Hey, Shanghai, I missed you, y’know?

Yup, still Shanghai.


I wasn’t sure if China wanted me back.

The fact that I managed to set the Contagious Disease Carrier detector off at immigration at Pudong Airport was a moment of concern. I had casually strolled through, feeling robust and healthy, albeit tired from having left the flat at 6am, and I set it pinging and was promptly pulled off to the side by a team of officials in suits wearing surgical masks. A thermometer was jammed into my mouth (no, I don’t know where it had been or if it had been sterilized) and my passport scrutinized. I was declared inexplicably healthy by one masked official, just as the other masked official managed to fumble and drop my passport, arrival card and Vietnamese residence card all over the floor.

To be honest, I’d always thought those fever detector machines were fake. I’d never seen them  go off. I suppose I have previously unrealized super secret hothothot inner powers (not Hohhot, like Inner Mongolia– these ones are better, toastier, more Peggy Lee than influenza). I make the impossible go ping.

I’m going to assume that it was my fervor for dumplings that had set it off. I had been having fever dreams about xiaolongbao ever since I managed to not only snag full funding from my university to attend a Nerdy Judgy Testy Conference in Shanghai , but also somehow received a ten-year multiple entry Chinese visa when I had only applied for a single-entry, one month visa.

Yes, ten years.

China wanted me back, they wanted me back baaaaad.

Except the ping, but that was obviously a misunderstanding.

I was ready for my four days back in Shanghai. With only my ergonomically ill-designed carry-on bag slung over my shoulder, I breezed through immigration, breezed through customs, and waltzed out to the Maglev station like a pro.

I was back on home territory, and had full, beautiful, liberating mobility again.

Maglev to Longyang Lu metro station. Longyang Lu, standing and swaying along Line 2, to Nanjing Dong Lu station. Emerging out into Nanjing Road East station up the endless escalators and into December crispness.

I wore a jacket. And shoes and socks. Winterclothes!

And I walked. With my feet, in areas designated for pedestrians. Without motorbikes speeding past when they shouldn’t be; without oversized SUVs lumbering along in places where they legally aren’t allowed to be (i.e. sidewalks, general footpaths, etc).

I walked over to the Bund, then up to Suzhou Creek, then down to Yu Yuan, then back up to the midway point where my little hotel was, on Yan’an Lu.

So. Much. Walking.

Nearly four hours, every evening.  Going everywhere, because I could.


Hey, I know you!


I also managed to squeeze in enough dumplings to put on 4 kgs over the course of four days, in spite of the hours of walking every day.


上海雲呑 on Ningbo Lu.


生煎包 on Fangbang Lu


小笼包 in Hongkou



So that was good. My little checklist from my last post was doing very well.

  • Walk the length of the Bund, with sincerity.


  • Rainbow Blind Massage.


I definitely walked the Bund, repeatedly, with a sincerity I did not know I was capable of. My little hotel was located halfway up, about twenty minutes’ walk from the Hyatt, where my conference was, up at the top of the Bund just north of Suzhou Creek. The wide, wide, mostly empty footpath was bliss after three years in urban Vietnam. No motorbikes invaded my space. No cars honked at me to get out of their way. I had space. I could walk. Thirty or so minutes from top to bottom, uninterrupted, safe, calm.


Morning walk, or possibly evening.


On Sunday evening, after the day’s Nerdery was complete, I marched off into the wilds of the city and found myself back in my old neighbourhood, the one where I spent four years– the bulk of my Totally Impractical Guide years.

Shanxi Nan Lu metro station, lines 1 and 10.

I emerged from Line 10 to discover that the row of tiny shops and mitten sellers had been razed, and had been replaced by a large, glowing, architecturally surprising orb.

Also, Shanxi Nan Lu had been boarded up for great stretches of its length. Fuxing Lu down to Yongjia, boarded up. Everything was very familiar, down to the tiniest details, and yet also very, very different.

My Lanzhou lamian guys were still there. The leather shoe makers were still there. The hardware guys were still there. The library was still there. The fruit shop, veggie shop, Family Mart were all still there. The blind massage guys were still there too, on the corner of Yongjia and Shanxi, a double rainbow haven in a dark night. I got my 68 minutes of fully-clothed muscle manipulation by a throat-clearing, shuffling woman in little black cloth slippers. It was bliss. I was clicking like a tap dancing showdown.

All I saw of her, really, for 68 minutes. Shuffle, shuffle.


But the mops weren’t there.

Not in my old hood, anyway. My little backstreets had been a haven of mops, a wildlife preserve for the string mops, the rag mops, the spongy mops. But I only saw one, somewhere along Xiangyang Lu. That was weird. That was unnerving. Like meeting someone you hadn’t seen in years and realizing that something about them had fundamentally shifted, that something vital was missing. Like frontal lobes or a conscience.


These ones were somewhere around Jiujiaochang lu, in the old quarter.


What was it like to be back after nearly four years away?

Comfortable. Familiar. Easy. Calm. Tasty. Fattening. Quiet.

Friends back in Saigon noted how my Facebook updates contained a notable lack of rage.

I don’t write much these days because most of what goes on in my head is an endless loop of anger about generic traffic idiocy, ludicrous AQI readings, linguistic analysis, Sarah and Duck cartoons, and work stuff. Spreadsheets, looking stern, booking rooms, printing exams, pretending I know what I’m doing in meetings.

So I don’t write because, omg, how fucking tedious would that be?

It’s good to be back.

It was good to be back.

I’m back.

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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.