Shanghai's Iconic Sights DIY Walking Tour - Adventure Year Week 18

posted on: October 15, 2019

On the surface, Shanghai is a massive and overwhelming city, but it's also very tourist friendly due to the great public transportation and walking paths.  I personally love tours that make it possible to get a lot of great places on foot, because that also makes it possible to encounter so many more local and cultural surprises than if you're rolling by in a big tour bus or taxi.  Now that I've been living in Shanghai long enough to have a few visitors to take around the city, I've developed a walking route that allows me to show visitors the best of the city all in one day.  So, if you're only going to have one day to explore the top sights of Shanghai, read on for a full DIY itinerary that will help you reach all of the major highlights and icons of the city.

Android Users: If you're going to do this tour with Google Maps, you need to load Shanghai as an offline map BEFORE arriving to China, since Google Map use in China is limited on VPN or simply unavailable.  I recommend marking each stop as a favorite.
Apple Users: You're in luck. Apple Maps offers accuracy and connectivity without VPN access while you're in China, but since Google Maps is what I can easily embed here, and allows you to dive into Street Views of each area online, that's what I'm going to include in this post.  Mark the locations based on name and address while in China.

Here's the Overview of This Day Trip:
  1. Yu Garden
  2. City of God
  3. Shanghai Old Street
  4. Char Bar Views 
  5. Public Ferry to Pudong
  6. Skyscraper Tour
  7. Skywalk to Pearl Tower
  8. Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
  9. City Lights on Bund
  10. Dinner & Drinks on Bund

9am Yu Garden
(40rmb for adults)
The most detailed historic architecture in Shanghai is hidden a beautiful garden setting.  The garden environment is serene with the movement of water, stillness of the ancient rocks, and wind moving between the leaves of the trees.  Each pavilion in the garden represents a different purpose and use, and the signs are conveniently bi-lingual for English readers.  In some ways, it's like stepping back in time to when dynasties ran entire compounds for enjoyment, entertainment, and contemplating larger issues of life.  What I especially love looking for here are the unique details carved into to every doorway, every window, and every rooftop.  Keep your eye out for the large dragon that stretches along the top of the garden wall.

10:30am City of God 
(free to wander, snacks and gifts available with cash)
In order to get to Yu Garden, you already walked through a good part of the City of God, which surrounds Yu Garden but at an early hour the shops may not have fully opened yet.  City of God is a good place to get lost in the shops and try iconic Shanghai street foods like moon cakes, massive soup dumplings, candied strawberries on sticks, and tea blends.  You can find all of the iconic gifts and souvenirs of Shanghai here, as well as many of the favorite street snacks, teas, foods, and even some modern convenience brands like Starbucks.  For a real taste of Chinese food offerings, step into the large buffet food hall and wander through the line to pick up a few things to try at tables in the cafeteria.

12:00pm Shanghai Old Street
(free to walk around)
One of the few remaining districts with low rise housing and retail built in early 1900s style.  You'll find lots of cheaply made trinkets and items similar to what you found inside the City of God, but the architecture here is more like what the city used to look like before skyscrapers moved in.

12:30pm Char Bar Outdoor Views at Hotel Indigo
(a bottle of sparking water starts at 70rmb, but the views and a chance to rest are worth it)
As you walk toward the river, keep your eye out for Hotel Indigo and/or Char Bar.  If you search for the name of the hotel on Google Maps, you may end up in the wrong place.  The address and map posted above is the correct location.  Take the interior elevator up to the Char Bar level of Hotel Indigo.  There are indoor seats that overlook the river views, as well as two outdoor rooftop views that provide one of the best views of both sides of the river.  In the river, you'll see the various ferries that go back and forth across the river, the freight boats, and the tour boats.  This is a good spot to make sure the ferries are running, otherwise you'll need to ask the hotel concierge for a taxi to get across the river from here.  This is also a great place to look at the skyscrapers across the river and see where the clouds are.  If the clouds are too low and you can't see the top of the skyscrapers, then you'll know it won't be worth getting tickets into the observatories for the tallest skyscrapers, but there are still other options available that I'll share later.  Char Bar is also a good place to recharge your phone batteries if needed, since there are outlets along a few of the seating areas.

1:30pm Ferry or Taxi to Pudong Side
(ferry is about 3rmb, taxi is about 30rmb)
If you're ready for more walking, head to the public ferry dock to grab a ferry across the river (there are many tourist river cruises that dock here, but keep walking until you find the public ferry dock which has its own ferry icon).
If your feet need a rest, ask the hotel concierge for a taxi to the Jin Mao Tower in Pudong.  The driveway of the Jin Mao Tower is where you can look up at the three giant skyscrapers of Shanghai all in one city block, check out the wait times for each observatory, and decide if you'd like to go up into one of them if the weather is clear enough.

2:00pm Skyscraper Square
The goal here is to pick just one Skyscraper based on the weather and your preferences, since the views can be similar from all of them.  Here are the questions worth asking yourself at this point:
  1. Is the cloud layer high enough, and the air clear enough, that it will be worth going to one of the top observatory decks?  If the answer is yes, go to question number 2.  If the answer is no, skip the other questions and check out the Jin Mao Tower.
  2. Are you willing to spend the next 1-2 hours waiting in lines and crowds for the views?  If yes, go to question number 3.  If no, skip the last question and check out the Jin Mao Tower.
  3. Would you be disappointed if you didn't go in the tallest tower in Shanghai?  If yes, head to the Shanghai Tower to begin your wait for the Observatory level.  If no, check out the other options.
Shanghai Tower - Tallest Building in China
(bookstore level available without admission ticket, admission fee for observatory levels)
If the clouds are high enough and the sky isn't too hazy, this is a bucket list item for many people.  The views are unobstructed on all sides and offer plenty of time to take it all in.
52nd Floor Bookstore
100th Floor Observatory

World Financial Center - Second Tallest Building in China
(mall floors are accessible without observatory ticket, admission fee for observatory levels)
If the sky is clear, but the wait time for the Shanghai Tower is too long due to large tour groups, you may also consider checking out the availability at this tower, which also offers a shopping mall and glass sky walk.

Jin Mao Tower - A Fast Alternative on Cloudy/Hazy Days
(free visit to the hotel lobby, restaurant prices posted inside)
When the clouds obstruct the tallest towers, this tower provides an option for mid-height views of the city and the surrounding towers.  Find the entrance labeled Grand Hyatt, which is different than the observatory entrance.  Take the elevator to various levels of the hotel and wander around to check out the views.
53rd Floor Grand Hyatt Lobby
54th Floor Restaurants

4:00pm Skywalk to Pearl Tower
(free to walk on, cafes are available if you need refreshment)
This Skywalk shortens the time it takes to get to the Pearl Tower by providing a pedestrian passage free from intersection traffic and traffic lights.  From the Skyscrapers, you'll head up to the walk on the way to the IFC Mall.  If you miss the walk before the IFC Mall, you can access the Skywalk from inside the mall as well, since the Skywalk enters and leaves the mall as it takes a turn toward the Pearl Tower.  The views along the Skywalk provide a great look at the inside of the city and great selfie opportunities with the major buildings of Pudong.

4:30pm Oriental Pearl Tower
(admission fee, restaurants, cafes, and shops available)
This is Shanghai's most distinctive building, even if it isn't the tallest.  Whether or not you got a good weather day with the largest skyscrapers, the Pearl Tower is another great chance to get a closer view of the city highlights along the Bund at a lower elevations that makes it easier to see everything in closer view.  The wait times to get up to the main observatory are posted at the ticket office.  Double that amount of time if you'd like to also visit the Space Capsule, since the elevator is smaller and allows fewer people to go up to the top.  This is actually an ideal tower to go up in before sunset because you get a 360ยบ view of the city and the night lights that light up along the Bund and on the skyscrapers behind.  There's a large plaza outside the building, a restaurant and shops inside the building, two main observation decks, the space capsule deck, and a couple more entertainment options inside the tower.  If you're short on time, just visit the two main observation decks.

7:00pm Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
People consider this to be either the coolest passenger tunnel from one side of the river to the other, or a really cheesy amusement ride.  Either way, it's definitely a unique Shanghai experience, and the most convenient way to get from one side of the river to the other without getting back into a taxi and dealing with evening traffic.  You may see brown signs for the Sightseeing Tunnel to help you navigate to the entrance.  The ticket booth is underground with escalators for access, and while it may seem enticing to buy a ticket for all of the amusements, it's a bit late in the day for anything more than the tunnel ride.

7:30pm Shanghai People's Heros Monument Park
(free public access)
Once the city is lit up at night, this is the perfect place along the river to take it all in and look back at the light shows on and around the skyscraper buildings that aren't possible to see when you're inside the skyscrapers.  You get a great view along all sides of the river and you get to see all the river cruise boats lit up as they float up and down the river.  This is a lovely place for night photography of the city and to decide where you'd like to go next from here.

8:00pm Best Hotel Restaurants and Bars Nearby
(click the links to explore reviews and contact info)
After a very full day of walking, you could just call it a night and head back to your place to crash.  You could find some street foods and cafes around the Bund and neighborhood.  Or you could find yourself in a nice hotel restaurant or terrace bar with views overlooking the area you spent your day discovering on foot.  I'm a fan of the latter, so here are some of the best places nearby with restaurants and bars to help you unwind.  Click on the links to explore reviews.  Advance reservations are highly recommended.

VUE Restaurant - Hyatt on the Bund

Sir Elly's Restaurant & Terrace - The Peninsula Hotel

The Cathay Room & Terrace - Fairmont Peace Hotel

Expat Isolation & Connection in China - Adventure Year Week 17

posted on: October 8, 2019

Choosing to live as an expat means you are likely living out one of these purposes at any given time:
1. Doing work that allows/requires you to be in a foreign place
2. Exploring the city, country, and culture you are residing in
3. Learning things that you may not learn anywhere else
4. Sharing unique talents, skills, or perspective from your foreign upbringing

What is often least discussed about expat life with people who haven't experienced it before are the personal challenges that need to be faced and overcome in the process of living in a foreign culture.  Below is a glimpse into some of my personal challenges, and how I work through them...

Last week, when China celebrated its National week-long holiday as the the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic, many locals and expats left for the holiday break.  I chose to stay in Shanghai.  I thought it would be a good time to dig in and focus on some work regarding the Pricing Workbook for Creatives.  Unfortunately, what I learned by staying was that China was interrupting VPN and internet access during the National holiday week.  Suddenly, what had been feeling like a very open and accepting country, reminded me that even with all of the modern resources available to us, there are still ideological or technological issues surrounding outside connections and worldwide access.

The result of this VPN interruption was that I started to have the isolated feeling of being alone in a place where I had limited local connections and not being able to reach out to people I cared about.  Text messages and emails were delayed or dropped.  Things weren't loading.  Connections were being missed.  The communication frustrations piled on until they became feelings of hopelessness.  I almost pulled the eject button and booked a flight to leave the country.

Thankfully, I have the mindfulness to recognize these feelings and to work through them.
Thankfully, I'm not a stranger to being alone and figuring out how to make the most of it.
Thankfully, I already knew some people locally that I felt comfortable reaching out to.

I was able to commiserate and distract myself from the connectivity issues by being with other expats who were experiencing the same challenges.  (See my previous post about how I met and connected with other Expats in China.)  We were able to gather and lift the weight of our frustrations by focusing on playing games that helped us turn our attention to something other than trying to make progress or connections in a time when we were feeling restricted.  The relief from the issues was temporary, but enough to help me get through the week.

When I had planned to release any desire to make progress on my workbook and shift my motivations to living out purpose number 2 and explore the city during the National Holiday, typhoon weather moved into Shanghai, dousing the city in horizontal rain and outdoor-furniture destroying winds.  With strained internet connection and no reason to leave the apartment, I once again turned my focus inward to figure out purpose number 3 in this moment of isolation that I likely wouldn't be experiencing anywhere else.

I gave myself perspective by remembering that my great aunt was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp while living here and serving as a religious missionary in Shanghai, and that thankfully, I was not in that situation.  I was reminded that in many ways, it was her interment and isolation that actually saved her from other situations that would have been more dangerous or unpleasant at the time.  It was her ability to work through the isolation that allowed her to stay safe and eventually get back home to tell the tale.

I reminded myself of all the reasons I was choosing to stay here, beyond the work I thought I'd be able to focus on and the progress I wanted to make.  I reminded myself that I could also choose to leave and not stay.  I was not stuck.  I was not imprisoned.  I have free-will to leave as I'd like.  I'm just a visitor and don't have any working obligations to be here.

I decided that I am choosing to stay for family.  I am choosing to stay in order to learn things I can't learn otherwise, even if they first seem unpleasant.  I am choosing to stay in order to figure out how to work through the challenges that come with navigating these issues.  I am choosing to stay in order to explore places that are easier to reach from this side of the world.  I am choosing to stay in order to share these experiences and wisdom I've gained.

I think that often, when we find ourselves feeling stuck, we need to remember that each day is a choice.  Each day we are choosing to continue doing whatever it is that we are doing.  If we are not mindful enough to remember how much choice we have in any given moment, we will lose the very balance and personal power that helps us overcome our challenges.

Self-Promoting a Self-Published Book

posted on: October 2, 2019

I published the the Pricing Workbook for Creatives in May of this year.  It's currently October.  I've already shared everything I did and didn't do as I prepared to launch the book.  Now that it's 5 months after publication, where am I with regard to getting this book out into the hands of people who it will help?

Books Sold in the First Five Months: 50

I wish I was further along.  It's a good thing I have zero ego and expectation around how many books I've sold so that I can just share this openly and honestly.  I'm not comparing against anyone else, just looking at where I am compared to where I want to be.  I didn't find anyone else who shared their self-published early sales numbers or details of their early efforts, so I'm sharing mine as a slice of reality pie.

I'd say 90% of these book purchases are people I know personally, or people who have known me through social media for a few years.  50% of these were sold in the first month, largely due to my launch efforts.  I'm grateful for each person who has taken this work seriously and is digging into doing the work.  I know this workbook helps people build and run better creative businesses.  The formulas work, but only when people do them, and making time to do the work is often the hardest part.  The same is true for doing the work of promoting the book.

The books I've given away for review or as gifts are less likely to be put to good use than the books that people have bought for themselves.  That's just reality and the fact that people tend to value the things they pay for more than the things they are given.  I would love to host more workshops where I can help facilitate the process in a space dedicated to doing the work, but how and where that can happen still represents a series of unknowns.

I know I can help someone get through the first worksheet in an hour or two even if they have never looked at those numbers before.  The second worksheet is dependent on the industry and recognizing what goes into someone's creative work, so the time is more organizational/thinking time for the creative.  The third worksheet often requires some research time if someone hasn't run a business before, but can usually be accomplished in a few hours.  In my dream scenario, I would love to gather people for a week-long retreat, where they spend a couple hours doing the work together each day, and then the rest of the day focusing on creative experiments and talking to each other about the challenges and solutions that come up as they do the work.

I'm basically hand-selling every individual copy of the book right now.

When I look at where things are, I also see that I haven't invested a ton of energy in book promotion.  I've been traveling a lot.  I've been experiencing places, people, and learning new things, but I haven't been investing time in the efforts needed to get this book out to people who can benefit the most from the work.  I knew it would require a lot of individual effort in the beginning, much like many creative endeavors have required.  However, I also thought Amazon listing would be able to help just a little more than they really do. Granted, I also have not invested anything into advertising at this point, which is still an option that I will likely run a test on in the future.  I also know that we're approaching the busiest season of the year for nearly all creatives, and that there will be more time for creatives to look at their business when winter rolls around and they can work on business goals rather than just focusing on business tasks.

Received First Five Star and First One Star Review

Thankfully the first review was the five star review from someone who beta-tested the book and I respect highly as an artist and an educator.  That review was amazing to read because it outlined exactly what many of my consulting clients experienced as well when they went through the process.  I'm so glad that was the first review I got to read because it really highlighted what's possible for people who do the work.

When the second review appeared as a one star review, I was able to take it in gracefully.  I don't know if it's the amount of self-development work I've done, but it actually didn't bother me to get a 1 star review.  It bothered me that the person may have reviewed the book without actually working through the worksheets, but their review actually confirmed some of what I think makes the workbook helpful and valuable...
"It's 7th grade level math."
Yes- it was designed to be so easy that young entrepreneurs could make use of it with basic math!
 "It's more like a workbook.. there's nothing in it.."
Yes- the value is in the process of filling out the worksheets and formulas with personalized info!
So, I responded to this review with validations that yes, this is all part of the design of the book.  The reviewer also complained about price, so I also provided the reviewer with a link to the 10 years and hundreds of FREE pricing and business articles I've shared publicly on PhotoLovecat, and encouraged them to gift the book to a young and budding entrepreneur who will make use of it.

When I look at the price of this book, I see all the other ways that this information can be earned or gained.  It is way less expensive than the $350,000 or more of trial and error you might spend to figure it out in your own business.  It's a lot less than a college business course that might cost $3,500.  It's still cheaper than a short consulting session that might be $350.  Yet, all that value and experience that I have invested is packed into a $35 book.  What's expensive is not the book, but all of the experience that went into making a creative business building process into a book easy enough for a 7th grader to figure out.  I get it though, unless you actually go through the process, it just looks like some simple forms.  Filling the forms out is where everyone confronts the challenges.

Into every creator's life, there are bound to be negative reviews of our work.  It comes with the territory of putting ourselves and our work out into the world.  I'm so much better about taking in negative feedback now than when I started my creative journey professionally.  Oh man, in the beginning, negative feedback was devastation.  Now I'm able to read it, decipher if there are any gems of wisdom that I can really learn from, or if it's just a bunch of negativity directed at a review box.  I'm much less emotionally charged and much more neutral about other people's opinions than I used to be regarding my creative work.  I think I have confidence about this book regardless of reviews because of how much trial and error I was able to put into the work before I put it into book format.  I know it works, but it still requires people to put in their own work to get there, which is emphasized at the beginning of the book.

The Mistake I Made with Early-Bird Sales

Getting a negative review also highlighted one of the mistakes I made with early-bird sales.  I didn't encourage people to pre-order the book on Amazon because I couldn't offer a special price to some people but not others.  I probably could have offered a discounted price for the first week and then raised the price on Amazon, but there were so many things to figure out for the first time in that period that I didn't fully understand how that might impact me later and I didn't have time to do more research about the consequences.

The downside of having people get the book directly through me at an early-bird discount rather than ordering on Amazon was that my early supporters did not get their book purchases listed as verified purchases on Amazon.  (Another downside may also be all the individual hand-labor that went into shipping the book directly, but I loved being able to write personal thank you notes to each person.)  With only two reviews of the book - one being from a book beta-tester who didn't show up as a verified purchase because they had access to the book before it was released and one from a verified purchase - I noticed that Amazon gave greater weight to the verified purchase review.  In the star category, it listed the verified purchase 1 star review at 51% and the 5 star review from the beta-tester at 49%.  So there is a mathematical weight given to verified reviews in how stars appear on the site and which reviews show up at the top of the review section, regardless of how "Helpful" someone's review has been voted.

Asking for Reviews

Once I saw how Amazon was giving weight to this 1 star review, I realized I needed to circle back with a few more people who I knew had worked through the book to ask if they can provide a review to help others who are considering the workbook.  Now, this is one benefit to beta-testing the book and hand-selling that first batch of books- because I actually KNOW who received copies of the book because I placed those orders personally.  Even if Amazon doesn't give those book owners and book reviews greater weight, they can still share their thoughts and what they gained from the book for other readers to consider.

So, if you're able to collect emails of people who are placing pre-orders, than you can have the best of both worlds when it comes to verified reviews and being able to follow-up with people.  At this point, there are 3 reviews out of 50 books sold, and two of those people beta-tested the book before it was released, so they don't show up as verified reviews, unfortunately.  I have a few more ideas about how to work on this, but I'm also open to more ideas.

Finding Promotional Opportunities

Many of the promotional opportunities I've had so far to share the book have come from me reaching out directly to people who are cultivating an audience that I think will benefit from the book.  There have been a couple invitations that came to me before I reached out to them, but they were usually connected to me reaching out to someone else to help them out by sharing the work I've done.  Obviously, if you aren't up for self-promotion, it could be even more challenging to get your work into the right hands.

One of the speed bumps I've run into is living on the opposite side of the world, away from most of the market where the book can be easily purchased and distributed.  I can submit blog posts, or books for review, but things like lining up times for calls or interviews for videos or podcasts presents some challenges when meetings need to happen at the fringes of the day in those couple hours where people 12 time zones apart are both awake.  I could target the Australian and Asian market, which are closer in time zones, but there are other distribution challenges that need to be resolved before that makes sense.

Then there are the internet connectivity issues that come with being in China.  This week has been loaded with them due to the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China, aka National Day, aka Golden Week.  VPN Access to social media sites and Google have either been blocked or very slow to load, such that working online has been frustrating at best and hasn't yielded much productivity.  To maintain my sanity rather than banging my head against a wall, I decided to give up doing too much research or communication until after the holiday is over.  This was supposed to be the perfect week to focus while I'm in Shanghai alone, but it has actually yielded the least productivity in the areas I was hoping to make progress due to internet issues.  These are the realities of attempting to be productive while traveling.


The website that I'd hoped was going to be ready by now, is not finished.  If I were to do this over again and link a website to a book, I think I would choose to just utilize a basic template that requires no design decisions or custom branding  in order to have a fast website.  Instead I chose to hire a custom designer for a larger overhaul of a site that will serve multiple purposes, and I knew the process would take long, but it has taken even longer than I'd hoped due to the communication challenges of needing to work asynchronously online on opposite time zones.

Without a website, there are certain larger publicity outlets that I hesitate to reach out to because I know they want to see some evidence of my "street cred" beyond my LinkedIn experiences, Instagram adventures, and Facebook pages.  This is where being in limbo with a custom site I'm not in full control of starts to feel like just one more challenge to overcome rather than one more support system to draw upon.

Picking Myself Up When I Feel Defeated

I have a few friends who are rooting for me and for the success of the book, and for them I am so grateful.  They breathe wind into my sails when I just want to drown in the weight of what needs to be done.  It is so easy to feel defeated and want to give up.  Atrophy is so much easier than climbing the uphill battles.  Most days I'm the one who has to push my own frustrated self, kicking and screaming internally in protest, up the figurative hill.  I know that I just have to keep moving forward, in spite of all the obstacles.

Part of me wants to say screw it all and focus on something easier and more fun... which is admittedly what I get to do while while traveling... but I also know that's not going to help as many people as continuing to work through the challenges of getting this work to people who will benefit from it.  I think this also speaks to why you must be passionate about the work you create- because the challenges are only worth overcoming when you love what you do or you deeply believe your work will create a positive impact in the world.

Small Wins

I'm good at taking stock of my mistakes and losses, it's how I acknowledge what needs to be better.  However, I also think it's important to celebrate any wins that help move things in the right direction, no matter how small.  So, here are the promotional invitations that have panned out and been shared since I published the book.  Both were recorded while I was on a great internet connection in NYC.  I actually had more interviews scheduled, but a couple people cancelled, and one that was recorded has not been released yet:
How to be an Artist Creator Profile
Tiffinbox YouTube Interview of Pricing Workbook for Creatives
This one was also recorded and shared with a limited audience before the book was released:
Pricing Strategies for Creatives with Libby Co.

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