Gong Chunyn (龚春燕) which means Spring Swallow, was born in Shanghai. As was with many kids, the family had barely enough money to get her through elementary and middle school. She was smart and wanted to learn. So, she had to begin her work life early. Very few people would hire her without having gone to high school. She ended up having a number of jobs along the way and with every job she found a way to learn. Determined to succeed, she decided that if she began to learn the English language, she would be able to work in more places. She worked as a bartender which required her to come up with an English name to make it easy for foreigners to speak to her. She remembers seeing beautiful Cindy Crawford in a Lux hair shampoo commercial and started telling everyone her name was Cindy.
Utilizing her “street smarts” and local knowledge of Shanghai, Cindy determined that she would become a tour guide. She became certified in eight different cultural guiding experiences in her quest to become successful. She was determined to show tourists what the REAL LIFE is like in Shanghai. Thus "Cindy's Real Life Shanghai Tours" was born. Most tour agencies in big cities are running tours with a focus on the major “attractions” in the city. They have buses and large groups going to the most popular sights to see. Many offer expensive “private” tours that are tailored to the client’s desired destinations. Many travelers want to find the places of interest that are not as common. Places that are considered secret or hidden gems that are unusual and different. These places can be disruptive to their own view of the world and expand their appreciation of the differences. This is where Cindy's local knowledge is a powerful resource when it comes to “knowing” these hidden gems. She knows them so well.
The variety of gems that can be seen in this city is endless. Alleyways leading to local small businesses where the owner both lives and runs a business by simply rolling up the bed and setting up shop. The most efficient use possible from a 1 meter wide by 2 meters deep structure. The building where Confucius taught students and the books that was used. Awe inspiring hidden sculpture gardens filled with beauty. A genuine “Tea Ceremony” in it's current local form. Experience a lesson in calligraphy from a sign painter. Get a century old $3 straight razor shave in a shop in the morning. Stand around with locals eating their breakfast buns and milk on the run to set up shop. Have raw dumplings made to order in a street shop and the tour guide cooks them up with vegetables for lunch at their home. Visit the fish shop that carries only shrimp that are live and there are five varieties. Next door the shop sells two varieties of live crabs which when chosen are skillfully tied up ready for your pot. Have a shower in the two-room washhouse where you pay to have your shower with simple showerheads around the perimeter of the rooms. One room is for the men the other for the women. Spend an hour having your feet cleaned and massaged by small fish n a room with small bubbling tanks around the room.
The sights and experiences are limitless. The locals are the key to the tours. They will keep it “Real Life”. Not commercial. It is normal to them. They enjoy sharing their world with those who have a genuine interest. They enjoy seeing your reaction. Cindy's Real Life tours are a dream that became a reality with time. Cindy's life has become a great example and role model as a highly successful entrepreneurial business woman born and raised in Shanghai.