I don’t know what I was expecting. We got so many warnings about not using the tap water in the hotel (even to brush your teeth), and had to get so many shots before going to China. I envisioned a third world experience. Perhaps a hut without any running water at all.
But I was surprised by how well we lived at the Shanghai Marriott City Centre for the EMBA International Residency. It was way better than home. Here are a few things I did that I would definitely do again:
1. Brought effervescent vitamin tablets to stave off any infection, mostly from the long flight. I made a point to drop one in a bottle of water to drink every morning, which was another good way to stay hydrated. I did not get sick while I was there. The hotel provides plenty of complimentary bottled water.
2. Had a good camera phone.
3. Brought a variety of weights of clothes and layers. It was much colder there than we expected, and a few people froze their toes waiting on train platforms and the like. We had rain, also. I had a water resistant coat I was grateful to have.
4. Found a Watson’s in the mall attached to the hotel for forgotten toiletry items and Chinese candy to bring home for the kids.
5. Kept myself caffeinated. You can get Starbuck’s around the corner from the hotel, but there is also a coffee shop in the hotel. Both are pricey, so it depends on your coffee needs. The hotel coffee shop Tall latte was 35 RMB ( $5.64 today), though–slightly more expensive than the Starbucks (31 RMB for a Grande, $5.00 today). The coffee served at the daily complimentary breakfast (which was amazing in its variety), was too weak for my taste. There is also a cappuccino maker at guests’ disposal in the breakfast area, but I never had the patience to try it.
6. Found inexpensive, delicious food in walking distance of the hotel:
Yang’s Fry Dumplings, essentially Chinese fast food, was very popular with our class. Very inexpensive and delicious. It’s an easy walk from the hotel. Check the Google map linked above, but do that before you go! The concierge can help as well.
Simply Thai was also really good. Dinner with a drink cost less than a single cocktail in the hotel bar, and another easy walk from the hotel.
7. Invested in a pocket guide to Shanghai. I got Frommer’s Pocket Shanghai Day by Day because I was interested in walking tours (I got it used because it’s out of print), but any pocket guide with an inserted map should work. I know this is pretty old school, but it came in handy when we all needed to look at a map as a group, or when I didn’t have internet access (which was often). It also helped me plan the outings I did take on my own, and help me get oriented in the city.
8. Worked out almost daily. If you like to work out, it helps with the jet lag to keep up the routine and the fitness center in the hotel is fantastic. There is also a pool–bring a suit if you like to swim. Good for jet lag as well.
I have a few “don’t”s as well:
1. Don’t run out of effervescent vitamins a day before it’s time to go home. And don’t leave the disinfectant wipes at home. I got sick as soon as I got home.
2. Don’t forget to learn about your new camera phone and how much capacity it has for video and photos before you go. I filled up my cloud storage by about day 6 and wasn’t sure how to remedy that.
3. Don’t exchange money in the US airport before you board your flight to China. I got a really bad exchange rate, and there’s an easy to use cash machine that accepts US debit cards in the hotel lobby.
4. Don’t wait until the last day to explore the city in your free time. I wanted to take various walking tours, visit a museum or two, and see a few other things and time ran out. On my last day I noticed the former site of the Shanghai Race Club in People’s Park. Would have loved to go inside, but it was time to go. I think a bus tour would have been fun, too.
5. Don’t skip ordering something custom made at the fabric market. Make a plan in advance. It doesn’t have to be a suit. People in our class got dresses and camelhair coats. I was overwhelmed by the choices and self-consciousness and didn’t choose anything. I left knowing what I should have ordered.
6. Don’t skimp on shopping. Think about who you would like to buy gifts for in advance. The shopping is amazing in Shanghai, and you can get many things inexpensively. I would go back for one or two items that I forgot to get, or didn’t know to get. And I’d buy a dozen silk scarves…for anyone I need a gift for in the next 5 years. I did not do this…
7. Don’t stay in all the time. Try to eat and drink outside the hotel (my two outings above were way too few, but both were great, so that’s heartening). Most people in my class went out all the time, and I stayed in. You should have plenty of opportunities to go with others. It was tempting for me to stay in, since the hotel was a known quantity and I tend not to be adventurous with dining, but it was much more expensive than other very nice restaurants in the area.
8. Don’t expect to use Google and Facebook. Warn everyone who might want to communicate with you while you are in China that you won’t have access to them (including gmail).
Some people in my class had access to these tools, but I didn’t. I had people trying to reach me via these tools and they couldn’t.