It’s 9.30pm on my 5th and final night in Shanghai.
Like a crazy woman on a mission, I ditched my cosy dorm room bed, ran out into the street and strode around the block to Jing’An Temple in my neon orange pyjama top, jeans and my freshly washed hair slapping against my face.
I looked insane.
Not even the warm hue of the Gucci neon signs or the ultra-chic locals, fresh from after-work drinks, could drown me out.
Because I’ve eaten too many dumplings and my brain is clouded with oodles of that oh so delicious baozi bread…?
Nope. I think I’ve fallen for Shanghai.
Since I waved an emosh-goodbye to the fam, hopped on a one-way flight to China and waded my way through the sea of people on the Beijing subway, alone, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alive.
Most people have asked me whether I’m nervous about any of it; travelling solo, eating by myself, not having someone to share my experiences with?
What they don’t realise is… people piss me right off.
I’ll quite happily spend a few days with other folk, until I catch sight of their annoying habits or loud eating – by which time I’ll make a speedy getaway and continue my journey, relieved and on me’ todd.
This trip, for me, isn’t a spur-of-the-moment escape. I’ve diligently saved money, horded travel books and watched ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on repeat until my eyes bleed, dreaming that one day, it might be me.
As it happens, right now is the perfect time for me to spread my wings and immerse myself in the places I have only ever seen through a cinema screen or read in blogs.
So whether I had someone to share this with or not, I was making damn sure I was doing it before I got married, knocked up and my beloved travel books were bound for a one-way destination; a dusty cupboard under the stairs.
Here’s my take on why going solo is one of the best decisions I have ever made…
The last time I visited the Great Wall (July 2013), the weather was not on my side.
*Flashback 2 years: We trekked up to the summit at Badaling in the choking heat. Choking in a literal sense because the smog was so bad I felt like I’d been smoking 30-a-day since the age of 12 and I could hardly see my hand in front of my face.
So there was no hope in hell to spot the miles of mountains and the “wonder” of the largest man-made structure in the world, which took blood, sweat and thousands of lives to build, snaking into the distance.
It was a nightmare.
But ever the optimist and willing to give most things the benefit of the doubt, I went in for round two on my visit to China in 2015, in the hope that a second attempt would have me eating my words completely.
Once again, I was proved wrong.
*Cue a ton of selfies. Not sorry.
First stop, Beijing. The capital of China. Home to emperors of dynasties gone by and centuries of oriental history, culture and Beijing Kaoya (duck).
I was greeted by… smog, smog, smog.
I must say, I’ve been to Beijing before, so I know a little of what to expect. But it’s always a culture shock like no other to come from springtime in England, flooded with greenery, little yellow daffodils and a handful of people strolling lazily in the sunshine… to a MEGA Chinese city, coming out hibernation of the winter season, with over 14 million people pushing and shoving on the subway (they even employ people to physically ram people into the carriages, with force).
Hello China. Bewildered, to say the least.