It’s hard to explain the feeling of excitement and cheer that you feel when you walk through Shanghai – it’s a city that is just alive and buzzing. It reminded me of the city where I come from, Mumbai. Shanghai offers a great mix of old and new – on one hand you can see classic structures and gardens, eat traditional cuisine, and witness time-honored customs, but on the other hand you can appreciate a rapidly growing skyline that is so gleaming and futuristic which makes it the financial capital of China.
My friend, Yanmin Xu, accompanied me through my adventures in Shanghai. I had met her during my 4 months stay in Italy and we had traveled to Spain and Greece together (Gosh! I’m yet to write about that!). This journey wouldn’t have been the same without her.
I landed at the Shanghai Pudong Airport in the evening which is the main gateway to Shanghai. After passing through the immigration and baggage claim, I met her outside the airport and we headed home. We set out early next morning for the city tour.
Capture the essence of Shanghai
Chenghuangmiao Old Temple
As I visited Chenghuangmiao in mid-Jan, I got a chance to witness the preparations done for the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival which falls between 21 Jan to 20 Feb (depending on the Lunar Calendar). For the Chinese, Lunar New Year is the most important festival as traditionally, this was the one period when farmers could rest from their work in the fields. The front doors of many households in Chenghuangmiao hung different size of colored lanterns or lamps. There were commodity markets here, selling toys, stationery, jewelry and other handicrafts. Also, it’s a great place to hang out if you want to taste some local delicacies.
After the crowded streets of Chenghuangmiao, I proceeded to the YuYan Garden which depicts the traditional side of Shanghai. It’s a very calm and peaceful spot. This hidden treasure flaunts the decorated bridges, the Chinese pagodas or pavilions and corridors and the stone dragons around the garden.
Stroll at Nanjing Road
A vacation is incomplete without shopping. And the best place to do it in Shanghai is Nanjing Road. The high-end fashion stores, traditional Chinese stores, specialty shops and common American fast food chains make Nanjing Road the busiest street. The neon signs at night make this street sparkle like the Las Vegas strip.
Build new friendships
I may have spent money on this trip but what I gained in terms of experience, knowledge and friendship is invaluable. I made two friends on the road with whom I went out for lunch, near the East Nanjing Road. It was a different yet enriching experience: getting to know their lifestyle, their culture, and their background. Thank you guys!
Visit the Bund
The Bund (Wai Tan in Chinese) is situated along Huangpo River, Shanghai. It is the most famous attraction and the symbol of Shanghai. Walking along here I could spot the famous Shanghai skyscrapers and other buildings, like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Here, I could also witness the old Shanghai with the famous European style buildings.
Enjoy the snow
Well, the temperature was already freezing with 2° C but in the evening, the temperature dropped to -1° C and it started to snow lightly! It was first snow experience and it felt like I’m entering a completely new world.
Explore the city at night
Shanghai is a sleepless city in China, just like Mumbai in India. Nightlife in this city is quite rich. Nanjing Road and the Bund are the landmark attractions in Shanghai to enjoy the night life. The buildings on both sides were brightly illuminated in multi-color, reflecting the dynamism of the city. There were young expats and locals socializing and partying at various popular pubs and clubs.
Visit nearby cities
I wanted to explore the small cities around Shanghai, so I chose to visit Shaoxing and Hangzhou. The train connection to both the water cities is really modern and fast. Shaoxing is famous for rice wine and stinky tofu whereas Hangzhou exhibits beautiful scenery and landscape along its lake.
This short trip has given me a general impression of the place. It was great to appreciate the classic scenery of China and experience the modern atmosphere at the same time!