Traveling to Shanghai

I didn’t stay long in Shanghai and in fact it was a long layover before heading to Indonesia. Nonetheless, I feel that I should share my experience here separately and save Indonesia for another post as there was much to see even in a short amount of time (2 days, 3 nights).

China does have different rules around visas so make sure you are aware of them before heading there. Even Americans with a strong passport have to get a visa. They have a 24 hour, 72 hour, and 144 hour transit visas for short term visits. I went for the 72 hr for my stay. Here is a good source on countries this applies to and any other considerations you may have to take:

Be sure to take a look at the specific ports you can obtain these visas from. Shanghai obviously is on the list. This can be obtained when going through customs. There is a specific line and counter for this so make sure you end up there and not in another lane. It’s good to have your itinerary, saved to your phone and printed, to reference and hand over to the clerk to check over. *** As a heads up *** should your itinerary change within a week or two prior to you landing make sure you have the original itinerary as well as your correct up to date one with you. I had to go through this as China Eastern Airlines (whom my flight was on) is terribly slow at updating things online. As well, their customer service line is a pain to get a hold of, especially if you are English speaking.

In my case, my layover duration changed from one day to two within a two weeks prior to my departure. Of course, I had my up to date itinerary with me, but China Eastern Airlines did not update their flights right away and the desk had no record of my departure date even though my itinerary said otherwise. On top of that, the clerk attempted to contact China Eastern to no avail. He manually wrote in my departure date and sent me on my. Though this did cause me issues on my departure as they took me aside and made me wait while they confirmed with the clerk and contacted whomever else to insure I was no threat. If I had the prior itinerary easily available I believe it would have avoided a lot of trouble and got me on my way faster. Learn my tribulations!

Another thing to be aware of is you do have to report your stay to the local police department. Luckily, if you book at a hotel/resort or in my case Airbnb, they have you taken care of and will report your stay. Otherwise, if you are staying at a hostel or friends house, etc. then you would have to report your stay. I am not sure how strict they are with this but I wouldn’t risk it.

Once you get past the logistics of getting there and being able to stay then there is a lot to see in Shanghai. Just as any other large city there is plenty of shopping, food, museums, and historical sites to see. For me, I wanted to capture that iconic cityscape in front of the water and wanted to do so at night to see all the towers lit up. The area I am referring to is The Bund, famed waterside walkway with city views. The walkway follows Huangpu River and look out towards the city center business district.

This area is used to tourists from all over so there is a ton of food and shopping within the streets leading up to the walkway. During the day it is more reminiscent of any busy city, with people travelling back and forth from work and their daily routines. There is a ton of traffic, but luckily the majority of sights are within walking distance. Here are some of the sights around my Airbnb apartment. These encompass The People’s Square, Nanjing Pedestrian Street, and just the city surrounding.

Shanghai Gallery

Now, I only had a couple of days so I flew by these places, but I want to break it down for those of you looking to travel here for a longer stay. The People’s Square is a great central location with a big park to enjoy. If you want to check out some of the museums then there is the Contemporary Art Museum as well as the Shanghai Museum. I would see this as a good place to spend at least half the day if you throw in breakfast and lunch.

Nanjing Street is awesome! A ton of shopping so obviously crowds of people. This street doesn’t seem to sleep as there were crowds from early morning until at least 2 am in the night. Be wary of the street merchants though as they will quickly target any tourist with their questionable wares. Politely tell them no and move along. Nanjing Street is a direct line from The People’s Square to The Bund walkway. What I ended up doing was going there in the morning for breakfast, then over to the People’s Square where I stayed and checked out an indoor mall, then back to Nanjing Street for dinner and more shopping, and then walked over to The Bund to finally capture the city at night!

As you can see it is a light show in Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower changes color throughout the night which is amazing. This night was pretty still with no wind so the lights of all the buildings just danced on the water. It was a quick trip, but I believe I made it worth it and created some great memories. Maybe I will make it back one day!

Reflection and a New Year

Life moves fast. Quicker as the years go by it seems. Another New Year in the books with 2018 in the rearview mirror. If you are anything like me, I am often left with an empty feeling inside as the clock nears midnight. Especially with the many New Years spent alone. I feel as if I could have done better and I think to myself “Is this it? I could have done more.” This post is for the dreamers out thee like me who think too much. Those who question the adequacy of their life and forget to celebrate the achievements and strides they have made.

It is important to look back and call out the good in the year, the time you spent living. Or better yet the times you may have helped someone else in their time of need. Lucky for me, I ended 2017 with a bang. I had just come back from a vacation in Indonesia. A trip that truly had an impression on me. I learned a lot and saw so many wonderful things:

This catapulted me into 2018. It was like coming down from a high going into this year. I wanted to sustain it. It was also mid December 2017 in which I was promoted at my job (yes I do work a full time job). Thenm when I thought things couldn’t get better, one of my photos was chosen for National Geographic’s Daily Dozen.

Daily Dozen, Feb 27, 2018
A couple of ladies on holiday explore the tea fields in Central Java Indonesia. This field was attached to the back of the best little tea cafe! Good food and a good drink, just outside of Solo.

Yes, 2018 I thought, was going to be the best year ever. Just like any high though, one must come back down to Earth. We begin to look toward what is next. My new job responsibilities along with working through my photos from Indonesia occupied me for the better part of the first four months of the year. I learned new editing techniques and tried different things to set my art aside from others.

The first leg of the Pikes Peak trail is pretty calm. It seems to lull you asleep before springing the real hike onto you. This section is very peaceful.

 It is never enough as an artist. As intelligent beings we are constantly analyzing our own work. Scrutinizing it harsher than the general public. I doubt I am the only artist to ever look at a completed piece and say “this sucks, absolutely terrible.” I have quite often wanted to scrap it and start over. Social media intensifies this feeling tenfold. There are so many amazing artists out there on Instagram and for me landscape and portraits photographers that are seemingly untouchable. I have to refrain from beating myself up too much though thinking they are on a level that I could never attain. This is an important lesson I had to learn in 2018. Sometimes we need to take a step back from our dreams and get back to our roots.

I have typically done a lot of these hikes by myself. There is something liberating about being out in nature on your own. At the same time, sharing it with good company is always worth it.

I am grateful I live in Colorado and with a short drive be in mountains such as Quandary Peak. I rarely have company on hikes, but this year I found myself in good company several times. Good company and great views never fails to be a breath of fresh air and a reminder that life is much bigger ourselves. This really got me thinking about what Links Productions is to society.

The Link in Links Productions, well that’s me. Derek Garcia. I originally got my first camera for the sole purpose of showing the world to my parents. My hope was that they could go on a journey with me via my lens and that anyone else who wished to join could. I wanted to help open people to the possibility of travel with landscape photos. At the same time, any portraits I took wanted to bring out an individual’s true person in their photos. It makes me proud that some of my clients have full prints hanging on their walls at home. I have had some kind of impact as those prints will hang on their walls for years to come. That is who I am, and that dream still lives. So I continue posting photos hoping to take people on a journey.

Even as I am writing this I have noticed improvement. That is my measurement of course, not necessarily the public’s. That after all is the most important opinion. If you cannot see your current self improving then it is all for not.

Travel, as I see it, is an important aspect of growing and improving as an individual. I believe it instills a general idea of acceptance and understanding that a completely different world exists outside your own community. This year I was given the opportunity to travel to Ireland and Japan. Two firsts for me and experience I will not forget.

So far with these images too I have learned more techniques for editing and bringing out what I saw in my mind while taking the photo. Of course, I am still learning and figuring out new ways to express myself as an artist.

Looking back and writing this post has definitely put me in a better state of mind entering 2019. I hope you all can look back and see just how far you have come in this year. Even the smallest amount of growth is progress. Keep moving forward and discovering more about this world, about each other, and about yourself. Here’s to 2019 and all that it may offer!