On a recent Saturday evening, I was lounging on my couch when 6 o’clock rolled around and my stomach started to concave in on itself. I knew there were uncut, uncooked vegetables in the fridge that probably should be eaten soon but my motivation was abysmal. I had also just realized that I had not really eaten at an exclusively vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai since coming. The pieces started to come together of what my next move was going to be; however, the challenge was then finding a place to eat.
The tough thing about living in the land of “The Great Firewall,” is sometimes you have to go through many, many apps and services in order to get a decent review. I started my quest on Google looking up best vegetarian restaurants. I was led through a series of Trip Advisor reviews which were not very helpful.
My next stop was a Chinese app called Bon App, which you did not need to evade the firewall in order to access. However, there were still very few reviews for every single restaurant I looked at. I was frustrated as our dorm is far away from everything, so if I was going to travel far to get food, I wanted it to be amazing. I even then tried to browse through Yelp, which isn’t very prominent here so that did not make my situation any better. While there were a few restaurants listed on Google itself, I started to have flashbacks to the time when Google had led me on a thirty-minute walk to a place that did not exist and I started crying alone on a set of steps because I was so hungry.
As my roommate was planning on accompanying me for dinner, I started listing off the few restaurants I could find a little bit of information on to her. She replied that she would do a bit of research and get back to me so we could find the perfect one. Alright, great, everything was fine we were going to find a restaurant worth going to; that’s what I told myself, at least. However, my roommate also came up short when attempting to find what could be the best option for us. I had become so concentrated on the mission of finding food that I forgot how hungry I was. I looked at the clock, it was 8:30. I had gotten trapped in the labyrinth of review sites.
That night, I ended up making myself veggies after feeling defeated. However, I was able to find one of the best vegetarian restaurants I’ve ever been to later that week by simply asking a friend who has lived here longer than I have. (It was called Vegetarian Lifestyle, for future reference). While I will admit that travel 2.0 tools and apps have been extremely helpful, especially during my last semester in Prague, I cannot see them as the end all be all. People did still eat good food and find interesting things to do before apps and sites were invented.
I think being in a place like Shanghai is very interesting in terms of living in the travel 2.0 world. For everything that people normally associate with the travel 2.0 world, China has an alternative. There’s not yelp, there’s bon app; there’s not Uber, there’s Didi. I find myself less reliant on these services here than I was in Europe because I do not know exactly how to use them yet.