My day job is being a tech-savvy digital marketer – I tend to think of it as the costume I wear to support my superhero lifestyle. Just call me Karla Kent. But every once in a while, my clever disguise gets to do something amazing.
Last week, I traveled to Shanghai, China with my client to meet with our local marketing teams. It was my first trip to Asia and, despite being incredibly excited, I had no time to do any research before getting on the plane. It would be long days of meetings and while I looked forward to savoring the cuisine and learning a few words (hello, please and thank you), I didn’t think there would be any free time to wander and explore. Thankfully, my client is no fool and knows me well; without mentioning it, he carved out time in our agenda and took me to Yu Garden, also known as the Garden of Happiness or the Garden of Peace.
We took the metro to get there and as it was a Chinese holiday, the streets were overwhelmed with people. It was more people than I’d ever seen in one place (outside of a music festival). To get to the Garden, we made our way through the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, curious alleyways of shops and street vendors who cried out to tourists without hesitation, displaying bags and trinkets as spicy aromas filled the air. I kept a firm clasp on my purse, smiling while politely saying ‘no’ and tried to keep my client’s head in sight, as it was impossible to stay at his side.
Finally we emerged into a semi-open area where a Starbucks sign was nestled, strikingly out of place, amidst a landscape of classic Chinese architecture. When we entered the Yu Garden, the crowds thinned out and I found myself grateful for the space to move my arms. I am just a little claustrophobic and hadn’t realized the amount of personal space I was accustomed to in the States.
We took our time through the Garden; pausing at every moment possible to take in the peacefulness and visual beauty. I was delighted by the combination of elements, the careful balance of water and stone; the little bridges and open buildings, artfully decorated and rich with centuries of history. I practiced with my new Canon DSLR and tried to imagine how it would have felt to live there.
Afterwards, we lost our way and couldn’t find the exit out, but I didn’t really mind. If you’re ever in Shanghai, I definitely recommend.
218号 安仁街 Huangpu, Shanghai, China