I have always been intrigued ever since I read that Shanghai is the “Paris of the East” so when I got an opportunity to fly there and check it out myself, I was thrilled. I only have two things on my list, check The Bund and walk along Nanjing Road. Little did I know, a wonderful surprise is waiting for me.
Huan yin lai dao shang hai! (Welcome to Shanghai!)
I was lucky to stay in a hotel right across Nanjing (East). Nanjing is divided into two—East and West. The East side is where most tourists go at night. It was one busy strip of commercial buildings, Chinese boutiques, and coffee shops. Buildings light up the street at night. There were also small trams (2 Yuan/way) where you can ride and see the whole stretch of the street if you are too lazy to walk.
A guy who plays saxophone in one of the building’s veranda would come out (same time, same spot) and play some nice sweet old song, and people can dance as the music filled the whole strip.
The West side is the Nanjing’s highstreet and commercial district. Famous designer brands of watches and clothes boutiques, as well as malls (such as Plaza 66) with hi-so brands can be found there. If you are into designer brands, then Plaza 66 is the place for you.
Since I have the whole day alone on my second day, I decided to take a city tour to maximize my time, and seriously it saved me a lot from the transpo fare. For only 100RMB (valid for 24 hours), Big Bus Tours brings you around the Puxi and Pudong districts—hop on/hop off style. The fee includes a bottle of water and earphones so you could listen to the personal commentary available in eight languages.
The city tour is divided into three major areas—The Shanghai City (red route on the map), Pudong (blue route), and Temple tour (green route), a total of 22 tourist spots. I started at 10am and finished at 4pm. The most interesting route for me is the Pudong area.
Here are some of the places that I find interesting.
The Red Route:
* The Clock Tower – when the clock strikes 6PM you can hear the clock echo like a bell across the People’s Square garden.
* Shanghai Grand Theater – equipped with an automatic mechanical stage, the largest and said to be the most advanced in Asia, the Shanghai theater consists of three theaters for performing stage plays, opera, ballet, dance drama, symphony, and chamber music.
* Xin Tian Di – literally means “New Heaven and Earth” (weee!I still know my Mandarin). Xin Tian Di is located at the French concession, a district known as “Paris of the East”. You’ll see old shikumen houses—red brick antique walls and tiles restored and converted into posh dining shops. The ambience lets you experience the 1920s and 21st century feel. I love this place especially the Starbucks outlet.
The Blue Route:
* The Bund – located at Zhongshan Road, The Bund is composed of old historical buildings lining along the Huangpu River, facing Pudong area. Back in the days when we see pictures in black and white, it housed different bank and trading houses, consulate, and newspaper offices. Today, it houses 52 restored buildings in different architectural style such as Art Deco, Baroque, Romanesque , Gothic, Neo-classical, etc.
* Cool Docks – the map says Cool Docks is Shanghai’s nightlife scene, but I have to disagree. Since it was close during the day I went back in the evening and was quite surprised that it’s not the kind of nightlife I would expect from a vibrant city like Shanghai. It was quiet. The place was surprisingly not full on a Friday night then I realized it was a place for dining in a more intimate setting. With that in view, Cool Docks rock! Again, the Starbucks outlet is nice. There’s a fountain area in the middle, surrounded by chic restaurants and some sleek bars. My date wanted to have a dining experience with a view, so we dined at a Greek restaurant named “Mythos”—overlooking the Pudong skyscrapers.
* Nanpu Bridge – crossing the Huangpu River from The Bund to Pudong, we passed thru Nanpu bridge and is said to be the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, the first in China. It’s a spiral bridge, with 6 vehicle lanes to minimize the amount of land used.
* Residential Flats – from the Nanpu bridge you’ll see high-rise flats and low-rise housing. I learned that the housing project in Shanghai is subsidized by the government to help locals acquire a place of their own. Oh, what happened to our “PAG-IBIG” contributions?
* Oriental Pearl TV Tower – see this tower in the internet and you know it’s Shanghai. Oriental Tower is the highest TV and radio tower in Asia and third highest in the world (CN Tower in Toronto as the 1st, and Ostankino Tower in Moscow as the 2nd).
* Jin Mao Tower – Along with the Oriental Tower, Jin Mao is one of the most important skyscraper in Pudong. It houses different offices and the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel.
* Shanghai World Financial Center – standing tall alongside Jin Mao Tower, SWFC houses offices, hotels, observation decks, and shopping malls.
* Shanghai Elevated Roads – Six-level skyways…WHOA!
* Jing’an Temple – literally means “Temple of Peace and Tranquility”, Jing’An is a Buddhist temple and it’s a must-stop for me. The temple was originally situated in a different location then later transferred to its current location during the Song Dynasty, and was rebuilt only once during the Qing Dynasty. It was kinda weird though that the temple is right next to a busy mall.
* Residential Houses – typical Shanghainese residential area.
* Plaza 66 – I already visited this mall on my first day then I found out during the tour that Plaza 66 is one of the most renowned hi-so mall in Shanghai. It consists of a shopping mall and two skyscrapers. The mall houses the flagship store of some designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Celine, Hermes, Prada, Chanel, Cartier, Bvlgari, and a lot more.
There were at least 3 more interesting places such as Yu Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, and Huai Hai Road but the weather was too hot that day, so I decided to advance to the next stop.
Other worthy-of-note facts:
* THEY DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH…not a single word for crying out loud. You ask in English, they will reply in Mandarin. So yeah, it’s really an advantage if you can understand. That saves a lot of time, hehehe.
* I have heard that arrogant Chinese locals are Shanghainese, and they feel more superior compared to those from the capital.
* China in general is a huge smoking lounge. Even if you are a smoker, surely you will be irritated when you are sitting in an air-conditioned food court,enjoying your food and someone next to you started lighting up a ciggie.
* Still about smoking, either you can buy at a convenience store or from a boutique. LOL! Yeah, a boutique for cigarettes.
* Some locals are quite rude. My first-hand experience: We were having a foot massage, and the rooms are separated by curtain partition. I was awakened by a sudden deafening sound of the television from the other room. I was really pissed off, so I decided to turn up our TV even louder. I was already reaching volume 30 but the sound from the other room is still earsplitting. Z?o G?o!!!! I stopped at volume 35 until it made the guy peeped through the curtains.
It was a great Shanghainese adventure for me. The city is beautiful and vibrant, but yeah one trip could be enough.?