Bad Days & Spilt Tea – Shanghai, China

It must have been my third day in Shanghai & the first time I had been alone in a foreign country. I decided I would spend the day around the things I love the most, airplanes. I had read about an aviation museum near Hongqiao International Airport, so I set out to find it.

I didn’t understand a word of Chinese & the concepts of subways & public busses were completely foreign to me. In hindsight, I should have paid attention when my friend explained the subway system to me. I should also point out that this particular day was cold & it was raining, the worst weather combination in my opinion.


I made my way to the closest metro station, got a few snacks & jumped on the first train that was headed in the right direction. I made it to Jing’an Temple & I had to change lines there. It seemed simple because there was only one other line at that station… maybe not simple enough. Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the culture shock or maybe it was my complete ignorance for public transport, either one, I got on the correct line going in the wrong direction.

About an hour & a half later, I arrived at the end of the line which happened to be Pudong International Airport. I realized I had made a mistake. I connected to the WIFI & reassessed how to get to the other airport. Slightly upset, I headed back to the metro & attempted to get to the other airport.

After a further two & a half hours, I got off the train at the station before Hongqiao in the hopes of being able to walk around & find the museum. It was cold & wet & I struggled to make my way around. I decided to go back to the metro, get to the airport, find some food & then try find the museum from that angle.

Due to some safety concern, the police weren’t letting non-passengers into the airport & from my understanding, you could only leave that area on the metro or in a car, not on foot. Being naïve & not knowing that these things happen while travelling, I was extremely upset & felt really emotional. I was hungry, dripping wet & shivering. The only shop in the metro station was a tea stand with a glass display case full of cakes & treats. I went there to buy some tea. Using a combination of charades & pointing, I stumbled my way through an order. I got my cup of tea & I went to pierce the plastic covering with a straw… Sploosh! The straw had gone through the whole cup. Piping hot tea all over my hand, down my arm, covering the entire display case & dripping into puddles on the floor.

I often think of how amusing it must have been for passers-by to see an awkward foreigner being shouted at by a tea vendor. I never did find that aviation museum. I also never got to taste that Oreo infused vanilla milk tea. I did, however, learn the importance of checking the weather forecast, double checking you are headed in the right direction(literally) & making sure you know exactly where you want to go, not just having a vague idea.


70 thoughts on “Bad Days & Spilt Tea – Shanghai, China

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  1. Hi Dan! I think you should write more (I mean fine one of me to say so as I have only recently started my blog) but you have a way of writing that makes me, the reader, feel I was going through the experience with you. Following you and looking forward to more stories from you! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Fun post! My recommendation, maps. Paper ones. Every time. You’ll look like a massive tourist but you’re hopefully less likely to get lost. Good luck next time. (One of my absolutely favourite things is trying to navigate through unfamiliar subway systems but them I’m a bit weird)….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice one Dan. The thought of traveling solo is scary for me. How do you manage with everything and deal with boredom?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is such a brilliant point you’ve raised. Traveling solo is such a daunting thought that many people never attempt it for fear of failure. Your first solo trip is scary, but the personal rewards from it are inexplicable. How do I manage everything? I learnt a while back that writing things down is important & prevents things from being forgotten. This should happen during the planning stage of your trip because when things start to get a bit hectic in the time leading up to departure, you won’t have anyone to remind you of anything you’ve forgotten. As for the boredom, well, people don’t realize that you do get bored & you can feel lonely at times. Find a hostel with good reviews & stay there instead of a hotel because you’re far more likely to meet very interesting people there. The hostel will probably have a lounge or chill area where you can usually find someone to get to know. If that isn’t possible, going for a walk is a good option – obviously don’t go down dodgy alleyways or go walking at night, but if you keep safety conscious & walk without a destination/get lost on purpose, you’ll have a good time. If you do find yourself bored, I wouldn’t recommend spending time on social media or going to a mall because you most likely do that while at home. Hopefully that answered your question?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As you’ve said, you meet lots of people. You also are forced to approach strangers & ask them for help. The combination of these things have really helped me overcome severe social anxiety. During planning & build up to the trip, you are doing all the planning & are responsible if something gets forgotten so it has taught me to be more disciplined when it comes to planning. Things also go wrong while traveling & when you’re alone, you are forced to learn how to make decisions quickly. You get to do what you want & when you want so you don’t feel obligated to endure something just because your travel partner wants to do it. You spend a lot of time alone so you have plenty of time for introspection. You learn who you are on a greater scale. That’s just off the top of my head, hopefully that answers your question?

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad it made you laugh, hopefully that’s what my blog will do. Either I’m really unlucky or clumsy, but these types of things happen far too often when I travel. Thank you for reading & your compliments!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh wow! What a disaster of a day! I’m sure you look back on it now and laugh. I recently got our car and caravan stuck in mud in a national park and spent more than three hours digging myself out in the middle of the night by myself (I was very panicked at the time), but at least like your day it makes for a fun story to tell (because no-one would care as much for a story about seeing the displays in a museum). Awesome read mate!

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  5. Such a shame you missed out on the planes….one of my favourite things to do as well! Great post though and definitely a reminder that things don’t always go as smoothly as you plan….

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  6. I love how you were able to describe your experience, avoiding the “sugarcoating” that a lot of people include. Travelling (with people or solo) can be glamourous but realistically it’s difficult as well! In the end, it’s so worth it! Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment. I find a lot of people are scared of offending people from a certain city or country & in turn, will avoid saying anything in a negative light. I also think that social media has made travel seem a lot more glamorous than it actually is & people get a shock when it is anything less.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Haha fantastic! I also love travelling solo and my first experience was in Poland 😀 I definitely agree re checking the weather forecast beforehand but I normally tend to try figuring it out as I go along when I’m already there.. it gives me more of a challenge. Mind you, it took me 3 hours to find the bus back to my accommodation the first time around 🙂 Thanks for taking me on this journey with you and I hope you get to taste that tea one day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! Out of curiosity, what made you decide on Poland as your first solo travel experience? I’d love to visit some time.

      I’m sure you will always remember those 3 hours to find the bus & that’s one of the things I love the most about travel – even when things go wrong, you still make the best memories.


      1. Yes, definitely 😀 I had decided on Poland as a half day conference which interested me on Attachment and Personality Disorders was happening there and took the opportunity to visit a small fraction of the country while I was there – Warsaw and Krakow mainly. I plan to go again in the next few years, this time toward the more mountainous areas 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi from a new reader! I like the way you wrote this post, it’s simple, funny, and interesting to follow 🙂 looking forward to read more from you! Oh, and thanks for stopping by at my blog 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow you really changed my opinion to go anywhere without a direction or not caring about anything but hey it’s a experience that you couldn’t forget right so may be I should go to get experience but after checking weather forcasting

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You should have just found another foreigner and ask them to help you. Specially near pudong. I lived in songjiang before and there was still foreigners there. There’s a website I forgot the name where foreigner can talk there. As always being super cautious …

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ha when travelling in China, there is never a dull moment. Never been to Shanghai but have visited a few places in Guangxi and Yunnan province. Not knowing the language makes everything that much more challenging. Reading this, I understood your struggle haha. you made it though!
    btw, i like the pic of the mobike 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Damn… It really wasn’t your day. I can’t imagine how confusing the metro in Shanghai must have been! Even just the roads are quite something as I recall. I love how you told the story, you are a very talented storyteller!


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