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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Nanjing & Shanghai | Lantern Festival

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Now it's time for Holidays

After getting the police certificate we needed for my immigration paperwork we continued on with the holiday portion of our trip. We spent a day in Beijing, flew down to Nanjing for about $80/ticket for one day (cheaper than flying straight to Shanghai), and then took the 1.5 hour train into Shanghai to spend the remaining portion of our trip there.


The day we returned to Beijing from Shijiazhuang, it was the last day of the Chinese New Year period - The Lantern Festival. While living in China, we had spent quite a bit of time in Beijing, so on our return visit we just walked around and revisited some of the areas we had previously, like the old villages of the Hutong, and caught up with a friend for dinner.

On the last day of the New Year period, it is tradition for people to light off fireworks in front of their homes or businesses to scare away any of the evil spirits for the next year and bring good luck. If we didn't have an idea of what was going on, we would have honestly thought we were in the middle of an active war zone. The fireworks were constantly going off from before we woke up in Shijiazhaung, until after we went to bed in Beijing. During the day it was difficult to tell if the gray skies were from the pollution or the smoke from all the fireworks. As we were trying to get to our hotel in Beijing, we actually got caught in an alley between two separate families shooting off their fireworks. I was afraid one was going to hit me!


When we arrived in the historic city of Nanjing, we discovered the International Lantern Festival was being hosted there. There were several beautiful and unique lantern displays located throughout the city.

It was fun to see the artistic candy and kids just enjoying cotton candy at the festival as well.

We also visited several historic sites like the Chiao Gong Temple and the Zhonghua Gate, which were parts of the ancient city during the Qing Dynasty.

Chiao Gong Temple

Zhonghua Gate


Alex was able to contact one of his former flight students, Jerry - as that was his job in China, which is where we met. We went to dinner (featuring Shanghai dishes) our first night there and the following day he drove us to Zhujiajaozhen, a little town that has many canals located in the older section. There are a few of these towns around Shanghai -- they are a Chinese version of Venice, Italy.

It was also great to have Jerry along, as he could order some great Chinese food that we didn't know the name for, as well as helped introduce us to even more new Chinese food & local features.

He also took us shopping at Yu Yuan Market and we explored the Yu Gardens. Because it was just after the Chinese New Year, the Market and Garden were full of decorations and ornaments to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

One night Jerry also took us to a delicious Hot Pot restaurant. Hot pot is one of my favorite Chinese meals. You either have a central pot or individual ones (like we did) and then you get a variety of fresh vegetables and uncooked meats. The pot is so hot that when you drop in each meat or vegetable piece it cooks it for you. After waiting a few minutes, it's bon appetite!

In Shanghai, we also checked out the Bund, which is the classic skyline, and went to the China Expo Building from the 2010 Shanghai Exposition.

China Expo Building

Perspective on Costs in China

Spending time with Jerry gave us a whole new perspective about the costs in China. When we lived in Shijiazhaung, it was relatively cheap for most things like food and clothes. However, Jerry shared with us that living in Shanghai is pretty expensive, especially if you have a higher standard of living. After talking more with him we discovered the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is large in China, and especially within the city of Shanghai.

  • On average, the cost of a place in Shanghai would be 20,000 RMB/sq. meter. The average sized place in Shanghai is around 150 sq. meters (but can range from 60-190 sq. meters), so in U.S. dollars it would be a total cost of $461,538 or $286/sq. foot.

  • If you lived in downtown Shanghai (the expensive area), the cost could be 70,000-80,000 RMB per square meter. At 150 sq. meters it would make the total cost of a place 11,250,000 Million RMB. In U.S. dollars, that would be $1.73 million for 1,614 sq. feet. Many analysts are saying that Shanghai could be the next real estate bubble.

  • To purchase a house, which is more like a North American apartment in size, most Chinese people are required to provide a 20-30% down-payment on it, and for second homes a down payment of 50%. But within the last month the government changed it to 60% in order to try to prevent the 'bubble' from popping.

  • More and more people are buying cars, but for imports it tends to be priced more than the same imported vehicle in North America. Chinese vehicles are a little cheaper, but still expensive. However, to insure their car they have to pay about $1000+ USD per year for insurance and about $6,000 USD to license a vehicle in Shanghai. In other Chinese cities it only cost about $300 USD to license.

  • Although there is health insurance available for everyone, Jerry told us there are basically three different levels of medical care. The basic level is what everyone gets, but it is poor medical care or the cheapest medicines. The supplementary insurance provided by an employer is the second level, but it still doesn't give you the best medicine. The third level provides the best medications and care, but it comes at a cost as one has to pay additional for it (beyond any health insurance premiums through your employer). This may become more of an issue as diseases like cancer become more prevalent. Traditionally, China has had much lower cancer rates than U.S. or Canada, but with them adopting more western lifestyles and obesity becoming an issue, China's cancer rate has increased 80% in 30 years (a 37% increase in 10 years for breast cancer alone).


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