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CHINA - Shanghai

Shanghai, China


First of all, i need to warn you that the city of Shanghai needs no introduction. The largest city in China has grown as a result of its location on the banks of the Huangpu River. It is now leading the way for China to become a first world country. It has over 17 million people and every year the number of affluent people grows seeing a slight shift from communism to capitalism. I have been to Shanghai many many times and it's so interesting to see the city changing every week. Arriving from the Pudong International Airport is very easy. The 430 km/h magnetic train (¥50 single, ¥80 return) makes the 30 kilometres trip in 8 minutes, and arrives at a line 2 metro station (¥4 single) not far from the centre. The metro is modern and safe, but rather infrequent and no platform information is displayed. Good signage on the other hand seems sufficient for foreigners like me to find their way.

Highlights:
Yuyuan Garden (Chinatown):
Visit the Yuyuan Garden for a typical old Chinese style building complex and the only Ming Dynasty garden remaining in Shanghai. This is a lovely colourful area, for us foreigners signifies China; the red buildings with their characteristic Chinese shaped roofs. There are lots of shops and stalls selling so many different things; teahouses and restaurants are also available. In terms of sights, there are many pools, pavilions, rock gardens and bridges, which are great to see, especially the Zigzag Bridge. It is said the reason why it was built that way, was to ward off evil sprits, as the Chinese believed spirits could only travel in a straight line. Also in the mid-lake pavilion is the Huxingting Teahouse, it gets very busy around here, so do arrive early.

Nanjing Road:
This is a huge shopping street/area, much like London’s Bond Street. It is said it is the most expensive and stylish shopping area in China and runs from The Bund for 5 kms. At one of the major crossroads, is an elevated section which is designed to facilitate crossing the busy intersection, but now serves as an area for more shopping.

The Bund:
There is always a lot of people strolling along The Bund and is a little bit of Europe in the heart of Shanghai. It’s a pretty concrete walkway and leads on to Huangpu Park. The park was famed for once having a sign which read ‘no dogs or Chinese’. The road side of the walkway is lined with lovely 1920/30s buildings which are reminiscent if the days gone by when international financial companies ran Shanghai; on the other side is brown/gray waters of the Huangpu River. It is quite popular to do a boat cruise.

Xintiandi (French Consession):
My favorite spot is the French Concession or Xintiandi in Chinese. This section of Shanghai was once controlled by France and it shows. Restaurants and hotels all have a European feel and charm. Compared to the rest of Shanghai, the area is upscale and expensive. This is the place where only rich and famous people live; if you're seen here, most likely you will be mistaken for a celebrity. Staff in restaurants and hotels will usually speak English or another European language. Prices are shown in yuan (Chinese money), Euros, or American Dollars, so this makes Xintiandi a well-accessible section of Shanghai to many foreign tourists.

Shanghai Museum:
Probably the second best museum in China after Xi'An. The Ancient Bronze exhibit is particularly impressive. Audio guides is available for a minimal fee. Entrance is free.

Food:
Food is everything in Shanghai. It's part of living in Shanghai and without Shanghai's expansive array of food, Shanghai would still be a little fishing village not even on the map.

Best Way to Get Around:
If you intend to stay in Shanghai for a longer time the Shanghai Jiaotong Card can come in handy. You can load the card with money and use it in buses, the metro and even taxis. You can get these cards at any metro/subway station, as well as some convenience stores like Alldays and KeDi Marts.

Metro:
The trains are fast, cheap, air conditioned and fairly user-friendly with most signs also in English, but the trains can get very packed during rush hour. Fares range from ¥3 to ¥9 depending on distance. Automatic ticket vending machines take ¥1 or ¥0.5 coins and notes. Most stations on lines 1-3 will also have staff selling tickets, but on the newly-completed lines 6, 8, and 9 ticket puchasing is all done by machine (in both Chinese and English) with staff there only to assist in adding credit to cards or if something goes wrong.

Taxi:
Taxi is a good choice for transportation in the city, especially during off-peak hours. It is affordable (¥11 for the first 3km, 2.1RMB/km up to 10km, and 3.2RMB/km after) and saves you time, but try to get your destination in Chinese characters or available on a map as communication can be an issue. As Shanghai is a huge city, try to get the nearest intersection to your destination as well since even addresses in Chinese are often useless. Drivers, while generally honest, are sometimes genuinely clueless and occasionally out to take you for a ride. The drivers are very good about using the meter but in case they forget, remind them. It's also the law to provide a receipt for the rider but if your fare seems out of line, be sure to obtain one as it's necessary to receive any compensation.

On Foot:
I always prefer walking in Shanghai, especially in the older parts of the city across the Huangpu from Pudong but be aware that this city is incredibly dynamic and pavements are often blocked due to construction. With many roads also being closed off in some sections, expecially along the Bund, crossing the road can be difficult, if not impossible in some places. Look for subways as these are usually open despite the roadworks.

Bus:
If your Chinese is good enough and you're trying to go somewhere the metro doesn't without resorting to taxis you can use the public bus system. The bus system is much more extensive (and always cheaper) than the metro, and some routes even run past the closing of the Metro (well, more like "start running past the closing of the Metro"- route numbers beginning with 3 are the night buses that run past 11PM).

Bicycle:
If you can handle the fumes and menace of Shànghǎi’s vicious traffic, biking is an excellent way to get around town, especially if you occasionally link it in with public transport. Come sunny summer, cyclists sport a wide array of sun shields, from wide-brimmed hats resembling lampshades to vast sun visors that could pass for welding masks. Bikes have been banned from major roads for several years now, so you may have to join cyclists surging pell-mell down the pavements of busy streets. Remember you will be on the lowliest transportation device in town, and buses, lorries, taxis, cars and scooters will ceaselessly honk at you, in that pecking order (just ignore them)

permalink written by  davidtann on December 25, 2009 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: CHINA - Shanghai
tagged China, Shanghai, Pudong and ShanghaiBund

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