Arriving in Shanghai, you could be forgiven for thinking you've been warped into some strange city in the not so distant future. If you find that you're the kind of person who loves architecture, then you'll be totally in your element as you wonder the streets looking at the ultra modern (and sometimes a little strange) buildings that adorn the new Pudong District and take a step back in time as you marvel at the old buildings in the old Huangpu District. You can fly around the city underground on the very efficient and convenient Metro (Shanghai's version of the Subway in America or the Underground in London)but Shanghai is very much a city that deserves to be walked, as much as possible. Being shanghaied in Shanghai is actually an experience that will bring all your senses to life.
Why Shanghai Is So Amazing
Whilst Shanghai's famous counterpart, Beijing, holds claims to many of the worlds most famous tourist destinations and of course the 2008 Olympics, Shanghai really doesn’t scrimp on the"wow factor". There are more than enough sights, sounds, smells and tastes to enliven your senses. The more of this city that you can traverse by foot, the more you can absorb yourself within the Shanghai culture and really begin to notice why the Shanghainese are so proud of their vibrant city. Shanghainese are the most friendly and helpful hosts you are likely to meet and for those of you that are unable to speak Chinese, in Shanghai it is not such a big problem. Unlike many other cities in China, the number of people in Shanghai that can speak some English, appears high.
Not To Be Missed
The whole city of Shanghai is alive with colour, and there is no better way to take it all in than strolling along The Bund at night. With the old architecture beautifully lit up behind you, you can look across the Huangpu river at the World Financial Trade Centre and its surrounding buildings. The easily recognizable Oriental Pearl Tower stands tall and proud, looking like a huge spaceship has just descended into the city. What you are actually looking at is the Lujiazui Skyline and it is one of the most unusual and stunning skylines that you can find anywhere in the world
You're Going To Need A Place To Stay
Garden of Peace or Happiness
Theoretically this next place sounds like a tranquil place to relax, but in all honesty, this is China and that is not likely to happen! Yuyuan Gardens (Garden of Peace or Happiness) is actually one of Shanghai's biggest attractions and you will be just one amidst the masses but definitely don't let that deter you. If you feel like trying some local cuisine, check out the famous Nanxiang Baozi (Steamed Buns) Restaurant and try the pork and crab roe soup dumplings. How do you find this restaurant? It's really very easy, just look for the long queue of people, you can't miss it.
It is also here with in Yu Gardens, that you can wander around the markets and find many “Chinese Style” gifts BUT be sure you get ready to partake in the famous Chinese sport of “bargaining” and be ready to bargain hard. This is a humongous tip for you...The sellers will always start at a very high price. You can then in turn offer them around half of their asking price. Follow this up with the usual haggling period whilst you try to compromise on a price. If you think they are being particularly stubborn and you both can't agree on a final price, you can always try walking away. It is almost a given that they will call you back to accept your offer. For those not used to bargaining it can feel awkward at first but it is the way it's done here and the sellers always start their prices high for this reason. It can sometimes be hard to find so-called “Chinese style” gifts to take home for friends” but I can guarantee that this is the place to pick them up.
After all that shopping and bargaining, sit yourself down in Starbucks for a coffee and a well-earned rest. Starbucks are to Shanghai what Pubs are to Ireland, there is literally one on every corner, except... strangely enough, not with in Pudong airport.
A Concession For French People?
Another interesting place that is not always mentioned in the travel guides is Tianzifang. I stumbled upon this by accident one day when I took myself on a lone walking tour around the French Concession. I felt like I'd struck gold, stumbling unplanned into this interesting maze of art and craft shops, stylish boutiques and eateries. It's easy to spend a few hours meandering around. To walk around The French Concession and Tianzifang can take up at least ½ of your day but it's an area of Shanghai that I go back to again and again. Tree lined streets, beautiful old historic buildings and a plethora of interesting boutique style shops and cafes.
Travel Tip : If you're staying in Shanghai for at least a few days it's a good idea to pick up a Shanghai Public Transportation Card (Jiao Tong Ka). It is a rechargeable card that you can pick up from any service centre at a metro station in Shanghai. All you have to do is ask for a Jiao Tong Ka (is pronounced like this - jow tong car) and hand over how much money you would like to top it up with. They will take 20 rmb out of that amount as a deposit to pay for the card and then show you the total balance that is on the card itself. The balance also shows when you swipe the card upon leaving a metro station. It is extremely convenient and saves you having to keep finding money to buy tickets and pay for fares. It can be used on all forms of public transport within Shanghai including Taxis, but be sure to show the taxi driver you will use your card before he flips his meter at your destination, otherwise he can only accept cash. Have a look at this list to see what your Jiao Tong Ka will cover.
- Buses and trolleybuses
- Tourist centers
- Car parks
- Airport maglev
It is absolutely the best way to travel around Shanghai.
Shanghai's Everlasting Impression
If you're a little intrigued about how Chinese people (especially the older generation) spend their free time, head on over to Fuxing Park. Here you can see the locals enjoying all their favourite pastimes such as Kite Flying, Tai Chi, Dancing, Badminton, Singing and Playing Traditional Chinese Instruments with all of their friends. It's in these kinds of areas, like Fuxing Park, where you can really get a feel for the Chinese Lifestyle. The time-worn faces of the elderly, who have seen so much change in their country and city. Parents flying kites with children, grasping at valuable recreational time amidst their hectic daily schedules. Young couples, walking hand in hand, noticeably different to many young people in other areas of China, maybe because of the huge impact and large footprint that so many countries have left with in this city.
Shanghai is the largest city (in terms of population) in China and the world. It is putting its best foot forward and is a wonderful representation of modern China, showcasing to the rest of the world how you can incorporate ultra modern planning and forward thinking, whilst still preserving important heritage for everyone to see and enjoy. I have done a fare share of travel around China, Shanghai is one city I keep coming back to again and again.