The Pudong Skyline, as seen from the Bund
The thing with traveling alone is that, even if you meet people and travel with along the way, you still have that huge independence in the palm of your hands. You leave your so-called “comfort zone” to explore the mysterious world without over thinking.
It’s always scary as shit, and yet it’s really exciting. Admittedly, for the past few years, the world out there has been my comfort zone. So to travel with one of my closest family member in this unfamiliar place is something new for me. Talk about bringing home away from home! Various thoughts and so-called epiphanies came to light when my sister and I had finally pursued our trip to Shanghai.
I couldn’t help but worry, because there’s no escaping it when you feel like you have to be responsible for someone–especially if it’s your family. Even so, I was excited!
We arrived at past midnight and went straight to our hostel to get some rest for the day after. I tried my best for this trip to be “travel friendly” to my sister. I’d double–even triple checked with her if we could move from a 3-star hotel to the comfort of a hostel. I even asked her several times to be “in-charge” of some of the places she wanted to see. If I was alone, then these wouldn’t have mattered. But I wasn’t, so, I had to make an effort.
Blue Mountain Hostel
For the very first time ever, my sister had finally experienced what a hostel is like. It’s not like it’s in her bucketlist. However, I feel like this is something not to be missed. Aside from the strategic location and affordable price, the “vibe” is usually welcoming. For some reason, I always find comfort in being surrounded with fellow travelers. I find comfort in hostels.
Letters from countless visitors
Had to make one as well!
She said it, but even if she didn’t, I could see in her face that she was really amazed by the so-called hostel experience. It’s something she didn’t expect at all. The common bath was something though. We were dumbfounded with the light switch and found ourselves in the dark! Quite funny to even think about. Setting that aside, there were so much “eye-candy” for some reason 😉 and a lot of common areas for certain interests: billiards, roof deck, a Foosball (if I remember it right), and a bar with computers and so many books that made up for that slight mishap.
Traveling with my sister also made both of us realize that it was typical for others to give an unwelcoming impression albeit that isn’t really the case. At first, she kept on complaining how rude the locals that she passes by are. They don’t even smile and at most, give that snobbish look. It actually annoyed her at first. But then, I told her: “If you come to think of it, we are actually like them. I think most of us appear like that (not just the locals but probably Asians–don’t hold me onto this though!).” By default, we don’t normally just smile to fellow strangers who are tourists in our country. We are afraid of sending out the wrong impression, and by doing that, we give out something else. It’s not like we wanted to frown or be a snob, it’s just “our default” face. Unless they talk to us, then we respond. This momentous conversation was a reminder that we can’t assume and judge quickly. And that was another “Ohhh” and “Ahhh” moment for her.
Locals and Tourists (there were a lot of us!) at the Old City
Of course there were incidents when I get quite frustrated with having my photo taken when I’m with someone. Lame as it may sound, but I realized that if I was doing it alone, I couldn’t care less if I get a crappy souvenir photo of myself. I just needed one as “proof” and could get away with nothing but just one.
See how blurred this one is? Taken at the Old City as well.
But for some reason, being with someone gave me the “right” to get quite frustrated whenever the photos don’t turn out the way I wanted it to. Like as if I had the right to blame someone. Hard to believe how diva that sounds. I felt a bit guilty. But I always get hers good the first time around! Thank goodness I got a handful of quality ones. 😉
My Sister, being cute and clueless while I take this photo of her at the Old City.
Talk about the decision making of “Where to go?” “What to do?” “What’s next?” and, “Whose call?” We wanted to maximize our stay given the hassle of visa processing. At the same time, we needed to take into consideration our endurance. Given this, it was imperative to strategically arrange the places we wanted to check out. We visited almost all the “must-see” places in Shanghai, from the western-type buildings around and the skyscrapers across the Bund, the overwhelming shops along Nanjing Road, to the religious temples and architecture at the Jade Buddha and Old City respectively (I decided to make a separate blog to showcase these places).
Then there was this one place that my sister told about. At first I thought it was possible but then I decided to just take it off our itinerary due to its distance. How could I when that was the only suggestion not in the so-called list that my sister had? It was somewhere special: a park (Gucun) at the far end of the city that showcased a variety of Cherry Blossoms during Spring. With a heavy heart, we agreed to take it off, but decided to just go for it at the last minute. I actually wanted to see it for myself too and to wait for the next spring will be a very tedious task! This made us skip another Buddhist temple, which was okay. We already had a handful of Buddha sightings anyway.
Forty minutes in, we eventually arrived at Gucun Park with so much greenery and a little rainfall. We were quite tired and so we walked rather slowly while buying random food from stalls around.
This would welcome you upon entering Gucun Park
This park is huge and lovely! On a good and long day, this would’ve been a perfect spot to unwind. But we didn’t have a lot of time and we were starting to get really worn out.
Not that I don’t like green, nor the trees. I love it. Trust me.
For some reason, our objective was nowhere to be found! We couldn’t find it even with the map in our hands. No hint of the so-called Festival.
Was spring over? Both of us wanted to leave, and yet we didn’t. Inside of us, we were still hoping.
After a few detours, we found ourselves at the marked area as reflected in the map. That’s when we found out that most of the Cherry Blossoms have already fallen.
Finally. There you are.
We tried to take photos that would make it appear like they’re still abundant. That was probably the best and most rewarding part. For some reason, we ended up laughing on how pretentious our shots were. We even copied the man and tried to shake the trees to give that “falling Cherry Blossoms” effect!
The man who inspired us to shake the trees!
The trees were shaken into a million pieces.
After a million shots, I think we were able to capture a lot of good moments in spite of the slow shutter speed.
The second (ahem) most beautiful shot. 😉
There goes our winner! 😉 The “Videoke” shot, as mentioned by a good friend.
And how can I not mention the idea of who to follow and who will follow. I realized, my “older sister” qualification made me more in-charge and somehow I instinctively took responsibility in this trip. Of all the things, this isn’t one of my favorites. But I had to be. Maybe because I’ve had more experience traveling? Or maybe because I was bossy? Or maybe because I am older? And while my sister was supposed to be the more responsible one, she instinctively became a follower. I don’t know about her… but as for me, I know that playing a role with so much responsibility is not my cup of tea. I prefer to just follow. But for some reason, nature kicks in and it happens.
I’m grateful for this trip with my sister. I knew it would be familiar, quite a piece of work, yet fun, surprising and exciting. Overall, aside from what Shanghai had offered for us to see, visiting it with my sister made me have a deeper look at who she is, who I was, am, and what we both want to be. Funny how small things could have a huge impact in our lives. It’s even more amazing that sometimes, we desire solitude for self-awareness whereas in fact, we are just oblivious with the obvious and could only be made aware through co-existence.
Sisters, At the Yuyuan Garden