I looked out the window as we were approaching Shanghai and thought wow we have a layer of cloud to get through while landing. It took me a while to realize that it was smog. We were closer to the ground than I thought and if you looked really closely you could see shapes of buildings and wind towers. I knew they had pollution but I have never seen the like before.
Our options upon arrival were the express train, metro or taxi. We opted for the express train. Little did I know this train was amazing! It took just 8 mins and travelled at 300kms an hour. Looking out the window, we were shooting past cars on the motorway. It was very impressive. We then caught the metro without a hassle and walked the last 300 metres to our hotel. All in all a very easy introduction into a country that I thought was going to be very difficult to navigate due to the difference in languages.
The Charms Hotel was a bit fancy for our flash packing standards but was discounted by 80% on booking.com so we jumped at the chance. Our check in was quite funny as the girl was struggling with something on our passports for registration and was using her phone to translate. When another lady came over whose English was better we realized they were having issues with the apostrophe in our last name and finding it on the keyboard. They had never seen one before. It just made it sink home how vastly different our languages are.
We dumped our bags in our room which was old school luxury and headed out for a bite to eat along one of the streets near us. The menu had pictures so no problem ordering. Winning!
The next day we headed over the river to Pudong. The walk to the river was partly through a pedestrianised street lined with department stores and stand alone shops. Shopping is what you do here apparently. There seems to be shopping malls everywhere! The street is one of the busiest in Shanghai and every time we walk it it is packed full of people.
We hit “The Bund” which is the historic street lining the river and were awed by the futuristic buildings across the river at Pudong. The telecommunications tower is shaped like a hashish pipe and coulored purple and then there is the second tallest building in the world towing above the already high skyline. The really mind blowingly crazy fact here is that Pudong didn’t exist until building started in the early 1990’s. It’s crazy how many buildings have been built in that time.
The Bund itself is lined with beautiful Art Deco and neoclassical buildings which is such a contrast to the futuristic ones across the river. We decided to catch the sightseeing tram across to Pudong which didn’t actually mean you saw any sights but rather went under the river in a tunnel which had a futuristic/hilarious light show.
On the other side we were heading towards the Shanghai Tower (second tallest in the world at 632 metres) and were amazed as to the difference from across the water. It is the financial hub of Shanghai and I suppose it was Saturday but it was dead quiet. We were on the hunt for some food and came across a supermarket that had pretty expensive western stuff until we found the little counter at the back selling (you guessed it) dumplings for $3 a plate. They were very tasty as well.
On our hunt for food we also went into a fancy shopping mall that had all the high end fashion labels in it. There must be seriously high demand for that type of fashion here because I think I have passed about 3 Gucci stores in the one day.
We purchased our tickets and soon found ourselves in the quickest elevator ever traveling 546 metres in 55 seconds. I don’t think our brains quite comprehended how high we were but the skyscrapers around it looked tiny. It is apparently so high that you can see the curvature of the world and in one of our photos I really think it does show.
We didn’t spend too long up there. It was giving us the heebie geebies a little being up so high and were soon on the metro heading back across the river to the Jade Buddha museum. The metro is amazing here. So easy to use and cheap. It seems as if a train arrives within a minute of you missing the last so there must be so many trains in action.
The Jade Buddha museum is the oldest Buddist museum in Shanghai. The old school Chinese buildings were a stark contrast to the concrete jungle surrounding it. But somehow made it seem all the more magical that it had withstood the sands of time. There were several temples and it was really interesting watching the locals pray to each of the deities and giving offerings. The jade Buddha itself was impressive. So lifelike. Unfortunately we couldn’t takes photos in that temple but it really was quite lovely. Not the spiritual enlightenment I was hoping for which may have had something to do with the ladies cleaning around the room and also selling some oil for 30 yuan ($6) which the locals would bless and then the ladies would pour into this lit candle in a chalice. All well and good except if you stood to the side you could see the plastic tube running from the chalice to assumingly a bucket on the floor which is probably re-poured into the plastic bottles for resale.
But all in all a really great experience and looking forward to experiencing some more of the Buddhist/Taoist/Confucianist way of life in our travels.
Our night time entertainment was a trip to the circus as Tim had read that the Shanghai circus was a must see. We couldn’t book tickets online so we asked the concierge if he could help. He immediately said yes, showed us a photo of people doing acrobatics and wrote out a voucher for us and said to be in the lobby at 6.20pm. We were thinking to ourselves that that was ridiculously easy. Anyway 6.20 comes along and we go downstairs to pick up our tickets but instead are met at the counter by Lilly who is going to be our tour guide (why we needed a tour guide we had no idea but we went along with it anyway). So we jump in a taxi and off we go to the theater and Lilly goes off to grab our tickets. Tim is a little perplexed as we are in a square theatre and all the pictures he has seen were in a circular tent. Alarm bells start ringing as our tickets say acrobatic troupe. By this stage we realize we have been stitched up but Lilly assures us it is the same show and when the other sells out they put on a second one here (yeah right!) but anyway as we have paid and we didn’t pay extra close attention to the flyer the concierge showed us we didn’t really have an option. So we were shown to our seats, which happened to be second row and Lilly took off. But as the theatre started to fill we noticed that everyone had a guide leading them in. Weird. But the show is apparently run by the government so maybe everyone had to have a guide. Rather than our thinking that the only reason we had a guide is because we couldn’t work out we had been gipped until we got to the theatre or maybe other people wouldn’t even figure it out.
Anyway the show started and it was really really fantastic! The stunts they were doing were mind blowing and for an hour and a half we were mesmerized. So even if Lilly was lying we had a ball. But in saying that if this was the second rate show I would really love to see the professionals in action.
Pumped up after the show we decided to catch the metro back to the Bund to check out the skyscrapers at night. It was 9pm on a Saturday and the metro was hopping. As we got off we were in a swarm of people heading toward the river. The size of crowd you usually see leaving a big football match but there was also one going in the other direction on the other side of the road. I have never seen crowds like this for such a long length of time, there was a constant procession from when we arrived to when we left (well over 90 minutes). The pedestrians ruled the streets and were so many that the car lane closest to the pavement had also become a walkway. Police were there to stop the walkers so the cars could get moving.
We arrived at the bund and the buildings were all lit up but unfortunately there was a haze of smog obscuring the Shanghai Tower and also it ain’t have any special lights on it. But the telecommunications tower was beautiful so worth the walk. But I must admit it wasn’t a patch on Hong Kongs. We then turned around and headed home. A very eventful first day in China. S
Sarah, feeling the Gs at 300 kph.
Our first glimpse of all the neon on Nanjing rd.
You feel like you have travelled into the future looking at Pudong from the Bund.
Getting a cross the river accompanied by a light show and futuristic electronic music!
Possibly the weirdest building around.
Even amongst all this modernity there remains this kind of behaviour.
These three buildings were absolutely impressive.
The view from 546m. You feel so high up here it’s more like being in a plane.
The temple housing the biggest Jade Buddha.
Pudong at night.