It may be unknown to many of you, but this is my third attempt at leaving Shanghai. With the repercussions of COVID epidemic management on the city, there is not much left to bring me back here.
I guess the third time’s a charm...
To describe what life has been like in Shanghai over the past seven years is a bit difficult, but I will make my best attempt to do so.
Daily life has felt like a surreal reality, in good and bad, and eventually, nothing surprises you. Hai will always have a special place in my heart, and as I depart, I would like to think of all the things that have kept me coming back to this city.
So here goes, in no particular order:
1. Walking, biking, and riding my scooter around the Former French Concession.
Also known as Xuhui District by locals, the Former French Concession is one of the preferred areas for expats to live and acts as a comfort bubble for many of us. It is the area that I have called home for the past five years and like many living here, I pine daily over the manicured tree-lined streets, relax at coffee shops and patisseries, hop around fun bars and restaurants, and seek out unsuspecting alleys that may surprise you with noteworthy designer shops.
2. The feeling of 'safety'.
Walking along the streets of Shanghai at 3:00 am and feeling totally safe is a part of the privilege of living here! It is something that I have consciously been grateful for every day. As a woman, I will always cherish this feeling. Maybe it is because of the use of CCTV and facial recognition everywhere, who knows, but it is 'safe' in these streets. I’ve used '' for obvious reasons
3. Meeting and forming friendships with incredible people from all over the globe.
Living in Shanghai makes it easy to be part of a diverse group of friends, especially because we obviously stick out and bond as foreigners here. Being in this close space of individuals of diverse backgrounds makes one more naturally accepting and open to cultures, values, and ideas that are different from yours.
4. Grocery shopping at Avocado Lady.
Avocado Lady obviously sells avocadoes and many sought-after imported foods needed to survive here. Her hole-in-the-wall shop has almost everything, and if one does not see it, one asks, and she will probably pull it out of a cramped corner. If she still does not have it, she will probably write down the brand and product, and soon it will be stocked on her shelves. Of course, there have been more options over the years at import groceries and small shops, but Avo Lady has been a pioneer in supplying our import food needs and will always have a place in our hearts!
5. Brunching, lunching, and dinner-ing at the countless amazing restaurants.
How can I describe the Shanghai food scene without getting too excited? We have incredible international and local cuisine, chefs, and restaurants, accompanied by impressive interior design and concepts. The food scene here is very dynamic, and there is always a new restaurant to visit- or one closing down.
6. Buying flowers from the bike cart vendors.
A simple pleasure that I would always cherish. My favorite part is bargaining for a lower price!
7. Getting anything done on short notice, like food deliveries, plant deliveries, and home renovations.
Shanghai is a fast city. Things get done quickly- oftentimes, they aren’t done well, but hey, you win some, you lose some. Almost anything can be delivered to your house and for cheap. One can also afford home services like massage and cleaning on demand and for a considerably affordable price.
8. Having an affordable Ayi.
An Ayi translated in Chinese is an aunty, and 'aunty' has different connotations. The cleaning lady or house helper, in this case. She can be hired by the hour, day, week, or month, it is flexible depending on your arrangement with Ayi. Ones Ayi can have different jobs, like cleaning, cooking, managing your home, and taking care of your kids and many households have more than one.
9. Discovering local clothing, jewelry, furniture, and lifestyle brands.
There are a plethora of the above mentioned and one can devote a weekend to this kind of shopping. Let’s just say that Shanghai is a hard place to save money!
10. Visiting grand art exhibits and museums.
Some of my favorites include The Power Station of Art, The Long Museum, The Pompidou, The Tank Museum, and TEAM Lab. The art scene is huge here and attending Shanghai Art Week has always been an event that I look forward to yearly.
11. Exploring The Bund.
Walking along The Bund, looking across the Huangpu River at the light show, and feeling a sense of gratitude for being here, alive, healthy, and loved. The West Bund has also been recently fully developed to be a noteworthy Shanghai destination and is decked with art galleries and museums, walking and biking paths, rock-climbing walls, and picnic spots.
12. Weekend getaways and hiking to nearby provinces.
We live a fast paced life in Shanghai and it is important for many of us to balance this with getaways to places of respite and relaxation. It may be to surround oneself with mountains , take a dip in a river or relax at a swimming pool. There are a plethora of these places in cities and towns nearby and one can get there by metro, fast train, bus or car.
13. Taking short flights and trips to other Asian countries.
This was once a thing, but since the COVID epidemic, it is a thing of the past. One of the main reasons living in Shanghai has been so 'easy' is because one would usually visit other countries in Asia cheaply and easily, as a much-needed escape. R.I.P to those days and that life.
14. Participating in fashion markets and pop-ups.
Some have been more interesting, fun, and successful than others, and I feel very blessed to have been a part of so many fashion and design markets in Shanghai. It was a fun way to connect and collaborate with many other creatives and entrepreneurs in the city. I am also proud that I successfully hosted solo BagLady Basics pop-ups too!
15. Shanghai Fashion.
Not Shanghai Fashion Week, but the actual street style of locals and foreigners alike. The best spot for checking out the street-style scene is on Anfu Lu, located in the French Concession. It is a small street that can easily be walked from one end to the other in minutes, but its popularity continues to grow. On any given day one would witness 15-20 photographers snapping the looks of the most fashionable, stylish, or unique individuals. Many of these images are posted on China’s most popular social media platform- Redbook. Check it out if you would like, it is packed with real style inspo!
There are also amazing shopping malls that carry the most exclusive brands and offerings. It is very normal to see lines of people outside of stores like Hermes, Rolex, and Chanel, pining for the most coveted luxury item.
16. Being able to express my style and be appreciated for it.
BagLady Basics has done its job in Shanghai. I created this brand because I wanted to have the ultimate freedom to wear the clothes of my literal dreams- garments that made me feel confident and empowered and styles that I wanted to share with others. I am beyond grateful for the support and feedback that I have received from women and men of various cultures and backgrounds here- my cheerleaders!
I do not know what the next chapter holds, but I would always hold on to the memories and people of this significant chapter now being closed. Goodbye Shanghai, you had my heart, and I hope you will be great again one day.
P.S Discover more of my life in Shanghai on my Instagram `"Highlights" @baglady_basics