While living in Okinawa, we are fortunate to have so many exciting travel destinations nearby. Mainland Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul are just a few of the places that are relatively short flights away. Even other countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia can be easily reached within a day. Have you ever stopped to think how amazing that is?

Recently, I took advantage of our proximity to China (only 2 hour flight) to visit Shanghai for an intense 4 day solo trip. Yes, I braved the sprawling metropolis by myself!
Known around the world for being a bustling city, Shanghai is quickly on its way to becoming one of the world’s major financial centers. For travelers, the city has it all- distinctive cuisine, interesting history, luxury hotels, upscale shopping, museums, parks, and more.
A few highlights of the city include the Bund, a famous promenade for its art deco style architecture, colonial banks, and department stores.
Then there’s Nanjing Road, which was coined in the 1930s as one of the “most famous streets in the world”. Today it is similar to Times Square in NYC and holds the title of busiest shopping street in Asia.
I couldn’t get enough of Old Town Shanghai where I happily got lost in the maze of winding passageways, tea houses and curio shops.
A lovely respite from the masses of humanity outside, Yu Yuan Garden is full of romantic ponds, willow trees, rockery, pagodas, and garden sculptures.

We can’t forget Xiao Long Bao, the famous soup dumplings and other yummy street food…


Other famous landmarks include two of the tallest buildings in Asia, the Oriental Pearl Tower (left side) and the Jin Mao Tower (high-rise with the opening at the top), which you might recognize from Mission Impossible.

Shanghai has so much to offer, and it’s surprisingly affordable. I booked a decent hotel in an excellent section of town (The Bund Hotel) for $56 a night, never paid more than a few dollars for a meal, and haggled my way through buying souvenirs that will become awesome Christmas presents. I arranged my flight, hotel, and excursions all independently, but if you’re not comfortable with that, travel agencies on the bases offer tour packages as well.

Like me, are you thankful for the abundance of travel opportunity in Okinawa? With the rest of Asia within reach, where will you travel this coming year?


  1. Cortnie,
    I usually book the flight through the travel agency on Foster or I-ace travel on Kadena, and then arrange all the hotel and tour stuff on my own. My flight to Shanghai was about $600 and I had to buy a visa (~$150), but hotel, food, and everything else was super cheap once I got there.

    My trick is to check a Frommer’s guide book out of the library and then read about hotels in our price range and excursions we might be interested in. Then I just book directly with them and often times, you can arrange a tour through the hotel once you get there. I also check out sites like for reviews about hotels and things to do.

    Depending on your comfort level with travel, however, I’d say booking a tour to China, in particular, is a good way to go since it takes care of lots of details.

    For other locations nearby, I’d say Hong Kong is easy to do on your own. Our tickets were about $450/person over Thanksgiving weekend. Taiwan and Korea are also close, but I haven’t priced those tickets. For many countries, the flight will be the most expensive part if you’re budget-minded about the hotels and food.

  2. We are new to the island and want to do some traveling to China and other countries as well (I have a whole list in fact!). However, we are a little intimidated. I know we can go through the travel agency here on base, but can you get better deals sometimes if you spend some time searching online? What sites have you booked through? What is the average round trip cost for a trip from Okinawa to Shanghi (for instance) and back? I’ve done a little research on ticket prices and they seem pretty high for everything being so close. Are there any countries around here that are decently priced to fly to (and back of course)? Thanks for all your advice – I can’t wait to start traveling!

  3. Sounds like an amazing trip! My kids and I had an overnight layover in Seoul this summer and I can’t wait to go back for a “real” trip. As it was we had enough time to walk to the beach there from our hotel, as well as do a little shopping in the Incheon airport. Looking forward to going back for more than a night. 🙂