Pool table at the Mingtown in Shanghai © 2010 David Richler. All rights reserved.

Doing Nothing in Shanghai

Traveler’s confession.

We start out with the best of intentions. We want to see all the major sights, explore interesting neighbourhoods, visit museums and try to learn something about the culture, or simply do what the locals do – as they say.

But sometimes it is best to just do nothing.
Today was one of those days.

Ge and I have spent the past day and a half trying to recuperate from a cold and sore throat caused by the inhuman snores of a germ-infested Japanese backpacker, followed by a day at the the insanely crowded Shanghai expo, and a misguided jaunt in the pouring rain through People’s Square. Needless to say we really just felt like doing absolutely nothing today.

But really, this is what we do. Backpackers I mean. Well, at leaset the long-term variety. And there is nothing wrong with that. When you are on as long of a trip as we are (more than half a year) things either tend to get monotonous after a while, or fatigue sets in. In either case, just relaxing at the guesthouse is just what the doctor ordered.

And the best guesthouses are often designed for us travelers to kick back and take it easy – and spend money on their food, beer, coffee or tea while we’re at it. There are also pool tables (see the photo above) and free wi-fi. This is something we didn’t have the last time we visited Asia in 2004. Now you can get free in just about every guesthouse in big cities like Seoul and Shanghai to small towns or villages in remote parts of countries like Thailand or Malaysia.

This easy access to the internet means many things, the least of which is that when you don’t feel like sightseeing or mingling with other backpackers you can hook into your laptop and connect in to something, someone, or somewhere else. In the photo above two travelers are sitting back to back, each in their own world, or watching one of the Jason Bourne films. I would be the last one, however, to criticize or demonize this convenience – it’s allowing me to produce this post, as well as research Shanghai neighbourhoods in much greater detail than Lonely Planet can offer, and book my train tickets to Beijing. But I also love the other qualities of a good guesthouse which are more about connecting with fellow travelers than disconnecting from our immediate surroundings.

Beyond meeting other tourists, though, a good guesthouse also makes for a great place to just curl up and read a book, which is exactly what we decided to do for most of the day.

*Update: We also did a load of laundry.

  • Leonierichler

    I am really enjoying your comments & observations. The pictures are great!

  • Virginie

    David, you are traveling with Carole ?! hahaha !
    Have a nice trip !