Finally my adventure has begun, and while the Silk Road didn’t extend to Shanghai I wanted to see it’s bright lights and towering skyscrapers given they seem to be the perfect icons for the rise of China.
Shanghai really is a thoroughly modern, international city which embraces the future and I spent my whole time in Shanghai asking myself ‘Am I really in China?’ From the international airport I took the Maglev train towards the city. Using magnets to propel it forward the Maglev train raced along at 300kms an hour and my the trip was over before I knew it. A quick transfer on to the super efficient metro brought me to People’s Square.
People’s Square is a huge park and I loved to people watch here. Old men playing animated card games, camera toting locals hoping for the perfect shot of lotuses floating in ponds and people generally strolling. My favourite, however, was how the park was transformed into a marriage market on a Saturday. Walls of flyers with prospective matches lined the footpaths and mothers sat with their son or daughter’s details pinned to umbrellas open in from of them. Details such as height, age and education, and what they were seeking in their match. Is this China’s alternative to online dating?
People’s Square led me on to East Nanjing Road where early in the morning the sound of music drew me to a group of old people slow dancing and further along troupes of women dancing in time together. Not exactly what I was expecting to discover on one of the most famous shopping streets of China!
But later the pedestrian mall was packed full of shoppers heading to Apple, Samsung, Zara, H&M and more. In the evening neon signs marched down the sides of the western-style shopping malls enticing people to spend more. Capitalism in all it’s splendour.
Walking to the end of East Nanjing Road I reached the Bund lined with lovely old colonial buildings and a huge promenade. A clear reminder of Shanghai’s past and the perfect place to take in the view across the water of the futuristic skyscrapers of Pudong.
The most recognisable skyscraper is the Oriental Pearl Tower looking like a rocket about to take off. I joined hundreds of Chinese tourists to reach it’s viewing platform high above the city. I was lucky enough to have a fairly clear day and could see back across the city and to the Bund. Not too far away and nearly completed is the 121 floor American designed skyscraper (it will be the second highest in the world when it’s finished).
As dusk fell I followed the crowds back down to the Bund. I was starting to think a special event must be on as the crowds swelled so much they spilled on to the road. Cars impatient to pass were blowing their horns but the crowds continued to grow. As the crowd and I reached the Bund we joined an even larger crowd pushed against the barricade of the promenade. This was no actual event other than watching the lights start to light up and skyscrapers across the water in Pudong.
The next day I took a bus one hour out of Shanghai to the charming canal town of Zhujiiajiao. Full of little alleys and quaint canals, it was utterly picturesque and of course touristy. But after some exploring I found a quiet cafe by the canals to sit and watch the world go by.
Back in Shanghai I spent a morning at Yuyuan Gardens before heading to the French Concession for lunch and some afternoon strolling. The French Concession was filled with tree lined streets and little shops, cafes and restaurants. Once again I was questioning ‘Am I really in China?’
My next stop, Beijing, completey erased this question. Watch out for my next post soon on my time in Beijing.
I visited Shangai from 16 to 20 July 2014 and stayed at Mingtown Etour Youth Hostel which had a nice chill out common area and is located conveniently close to People’s Square and the subway.
The subway is a great way to get around Shanghai. It’s cheap and English signs are everywhere making it extremely easy to use.
To reach Beijing I took the G-class train (ie. the super fast train) it takes five hours and leaves from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Train Station and arrives at Beijing’s South Station. Cost = 553RMB. (NB: always arrive at train stations at least one hour before your train arrives to clear security and to allow for long lines. Large cities such as Shanghai and Beijing also have extremely large train stations which can take some time to navigate).