Top Places To Visit in Shanghai
Hotels and Homestays in Shanghai
Weekend Getaways from Shanghai
In a country that eats, breathes and lives trade and a country that boasts a separate city for manufacturing pretty much everything, Shanghai cuts the clutter and shows you a side of China, which is completed is distinct from the original canvas of China.Not because it isn’t that good or anything, but simply because, if you’re here to see China and its culture, you’re likely to be demotivated at the start itself, because Shanghai is so much about big-ass fancy malls with international brands alluring you to pour our all those yuans (RMBs), and the up market buildings enveloped by spiral wide flyovers twirling around Shanghai’s high-rises.What they say about China is actually true, that with every 100 kms, the architecture always changes, so do the people’s eating, drinking and living habits. Thus, you go a few kilometers away from Shanghai and you are likely to find an entire city manufacturing only socks, the city is called Datang in Zhuji, where about 8 billion pairs of socks are manufactured everywhere. The list doesn’t end here, we have a tiny hamlet namely Gurao, which is called the undergarments capital of China, and you will find the latest of everything as far as ‘inner beauty’ is concerned.Thus in a china which is divided into a plethora of such cities, Shanghai seems to be comfortably placed between its DNA and its aspirations.Shanghai is the quintessential black-sheep, in a herd of colorful stock. Unfortunately and due to logistical convenience, I commenced my China sojourn from Shanghai and spent about 5 days in the midst of skyscrapers and the dynamism of city-life. For someone who was born and grown up in Bombay, city-life can never be exciting or novel. For us, fast life is normal and there are enticing options to party after every few stations. Thus cities are not the go-to options for a vacation for a lot of city-dwellers like me. But hey, that doesn't mean you don't get touristy.Shanghai to me in one word was VAST. It’s humongous and everything is spruced up in a fashion that one has to travel several kilometers in order to get to the next cluster of fun and entertainment, and between that, is just elevated concrete and more of that.As far as connectivity is concerned, since my folks live in China, it was easy to move around as we had a car at most times, and when we did not have a car, the metro transport always saved the day. Let me tell you their metro deserved a total 5 on 5, with the amount of lines they have and the fact that the metro stations are so beautifully placed outside every relevant place one would want to visit.Download the application called Metro Man right away and you can thank me later. In a city where there was a major language barrier, this app helped me sail through my solo travels to the interior parts several times. Just tell the app, the closest station which is in your area and the name of the station where you want to head and after that let the app work its wonders.The metro is conveniently placed, swift and inexpensive in a rather pricey Shanghai. You can cover a good amount of distance between multiple lines (say about 10 stations – 30 kms) in about 4 Yuan i.e. Rs. 40/-. Now you can thank me!Also, if you have arranged a car from outside Shanghai, you won’t be allowed to travel on their highways (which is pretty much the entire city) from 4pm to 8pm, because they give preference to their local vehicles that time and they don’t want the cars of the outsiders to jam up the expressways. That is a thoughtful move for the locals, isn’t it?They have cabs as well, which start at a basic fare of 8 Yuan (Rs. 80/-), but please avoid taking the red color cabs as from what I heard, they have records of being unnecessarily pricey.Most places have a Metro station but the only issue can be, that the Metros stop working around 10:30pm onward (there’s different time for every line of metro), so watch out before you make those late night plans.
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After the temple I took a walk on most famous shopping street in Shanghai of Nanjing where you can find zillions of shoppers combating to snatch the best deals. With presence of most of familiar worldly consumer brands I was teleported to Oxoford Street of London. The global mega brands can give you uncanny sense of acquaintance in even the most outlandish location on the earth. Walking along busyness of Nanjing Street I reached “The Bund”. The Bund showcases recently restored historical buildings with variety of architectural styles from renaissance, gothic to art deco stretched in a mile-long street along Huangpu river. Just across the street you are welcomed by that iconic skyline of Shanghai. A young Chinese lad carrying bunch of papers with his friends came to me while I was taking a leisurely stroll on a boulevard overlooking magnificent skyline. He requested me to hold a paper in my hands on which it was written “I Love You” in Chinese. Very passionately he explained that he was creating collage of photos with people from world over holding the signage to propose to love of his life. I wondered around the area till all the buildings were illumined in their full glory in the darkness of night. I took a ferry to cross the Huangpu river to get to Pudong area where my next destination was waiting tall for me. It was time to be on cloud nine. With fast pacing heartbeat and swiftly moving elevator I was taken to 87th floor of Jin Mao Tower, the home to Cloud 9 run by Shanghai Grand Hyatt. It’s the lounge to visit in a city crowded with skyscrapers with breathtaking views of glitzy surroundings. The jazz, the long island tea and Montecristo was the Shanghai luxurious experience at highest man-made levels.Day 04: Who Snatched Floor Beneath My Feet?If you wondered how the mega city of Shanghai was built in last two decades you should straight head to Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center located close to People’s Square. The exhibition has an urban planning collection on Shanghai right from the historic times to future projects in the forms of models, maps and mini-shows. The most intriguing part of the exhibition is huge scale very detailed model of the city of Shanghai, showing all existing and approved buildings. The model is so minutely designed that each and every building can be lit as it is in real world. Alongside the model is a theater with a 360 view screen that plays a video giving bird’s eye view of most notable places in the city! From the top floor gallery of the exhibition center you get to see a very good view of People’s Square. One of the most thrilling experiences of the China trip was to walk on “The Sightseeing Floor” with glass bottom at The Oriental Pearl Tower. The elevator running at speed of seven meters per second takes you to height of 263 meters to breathtaking views of the Shanghai skyline. Just step down a floor to trick your mind standing at heights of 259 meters on a glass floor. It gave shivers through whole body and dizzy head when I took that first step on the glass panels that hold you above the ground at freaking heights!
There are many temples which the must-do list of Shanghai offers, with the top one being the Jade Buddha Temple. However, we decided to skip that one and went ahead with the Jing’an Temple. It is relatively old and has a history of about 500 plus years. It was rebuilt again and again, which clearly shows its significance to the people of China. It has a large statue of Buddha in the Mahaveera Hall, showing the significance of both the Buddhism. It has another huge statute of Buddha in a smiling position and is an extremely huge temple where you can find peace and solace despite the concrete buildings being towered on either sides of the temple. The entry is INR. Rs. 500/- however, it varies as per the lunar calendar, so it is better to check up on that and visit.
Tian Zi Fang
You can do one of your evenings in this locality called the French Concession. It’s the older constructions of Shanghai and a little scouting can help you discover some eclectic places. As far as food is concerned, the vegetarians (not the kattar vegetarians) can find some spice on the streetside BBQ stalls, which offer Potato (toudu – for pronunciation), tofu, and some more veggies as 2-3 RMB at stick. It has a lot of garlic flavor to satiate your urge for chatpata food.Further up there are street vendors, who prepare noodles, with your choice of toppings, so ask them to go for plain water while boiling your noodles and put that extra serving of spicy red seasoning, which is found at every table of a Chinese restaurant.
From outside, Shanghai Museum looks like an enormous ‘ding’, a three-legged vessel used for cooking meat hundreds of years ago. Inside, there are 11 galleries displaying a treasure of more than 120,000 pieces, from paintings and sculpture to jade and bronzes. There is a restaurant and a gift shop on the ground floor, and a teahouse on the second. You can easily spend the whole day here if you want.
My love for finding remote by-lanes full of life and color landed me at Tianzifang Street. What looked like a simple street full of start-up boutiques left us puffed and excited as we discovered that the entire street had tiny by-lanes which were lined up with interesting stores/bars/restaurants on either side, with variety of things to offer.
The National Holidays in China are a very popular time for holding marriage ceremonies around the country. Apparently this is because it’s a time when everyone is home for the holidays and so they can gather the whole family together to celebrate. This time around was no different as we passed maybe a dozen wedding processions on the road. The way this typically works is you have a train of about five cars, usually either black Audis or red Fords, with ribbons tied all over them and their license plates covered in red Chinese paper cut outs of characters for luck, etc. We slowly rode into the Yangtze River Delta region. I actually can’t say much in terms of scenery for the coastline of China in general as it is mostly flat, dusty, and developed in a sort of rushed kind of way, but there were several areas around the delta, particularly along the dozens of bridge crossings that were quite nice. One interesting aspect that is probably unique to China is that you will be passing through fields and farmlands and randomly in the middle of one of these fields there will be what looks like an apartment complex being built up in the middle of nowhere.
To unwind further in the night, visit the Xintiandi Street, which a small and scrawny looking lane, filled with a lot of beerholes and bars, for as far as your eyes can reach. My bet is the Pauliner, as they had some great beer, live music and dancing happening there. There are many more bets and all your bar-hopping dreams can come true from one end of the lane to the other. Also the staff at this place called as Refinery was absolutely sweet, cute and courteous and that place is perfect if you are looking for a well lit place.
Huaihai Middle Rd
One of the city's go-to retail and shopping corridors. Lined with branded stores and high-end boutiques, this is a megalomaniac's dream walk. Venture for a stroll here on a nice day while sipping on Iced Green Tea sold on many street-shops or catch a movie at the Cathay Theatre at the intersection with Maoming Lu.
Oriental Pearl Tower
Your Shanghai trip is not complete without a picture taken in front of Oriental Pearl Tower. One of Shanghai’s most known landmarks, it stands 468m high and looks like an otherworldly rocket radiating pink and purple lights at night. There are three viewpoints inside the tower: Space Module (350m), main observation deck (263m) and the 267m high rotating restaurant with passable food. You can have a 360 degree view of the city in each of the places.
Jade Buddha Temple
First stop for the day was Jade Buddha Temple that houses two jade Buddha statues of a 1.95 meters tall sitting Buddha weighing 3 tons and a smaller reclining Buddha. I took metro line 7 to reach to the temple and got down at Changshu Road instead of Changshou Road, a difference of an O and I get down three stops ahead. Lesson learnt read the name of the stations till last alphabet and don’t let your bird brain get confused between similar sounding names.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Later I took a quick trip Shanghai Ocean Aquarium that has longest underwater tunnel in the world. What paradox just an hour ago I was on the heights of the world and now felt in the deepest of the seas when a shark just swam above me head as this thought ran across! It was time to bid bye bye to Shanghai and make my way to Beijing. I chose to take an overnight train to Beijing from Shanghai. The train journeys I believe are the best way to get to know the people from the land and take a quick peep in their local lives. As I did last minute train tickets only option I had was to travel on “hard seats” in a second class comportment. The air-conditioned journey turned out to be comfortably interesting with bunch of young Chinese wagering on card games and the usual hustle and bustle of a train. As I was catching up on few episodes of Modern Family to pass time on my fifteen hour long ride the guy sitting across me jumped on his seat seeing his familiar characters of Mitch and Cam in their never ending sweet fights. And I was zapped to know the series was so popular in China too! I wonder if global media companies have really found out mantra to catch fancies of millions of TV viewers spread across globe?Day 05: Trailing Duck TongueAs I continued reading Liar’s Poker where Solomon Brothers was building mortgage trading empire in 1980s knowing little that it would drag the whole world in perennial debt crisis later in 2000s the train reached Beijing in late morning. Knowing train tickets get sold out very fast (shame it still can’t be booked online) I straight headed to tickets bookings office to get my return ticket to Shanghai from Beijing. Carry ample cash with you as no plastic money is accepted at these booking offices. Had my lunch at KFC near Shanghai station and was surprised to see how localized the menu can be. For seafood lovers imagine a burger with shrimp patty! Again my favorite part of getting-lost-while-looking for my hostel from the subway station. Didn’t expect it’s going to be so difficult in broad day’s sunlight. Here was the best example of helping nature of Chinese, a gentlemen eating at a hotel who spoke little English came to my rescue. He was kind enough to take the number of hotel from me, call up the reception desk, get the exact location and direct me there. I was bit tired of the long train journey and had to save energy to climb the wall next day so decided to stay at hotel for rest of the day. The hostel arranged daily excursions to the tourist attractions in and around Beijing including Great Wall. Most people visit to Badaling section of the wall near Beijing so it can get crowded. I was advised to do Mutianyu section which is further ahead of Badaling. I booked the tour with the hostel which was offered at reasonable rate of ¥260 including entrance fees, breakfast and lunch covering almost full day. As I was surfing on WiFi at the hostel got to know about this restaurant close by that served duck tongues. I always wanted to try out this bizarre preparation ever since I read about it first on the net. Decided in the evening to hit the restaurant for the dinner. As I was ordering the delicacy, the waiter actually pulled out his tongue and confirmed are you sure this is what you want to eat? After the dish was on my table seeing me bit struggled and hesitant to eat it the waiter offered to get some drink that would wash it down my throat and showed me how to suck the flash of bone of the tongue. Now that’s being attentive. Anyways the food adventure was great but the taste of tongue of the duck was yuck (oouch it rhymes too)!Day 06: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.”
Shanghai Chopsticks Museum
Address: 191, Duolun Rd., near North Sichuan Rd., Shanghai Metro Station: Line 3, DongBaoXing Rd. Timings: Everyday (By prior reservation) Admission: Free Visit this marvel of a museum for its collection of chopsticks and for Lan Xiang. A cabinet in a Jewelry store holds the result of Lan Xiang's 25 year journey across Asia with a collection of 2000 chopsticks. He doesn't have his entire collection on display. His most priced ones are in the bank. If you can't speak PutongHua then go with someone who does and enjoy the octogenarian's animated stories and try to master the art of holding a chopstick correctly. Also, ask him to show you his book: Chinese Chopsticks. This, most probably, will be the most interesting museum you have ever visited.
West Nanjing Road
There is also the Nanjing Street, which finds its way right on top of the list of must-dos in Shanghai. The street is divided in two parts the East Nanjing and the West Nanjing Street. East Nanjing is like your walking street in pattaya, minus the fact that instead of gogo-bars there are branded shops on both the sides of this extremely lit up street. The street does not allow vehicles, so the best deal here is to take that metro, get off at People’s Square station and follow the herd (for once) to get to the East Nanjing Street. This one is an only pedestrian street, where vehicles aren’t allowed and it’s a long long walk. So put on those comfy shoes and get into the bustling, multi hued and pulsating East Nanjing Street. There is this particular mango drink which everyone buys when they enter the street, because it looks so enticing and promising, but you can totally skip that one. The walk can be extremely hectic on a Chinese Holiday, so do your research well before you go. It requires several fleets of cops to manage the crowd and act as a signal while walking in that street to prevent a stampede.There isn’t much to do except click pictures and soak in the lights of the street, unless you’re looking for some brand-buying. The street ends at the Bund, where you will find fancy hotels with amazing rooftops, where you could perch yourself to unwind after the excessive walking.The West Nanjing Street is the quieter one and has some branded stores and restaurants scattered, unlike the chock-a-block East Nanjing Street. For more shopping at the big huge malls with chic brands, get off at the Xuijahui metro station, and right outside there are 3-4 huge malls, all posing diagonally opposite each other, whereas your street shopping can happen at the Science Exhibition Center metro station.
Shanghai Old St
Shanghai Old Street is lined with antique, curio and craft stores. Fuyou Lu is home to a lively antiques market housed on the north side in the Cang Bao Building, just before the pailou, or ceremonial arch, that frames the street. The market comes alive at weekends, and especially on Sundays, with an astounding array of antiques and knick-knacks spread over its four levels. It’s best to get there early as many stallholders pack up mid afternoon. Bargaining is expected.
The place that transforms from China to Venice in a fraction of a second, where spring and flowers bloom in the wind blows in a different direction. Small houses, toothless smiles, the people so welcoming and warm, gondolas take you around with Cantonese music sung by the boat operator, it is like a dream that makes you float around, climbing those baby bridges. It's a true delight and rightly called as "Venice of the east" and china's best kept secret.
China Art Museum
Address: 161, ShangnanRd., near Guozhan Rd., Pudong, Shanghai Metro Station: Line 8, China Art Museum Timings: 9:00-17:00 Admission: Free This newcomer on the scene displaying modern Chinese art is housed in the former China pavilion of the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Spread across a mammoth 166,000 square meters, it is the largest art museum in Asia. Artists showcasing include the likes of He Tianjian and Lin Fengmian. Drop by if you want to see the best of Chinese modern art.
The clandestine camaraderie between the artists and gloomy street walls has led to an extricating depiction of matters close to every local. This extremely populated city manages to be inspirational even today with its sparkling cityscape and space for idiosyncratic expression. Qianmen Street, 798 Art Zone and Nanxincang are best places to experience this yourself. So ditch the overcrowded tourist places and see a new side of Beijing. Take some time out, set out on foot to explore the artistic pleasures this city entails. Yes, take time out to stand and stare, to wonder at the equanimity of temper expressed along the narrow lanes. Give this side of the city a chance and before you know it, you would have fallen in love with this ruffian self. There is no denying that a trip here is incomplete without going to the Great Wall of China or the numerous temples but there is so much more waiting to be discovered here.Beijing is a land of contrast, a land of that preserves the old and promotes anything new. If you move around this capital of China, you will find yourself staring at Soviet-styled monuments, vanished temple and skyscrapers birthing from the same premises. It was a seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors and so the gradual change in the historical winds is embedded in its architecture. A walk down some narrow streets and the distinct influence from all schools of architecture is palpable. The city reiterates its culture through a fine line up of museums and art galleries. Museum of Beijing Stone Inscription Art, The He Yang & Wu Qian Modern Art Gallery, Red Gate gallery and National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) are some that were a part of my trip.Beijing truly is a remarkable citadel of China. Don’t be afraid of the crowd, they will unveil stories you never imagined.
Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center
Address: Basement, Building B, 868, HuaShan Rd., near ZhanNing Rd., Xuhui, Shanghai Metro Station: Line 1 & 7, Changsu Road Timings: 10:00-17:00 Admission: Free Owned and run by Mr. Yang Pei Ming, this 2-room museum offers unique insights into Chinese history focusing on the Mao-era and the Cultural Revolution through its collection of around 5000 propaganda posters. Located in the basement of a residential building and unmarked on the outside, the building is a little hard to find. Enter the residential compound via the ZhenNing Rd. entrance and walk towards the building straight ahead. The gift shop and reprints of many posters and is a good place to get hold of some souvenirs.