Kame Tseja– When asked about her hobbies, our guest nomad described herself as “a Natural born chief rocker, traveler, cook and baker, can read anything in print and enjoys keeping fit…..because endorphin’s and vanity”! Sometime in 2013, she took on Mainland China for 4 months to satisfy her wanderlust. Read all about her work and travel experience in Shanghai. Instagram:@kamzzzzzz , Twitter: @kamkamT
Have you ever been so sick and tired of work, Lagos traffic and life in general that you zone out and day dream of an unforgettable adventure you had embarked on? I am in that zone at the moment 🙂
My China adventure was born in summer ‘13. I had just finished my Masters, tired of England and I wasn’t quite yet ready for Lagos. After some research, I applied for and got an internship in Shanghai, because- work experience (check), TRAVEL (check)…. and boy was I in for the most exciting 4 months of my life! The internship provider I used, CRCC Asia, offered optional travel packages in partnership with The Dragon Trip and I jumped on it.
Life Before the Dragon trip
Let me set the scene for you – We were a group of young foreigners from all over the world (NZ, Australia, UK, Spain, Italy, US, Nigeria…I could go on) between the ages of 19-27, living in the middle of Shanghai, a very vibrant city, all staying in the same apart-hotel and ready to have a good time. There was sightseeing, there was drama, there was romance, a LOT of boozy club nights and the inevitable sad times whenever anyone had to leave.
After a long flight from Lagos via Dubai, I arrived Shanghai and was met by a rep of CRCC Asia at the airport. I was taken to the apart-hotel, handed my metro card, sim-card and a hand book. Then off to my flat where I met my roomies- an American girl from NY, who has become a very dear friend, and an Italian from Milan (fancy right!?) Now, this was my first time in Asia, and Shanghai has a very distinct smell that you have to get used to, I was overwhelmed by this new place so far away and different from everything and everyone I knew! It felt like I was the only black person in the whole of Mainland China at that point. Totally homesick, I called my family and burst into tears! (Cringe, horror) – I still get teased about that. I quickly got over that when I met the other interns and got into the mix of things. Work did not start till Monday, so I had the weekend to get acquainted with this new place.
The hotel apartment complex I stayed in- Rayfont Celebrity Apartments (Don’t ask me about the name biko) is right across the road from Dapuqiao Metro Station, which was inside a big mall. About the metro, hmmmm, think rush hour at Oxford Circus station multiplied by 20 and you could get shoved guided off the train just before the doors shut by someone else if you weren’t watchful. Anyways, I digress. Just behind the station was Tianzifang, which is one of Shanghai’s must-sees in my opinion. Tianzifang is in the old French quarter, and was one of my favorite places to go. It is a network of old stone houses now converted into a very artsy scene, with bars, cafes, galleries, jewelry and silk stores where you can get the cutest souvenirs. I would definitely recommend taking a couple of hours one early evening to explore Tianzifang’s quirky beauty.
My time in China luckily coincided with Chinese New Year, and we had 2 whole weeks off work. Ah! See groove! To start it off, my cousin was passing through for 2 days, and got me a room in the hotel she was staying- the Grand Kempinski Hotel in Shanghai’s World Financial Centre area. I LOVE fancy hotels ( I mean who doesn’t?). The view from my room was amazing- floor to ceiling glass view of the Huangpu River and from her room you could see the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. It was an amazing 24hours with yummy food and swimming on the 40th floor with all round glass views of the city. Still celebrating the New Year, I visited so many clubs and the exceptional ones were M1NT and Muse on the Bond. M1NT will probably always be my best place to party in SH. You are welcomed with a huge shark tank right at the clubs entrance, with, yes you guessed it- Sharks merrily swimming away. It is very high end, so drinks were quite expensive for SH standards (about £10/N4,500 for cocktails- best cosmopolitan I have ever tasted BTW). There were also burlesque dancers performing on the bars intermittently and the music was a good mix of House and Pop.
Other things I did included visiting the Shanghai museum, going to the city’s renowned fake market on Nanjing Lu (even for a self acclaimed anti-fake designer activist like myself, I almost got myself a purse- they are that convincing!), Yu Classical Gardens, exploring the Bund and Huaihai Lu. On Wednesdays in SH, ladies night, you got free drinks, manicures, roses, etc. when you went out. One of the most memorable Ladies’ nights for me was spent at the iconic Shanghai World Financial Centre. Between 8.00pm-10.30pm you could get in to the 92nd floor for free and drink as much champagne as you pleased. The view, if smog permits, is amazing!
I also did a lot of eating! Oh Lort! The foooooood in that place…(Forgive the ratchetness- food and drinks bring it out) To start with, dining in China is very very cheap. Even Shanghai, which is a big city like London/NY/Lagos where things tend to be more expensive, is very affordable. My group of friends and I went out proper dining at least once a week. Itsuki Teppanyaki was a firm favorite and for 220RMB (£20/N9,000) each, you got a private room with your own chef cooking whatever you chose from the menu in your very before and having your glasses refilled with beer, sake or plum wine till you literally couldn’t take anymore. Some of our favourite places to wine and dine were Dr. Beer , Bella Napoli, Pistolera and Cantina Agave- the margaritas at Cantina…..!!! (I’m just going to go ahead and dab to that). There was also this Chinese restaurant with ahhhmazing food near People’s square on Nanjing road. I don’t think I ever knew the name, all I knew was the food was cheap (5 pounds) and they had a nice view of the People’s Park.
SH has a lot of street food too! Although I was a scaredy cat after reading a lot of scary food poisoning stories, I still managed to try a bit. Kelly, my flat mate, absolutely loved the roasted sweet potatoes. Vendors pushing drums on wheels full of coal and roasting sweet potatoes that they picked out with metal prongs for you are a common sight on the streets. Fried stuffed buns shēng jiān mán tou, and Nanxiang steamed pork dumplings Nanxiang xiaolongbao are some of SH’s delicacy snacks and must-haves for any visitor.
My time in SH went by very fast, and I realized when it was time to leave that I hadn’t done a lot of things I wanted to do( ensure you walk on the glass floor at the top of the Pearl Tower and visit Zhujiajiao Ancient water town).
I would recommend drawing up a physical to-do list and sticking to it. After 3 amazing months living and rocking in SH, leaving was very emotional. I had gotten accustomed to the people, the attention I got due to being black, I had made new friends and I had a life there. What made it easier was the fact that I was about to embark on a different kind of Chinese adventure. The 3-week Dragon trip was about to start and I was ready for it…(or was I?)
*NaijaNomads Note: Watch out for the concluding part of Kame’s adventure, “the dragon trip”