On my way to the Philippines I had an eleven hour layover in Shanghai. This would be my first international excursion all by myself, I did not have a single contact in Shanghai. I decided I would hop on the subway and visit a museum.
Lucky for me, the Shanghai Natural History Museum is almost a straight shot on Line 2 from the Hongqiao International Airport. Not only that, the subway is connected to the airport. You simply take the elevator down to the basement level. There are convenient signs to lead you there. I’m a small town girl without much subway experience, but I found the Shanghai subway system very easy to understand and use. The maps are easy to locate and read and you can buy your subway tickets one at a time for your set destination.
Once I reached the Shanghai Natural History Museum, beautiful from the outside, I talked with the museum security guards in limited Mandarin, they told me the museum was closed for the day. I fussed and they told me to come back tomorrow. I realized later, it was a Monday. But, I was surprised at how flirtatious they both were, one security guard asked for my phone number! I always thought of Chinese men as being shy. Bummed out, I walked away from the museum into the connecting park, Jing’an Sculpture Park. It’s a pleasantly manicured large walking park with interesting sculptures made from different materials. My favorite was the giant fox made of some sort of wood and the traditionally dressed figures carved roughly from stone.
I left Jing’an Park to search for food. As I walked down the street I started to feel light, as I often do spending the day to myself, I started to float like a bubble. Traveling by yourself can be so amusing. Every new image seems to click in your mind like a camera shot. Like the patch of bushes between the sidewalk and street that had been turned into a compost pile filled with noodles, cigarettes, lemons and a ham bone or the man on a motorbike strapped with seventy pounds of bubble wrap rolls or the women wearing a monochromatic fuzzy red outfit. I had stumbled into a market district with only fresh foods for sale, there were fish shops with three foot long fish fillets hanging from coat hangers, laundry baskets filled with Chinese cabbage and blue trash bags filled with white and red radishes. But, the only restaurants were dumpling stands.
I ate a pork dumpling as I walked back to the Jing’an Sculpture Park to find a place to sit. Instead I started taking pictures of the cats. There were so many cats! A security guard started talking to me about the cats, but I didn’t understand what he was saying. He wanted to show me more of the cats in the park. So, I followed him. He showed me all the places the cats like to hangout most, where they eat, and where they sleep. It was delightful to see the cats and that he wanted to show me them. I know that if I had not been traveling alone my day would have turned out different. And sometimes it is nice to stumble around alone.