes, quality ingredients. Perfect.

Wheat Shanghaista

Wheat

Wheat Shanghaista

2. Another big, big healthy favorite of mine is Little Catch, which is a friendly urban fishmonger and poke shop on Wulumuqi Lu in the FFC. The super cute little place is run by two sisters from Hong Kong who are third generation fishmongers, selling high quality seafood and Hawaiian Poke bowls. I love their Classic Hawaiian Salmon poke bowl for lunch, and I often pick up some salmon for home cooking or sashimi. (Can you tell that I love salmon??) The food is consistent, and the fish and seafood always safe and fresh.

3. A third healthy and satisfying option is Sproutworks. With a few locations around town, Sproutworks has a great variation of soups, sandwiches, salads, healthy sides, grains and proteins that rotate daily, and can be mixed and matched pretty much in anyway you like. I go for the healthy sides, tossed salads and proteins, which are very filling, fresh and tasty. Highly recommended!

What’s your favorite healthy spot in Shanghai? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog.

Cheers for the weekend!

Back from Radio Silence

I have been the worst blogger lately. My last post was over two months ago, eep! But I’m still here, alive and kicking, just significantly busier than I was in the beginning of the year.

So here’s what’s been going on: In January, I joined the board of directors of an absolutely amazing organization called IPWS – International Professional Women’s Society. IPWS is a non-profit organization for – yes, you guessed it – international professional women. We offer different platforms to connect, build networks, and foster personal and professional growth here in Shanghai. We organize 1-3 events every month, varying from content-driven workshops to networking events. Our community reaches more than 5000 professional women, and we’re growing every day!

Exactly one week ago, we had our biggest event of the year, our annual IPWS Leadership Summit. The Summit is an awesome, modern leadership conference for women and men on all professional levels, with high-profile speakers and engaging content revolving around a leadership theme, this year “Power”. The Summit also works as a platform to celebrate the annual Women Leadership Awards, which is the longest running international award for women leaders in Shanghai.

Preparations for the Summit turned out to be A LOT of work, so pretty much my every waking moment for the past weeks outside of school has gone into it. My main job has been to drive the marketing and comms, but also working with everything from graphic designers to event producers, finding sponsors to facilitating finalist interviews with the Women Leadership Awards jury. It’s been hectic to say the least, but with the hands-on team of superstars that makes the IPWS board of directors, it has also been one of the most memorable professional experiences I’ve had so far.

I’m still going strong with my Chinese studies at Jiaotong University (which btw still is my #1 thing), but after some years in the professional world, it’s not always easy going back to being “just a student”. But now being a part of IPWS, I feel my professional development is totally back on track: I get to do challenging things both within my area of expertise and way out of my comfort zone, I’m meeting tons of fascinating people and building a unique international network, and I get to make awesome things happen in the Shanghai community. IPWS has definitely elevated my Shanghai experience to a whole new level.

Leaving you with a few pictures from the Summit (photo cred to V.Photos!). Have a great weekend and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @shanghaistablog for more pics! X

ipws leadership summit shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

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IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista

IPWS Leadership Summit Shanghaista