Jonas H., 17
Type of holiday: Father’s business trip
Destination: Shanghai (China)
Residents: 24 million
Duration: 2 weeks
Jonas, Shanghai isn’t a place people fly to all the time. How come you went there?
Jonas: My father had to go there on business for two weeks and he suddenly had the idea that I could go with him because I was on vacation. He thought he’d have a lot of free time there. And then I could do stuff on my own for the rest of the time. He definitely didn’t have to ask me twice.
And how did you spend your days while you were there?
Jonas: At the beginning, I was fighting jet lag a bit. And I still found the idea of wandering around the huge, massive city by myself a bit too much. So the first few days, I just slept and only went outside the hotel with my dad. Once I got to understand how the complicated network of metro, underground and trams etc. worked, I went out on my own. That was quite exciting! Luckily, I always had my cellphone with GPS with me!
What did you see together and what did you see on your own?
Jonas: We went together to several Buddhist temples and they were amazing with all their tiny details, big Buddha statues and offerings and incense sticks. It’s interesting to see believers praying there even with tourists milling around them. We also of course went to the Shanghai Tower – the second highest building in the world! Seeing Shanghai from above was really cool! And we took a boat trip on the Huangpu, went to night markets and also to the bar in the second biggest building in Shanghai, the Shanghai World Financial Center.
On my own, I walked round a lot, for example along the banks of the Huangpu, from where you’ve got an amazing view of the skyline, and to the old town. I saw pagodas and amazing gardens and took a look at the incredible shopping streets. Wow, they’re what I imagine New York to look like!
But what I thought was even cooler was watching the Chinese and how they meet up in groups everywhere to do something. They do aerobics or fan dances or calligraphy on the asphalt. Or they form a kind of roller-skating disco or tango dancing or sing in the park in a choir. At home, these things take place in rooms, but here they’re in public.
I thought that was really fascinating because there’s always something to see!
What impressed you the most overall?
Jonas: Gosh, where do I start? The Shanghai Tower was super. The Yuyuan Garden and also the Jing’an temple. But generally the city as a whole. When you’re used to Europe, it’s really hard to imagine how huge an Asian city is. Everything is so squashed – I’ve never seen so many packed underground stations!
And lots of things work totally differently. Quite often people eat from mini stands on the street, for example. It’s called street food and it’s really cheap but so tasty. The food was amazing everywhere! And a Chinese night market is also a cool experience! You can buy everything there, from clothes to souvenirs and of course lots of food – including typically weird things like wriggling mini scorpions on a skewer and fried maggots and locusts and things like that. Really rank, even if I think it’s done mainly for the tourists!
Did you try something like that?
Jonas: No, the smell of old fat at the night market was too off-putting for me. And eating the creatures off a skewer...no, that was a step too far for me! But even though it was disgusting, seeing it all was really cool!
Was there anything you didn’t like as much?
Jonas: Speaking to Chinese people is almost impossible. Most of them can’t speak English. You deal with prices by typing them into a calculator for example. And when I tried to explain something using my hands and feet, they just stared at me clueless. Sometimes they tried to write the characters down slowly for me, so I could see each stroke. But it still didn’t mean anything to me. My father explained to me that Chinese culture and German or Western are completely different in the way they communicate. It’s a shame because it makes everything really difficult – to get to know people or simply ask someone something, like directions, for example.
If you were given the choice, would you fly with your dad again?
Jonas: Yes, definitely! It was a cool experience to travel with him on his own. And experiencing a huge Asian city is just amazing! You see so much that’s completely different to the way it is here! Really impressive!