It’s been a while, Shanghai

Broken seatbelt. En route to Moganshan Lu art opening. 2013.


Well now.



I’m flying in to Pudong International sometime tomorrow afternoon, after nearly four years away from China. I don’t tend to return to cities or countries I’ve lived in: It’s been nearly ten years since Istanbul and seventeen since Cape Town. I feel a bit queasy when I think about returning. Like going for a catch up coffee old boyfriends, I’m not sure I want to revisit old territories. I thought I’d already said my goodbyes.

But, yes, I’ll be in Shanghai tomorrow and I’ve been preparing myself for it.

I bought a VPN. First one in years. I logged myself into a few city ports to try it out. Hello Fake Melbourne, hello fake East London.  I’ve missed you. A whole month’s worth of stealth for a four day trip.

Yes, four days. After nearly four years, I’m not even going for a reasonable amount of time. Four days, including ingress and egress. And a conference for two of the days.

Yes, I’m going back because I’m being sent to a Super Nerd conference on language assessment. I’ll be holed up in the Hyatt on the Bund, reading up on Rasch analysis or whatever, drinking too much crappy coffee from environmentally reprehensible disposable cups.

But still, it’s Shanghai. I got a little pang of recognition when I opened up my long dormant metro app to see what the transport options were.  Unlike Saigon, I know Shanghai really well. I knew Shanghai really well.  Hell, I wrote three walking tour apps that earned me exactly something like two or three hundred bucks in iTunes revenue.

I used to walk. I used to casually walk to the far end of Fuxing Lu, an hour thattaway, or up to Beijing Xi Lu, or from Guilin Lu to Caobao Lu and up and over to Zhaojiabang Lu. Hours of walking.

I don’t really walk in Saigon. Nobody walks in Saigon. One of the guys at work, a lovely Irish guy from Donegal, has made a point of walking to work along the hellish Nguyen Van Linh highway that is the only way to get from here to there and even he is starting to go all wide eyed and horrified, noting how many bikes or cars casually hit him on the way home.


Somewhere around my old Xuhui hood. Winter fish drying.


So, given that most of my limited time there will be in the evening or in the morning before I fly out, my options for revisiting will be limited, I will attempt the following:

  • Walk the length of the Bund, with sincerity. I actually miss it.
  • Find some Lanzhou la mian (兰州拉面) and noisily slurp the remaining broth after noisily shoveling the noodles into my face. Add several spoons of chili in oil.
  • Go to Di Shui Dong and order the cumin ribs and the garlic shoots with bacon.
  • Walk Fuxing Lu, from the old town west toward my old stomping grounds. See if any of my old apartment buildings have been razed yet. See if the old Hector Lakemonster alleyways are intact.
  • Yongkang Lu. Not just to see if my old beer friends are still around at Cheers In, but to eat French patisseries and investigate the dumplings at Man Long Chun. DUMPLINGS. Holy shit, I can revisit xiao long bao.
  • See if my lovely burping masseur is still at Rainbow Blind Massage on Shanxi Nan Lu. I’m all clicky and tired and old.

Or, alternately, I’ll read up on Rasch analysis at the Hyatt, walk back to my hotel, order an overpriced sandwich and sleep the sleep of a woman who has been juggling work, endless MA essays, a bonkers 3 year old and the madness of Saigon for the past three years.

Ha. No.

Noodles. Noodles and walking. I’ll tell you all about it.


Angels doing laundry. 2012.

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.