Ian Bonanno

I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s, so of course I read a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child. Some of these books were scary, some were funny, and others were not that well written, but no matter what Choose Your Own Adventure books allowed me to decide what happened next. I got to pick the way the story unfolded, and I could pick what I got out of each book. Working for EF Education First in Shanghai, China is a lot like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, because EF gives you the chance to unfold the story of China however you want. In many ways, Shanghai is on the leading edge of China's development, and is a lot like any other big, global metropolis. In Shanghai, I turn the pages of China's history by visiting massive modern art galleries and fancy fusion restaurants, or by going to the top of modern skyscrapers and shopping at posh malls. But the modernity of Shanghai is but a single chapter in China's history, and a single chapter in my personal Choose Your Own Adventure book. One of the best things about Shanghai being such a modern city is that it is a global hub sitting at one nexus of China's advanced and extensive high speed rail network. It is through this network that all of China will unfold before you like the turning pages of a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Shanghai all on its own is constantly buzzing with exciting things to do and constant adventures that never seem to stop. The city boasts a huge community of foreigners from around the world, but one short train ride later and you leave all that behind. I've been to cities in China where people stopped and stared and pointed at me because they'd never had a foreigner visit them before. But I want to focus on the cities of Suzhou, the Venice of the East, and Hangzhou, the Garden City. Both are about a 30-minute train ride from Shanghai, with each offering-up China's ancient past for your inspection and pleasure. Getting to these cities was and is incredibly easy and cheap, and it will be just as easy and cheap when you begin your adventure with EF! The urban landscape of Shanghai just melts away over the course of a half-hour train ride, only to be replaced by the much smaller and greener cities Suzhou and Hangzhou. These two historic and cultural cities occupy chapters' number two and three of my China adventure, while the chapter on Shanghai is still being written.

In Suzhou I spent the day visiting well-preserved, ancient canals with boats full of tourists crisscross the city like figures from China's distant, imperial past. Eventually though, I was back home in Shanghai, in my own bed, reviewing photos of the beauty Suzhou has to offer. Just like turning a page, I had left Shanghai, seen the Venice of the East, and made it back to my own bed for some much needed sleep after getting in over 10,000 steps that day. In Hangzhou there were no canals, but I did get the chance to visit amazing imperial style gardens and the summer homes of several long dead emperors. Hangzhou also has an amazingly well preserved lake that's a major tourist attraction, and again I easily got in over 10,000 steps walking around said lake.

Other EF blogs do a better job of gushing about the wonder and spectacle of Suzhou and Hangzhou. The point I want to make here is that Shanghai offers a rare opportunity to be at the heart of China, while also containing amazing adventures itself. I didn't make the comparison to a Choose Your Own Adventure books lightly, those were a huge part of my childhood after all. Working for EF in Shanghai can offer you the chance to experience and control adventures, all you have to do is start writing your personal Choose Your Own Adventure book.

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