Have you ever heard of a squat toilet? I just thought that if you were thinking of traveling to China and wanted to see some "non-tour guide" stuff, you might need to be warned that you will always need to carry your own toilet paper. Freeing yourself of the "tour guide" could be a lot of fun I think. In downtown Shanghai, for example, landmarks are easy to spot. The river is in the east so heading that way from the Portman Hotel for example will take you directly to the river. If you follow the street that runs directly in front of the hotel and turning left should take you directly to the river. But get map or find a way to get you bearings and then go for a big long walk.
As for the toilet paper, they sell it in China in little packets that look like our tissue. Carry several of these in your purse along with a business card of the hotel where you are staying. The toilet paper will be necessary when you need to use a bathroom because the toilets are holes in the floor with water running down a trough. You will need to squat to relieve yourself and there will not be any toilet paper so keep your purse handy.
The Squat Toilets on the river front are pay as you go...a coin is deposited in the slot, a door will open, you will enter. When you are finished you will see a green button that will open the door. (I paniced a little when I realized I had not checked out the exit stategy before stepping into the space and the door closed behind me automatically.)
Now you can walk about freely, eat in restaurants or a booth on the street. Just make sure everything you eat is very hot. Take a camera so you can snap lots of pictures (squat toilets included). When you need to go back to the hotel hail a taxi, hand the driver the business card and be prepared to pay him in RMB adding a small tip.
I just thought you might want to know.