Sightseeing in Shanghai
We wake up early this morning and walk down to breakfast. It’s a grand breakfast buffet with the same selections as the other hotels, like fried rice and baked beans. Not that I’m complaining, of course. Anyways, I better eat good this morning, since today’s going to be full of activity. We’re covering all of Shanghai in just one day!
This is the largest city in the People’s Republic of China, even surpassing the population of Beijing. It’s a blend of ancient Chinese gardens, French and Chinese architecture, and the skyscrapers of modern China. Our first stop on the tour gives us a good idea of how all this came together.
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center
The name of this place sounds pretty vague, doesn’t it? It seems like a museum, in which we learn about where Shanghai’s been, where the city’s headed, and everything in between. Some of the exhibits here are really amazing, especially the gigantic model of Shanghai. When the ceiling lights are dimmed, the buildings even light up!
In the beginning, Shanghai served as a major trading port in ancient China. This attracted the British and the French to the city, but they didn’t stay for very long. The Japanese occupied Shanghai for several years during World War II
, but at the end of the war, the Communists gained control of the land. They opened up the city’s economy just enough to create the Shanghai we know today: the center of China’s booming economy.
Alright, the history lesson’s over. Here’s some pictures of the exhibits at the museum.
No, we’re not talking about the one in New Orleans! As I mentioned above, the French settled in Shanghai for a while, and they left their mark on the city through their architecture. We spend a few minutes strolling around in this cool, calm little section of bustling Shanghai. So this sure is different from the other French Quarter.
Our next stop is the Old Town, where a shopping complex has been created right inside the ancient Chinese structures. So it’s really weird to see a Starbucks coffee shop under the spiked roofs and intricate carvings! Narrow paths wind through the town, making the place feel really crowded.
Eventually we reach the Yu Garden, another serene spot amid the hustle and bustle of modern Shanghai. The son of a Ming-era official constructed this beautiful garden for his father, so he could enjoy his retirement. There are lots of bright green trees, lotus plants with their pink flowers, small lakes populated by fat orange fish, and large rock formations.
After spending some time in the garden, we exit the Old Town for the Yuyuan Market just outside. We take a look at some teas and fine china, but we don’t decide to purchase anything. My parents plan on doing all their shopping on Nanjing Road, the final stop of the tour. Still, it’s very nice to walk down this red lantern lined road.
Tianhou Silk Factory
So now we’re going to visit a silk factory, but I’m not that excited. That’s because we’re actually going to observe the entire silk production process, from the silk worm to the soft bed sheet. While it isn’t fun to see how the pupa are removed so silk can be strung from their cocoons, it’s amazing how far that silk can stretch.
The Bund, by day
This is the greatest icon of Shanghai, the place I’ve wanted to visit all day! The Bund is a long stretch of land that runs along the Huangpu River. On one side, you see the Customs House and other old pieces of British architecture. On the other side, the modern Shanghai skyline towers above you. What a difference, just in looking from one side of a river to the other!
While the skyline is shrouded in haze and the river appears brownish, the weather is nice and cool. Since our hotel is just a 20 minute walk away, perhaps we could return at night? I’m sure the views will be better. Well anyways, we still have another place to visit on the tour.
Nanjing Road, by day
Now we’re walking along Nanjing Road, a shopper’s heaven in Shanghai. My parents had planned on doing most of their souvenir shopping in Shanghai, so we wouldn’t have to carry extra bags around during the tour. What better place to do that shopping than here?
It’s actually not what we imagined. My parents were expecting more of a bargainer’s heaven, like the one we’d encountered in a mall in Beijing. I was expecting crowds of people and glitzy, neon signs. But wait, it’s only daytime! Nanjing Road is even closer to our hotel, so maybe we can return later in the evening.
Then our guide drops us back off at our hotel, and confirms our flight’s departure time tomorrow so she can pick us up early enough. Wow, this is the most flying I’ve ever done in such a short period! We flew last Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, and we’re flying again on Friday.
We take the elevator back up to our room and finish some packing. Meanwhile, I check our flight’s status and realize the aircraft has been changed from an A330 to a B777. Luckily our seats appear to be the same. I was kind of hoping to fly on the A330 because of the bigger PTVs, but a 777 is good enough!
Nanjing Road, by night
Since it’s still pretty early, we head back onto the streets. My dad is able to calculate directions to Nanjing Road on his phone, since he’d purchased a SIM card earlier. Then we happen upon a Pizza Hut, and we order the same veggie pizza and mango milkshake we’d had on our first night in China!
We stroll around under bright, flashing neon signs as dusk falls upon Shanghai. Street sellers chase after us and the other foreigners, trying to sell us light-up roller skates or flying fairies. Then we find a clothing store that my parents fall in love with, where we buy some $5 shirts and dresses. Cheaper than Wal-Mart!
The Bund, by night
Since we’ve come this far, why don’t we visit the Bund again? We jump into the crowds of people headed in the same direction, and cross a busy Zhongshan Road. Finally I catch sight of the glittering Shanghai skyline, which is casting a colorful reflection on the river below. I marvel in awe at this scene: it’s exactly what I’d imagined of Shanghai!
Now we have a long walk back to the hotel, but I don’t mind. As we walk, I reminisce on the wonderful experiences we’ve had during the past week. It wasn’t just the sightseeing that was amazing, but the guides and drivers we had along the way, as well. Tonight was the perfect way to bring an end to our China tour.