Reviving its golden days in the 1930s, Shanghai is grabbing the world’s attention again as the most dynamic metropolis in China. From the jaw-dropping skyscrapers in Lujiazui to numerous cosy cafés in the French Concession, this is where East meets West, traditional meets modern, and the grassroots coexist with the luxurious in harmony. Whether you’re a backpacker or a jet-setter, you can always find what suits you best.One of the most distinct building in the world and the Shanghai skyline, the Oriental Pearl Tower houses many restaurants and observation decks with interesting views over the Huangpu river.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Shanghai is from April to February
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Address: 201, Renmin Avenue, near North Huangpi Rd., Huangpu, Shanghai Metro Station: Line 1,2 & 8, People's Square Exit 1 Timings: 9:00-17:00 Admission: Free The Shanghai Museum is a museum of ancient Chinese art. Founded in 1952, it has changed locations three times before its current avatar opened in October 1996. The building is designed to resemble an ancient bronze looking vessel called a ding. Covering a total area of 39,200 square meters, its five floors house three exhibition halls and 11 galleries. The galleries showcase ancient Chinese art like calligraphy, coins and seals to name a few. The coin exhibit with its collection of around 7000 pieces of coins is one of the most interesting exhibits in the museum.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Park Hyatt Shanghai
Highest above ground - in April 2011 we were lucky enough to spend two nights in what was then the world's tallest hotel above ground - the Shanghai Park Hyatt. Our room was on the 81st floor and meals were in the restaurants on the 87th and 91st floors - almost 400 metres above ground.
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.
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.
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.
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.