With names like the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, and ‘Paris of the East’, Shanghai has a lot to live up to. Here are 10 reasons why these soubriquets aren’t entirely invalid
1. Ride the Maglev train
There is no better way to kick-off your Shanghai stay than by riding the magnetic-levitation train from the Pudong Airport to Central Pudong. The ride, which lasts less than eight minutes, is designed exclusively for you, the tourist. The top speed of 430km/hr will leave you a bit dazzled and mentally prepped for the furious pace of the rest of the city that awaits you. At the end of this journey, hop on to the more sedate Metro to explore the city further. There are countless Pudong Hotels that offer comfortable stay to the tourists. If you have some specific requirements, sort from the list the ones that best suit your needs and requirements.
2. Observe city-life unfurl around you
The magic of Shanghai is at street-level; this is a city where people love to walk. Visit Fuxing Park for the best street-theatre: elderly couples grooving to tango and cha-cha, nostalgic grannies yodelling Chinese opera, gents in Mao attire and slicked hair walking their caged birds on wheeled dollies, all amidst lush tree cover and elegant French colonial architecture. A visit to Sun Yat-Sen’s house at 7, Xiangshan Road will give you a glimpse of what Shanghai was in its glory days.
3. Shop and survey souvenirs
Strolling down Shanghai’s most exotic antique-and-curio market, where everything is not necessarily for sale, will take up an entire day. Whether it’s a rescued art-deco treasure, or a memento from the Cultural Revolution, each item seems to have a story of its own. An entire store is dedicated to metal teapots of all shapes and sizes. Not to be outdone by inanimate objects, you can buy your next pet at the plant-and-animal market, but only if you are into jumping crickets and praying mantises.
4. Get an authentic Chinese massage
For the most authentic Chinese acupressure-massage experience, head to Green Massage, behind Huaihai Park, provided you are not averse to a little pain, a metaphorical hint of China itself. The euphoria at the end of 45 minutes of extreme-kneading may be entirely worth it. The hygiene is impeccable, complete with clean pyjamas, wind chimes and fragrant candles, and the smiling service makes the mutant-strong fingers entirely bearable.
5. Check out China’s vibrant art scene
Art Galleries on Moganshan Road
Art lovers will be aware that Chinese contemporary art is the current big thing worldwide, flying off auction shelves for millions of dollars. No one-stop location showcases this phenomenon better than Moganshan Road, where erstwhile warehouses are now swish art galleries, snuggled next to working studios of top, contemporary Chinese artists. Pop into ShanghART at Number 50, one of the city’s oldest and most respected galleries, where the cream of contemporary art world is on display.
6. Capture the magic of riverfront colonial architecture
For the finest glimpse of what colonial Shanghai in its heyday looked like, the Bund is the place to stroll. Every style of architecture of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century is on display here: Romanesque, Classicism, Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic. This place is perfect for people watching; either stroll and mingle with the tourists and locals, or head up to the 1920’s-era terrace of ‘M on the Bund’ for a little exclusivity, and sip a cocktail as life goes idling by. The hotels at Huangpu The Bund offers comfortable stay and all amenities that a tourist may seek. You may check the list and book online in the hotel of your choice.
7. Check out one of the world’s busiest shopping streets
Shanghai Nanjing Road
This famous road is a shopper’s haven, 5.5km of shops, malls, theatres, hotels and speciality stores. Regarded as Shanghai’s first commercial street, it has come a long way since inception in 1851, when there were only four shops along its entire length. It starts from the picturesque Bund and winds all the way down to the Jing An Temple, with an all-weather pedestrian plaza at its eastern end. Touted as one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, you should see it lit up in neon at night.
8. Unwind in Shanghai’s wide open spaces
As the name suggests, this is a gargantuan 140,000sqm pedestrian haven with almost every important building in Shanghai surrounding it. The Municipal Government, the Shanghai Museum, and the Grand Theatre are all here. It was once the site of a racecourse, which was later banned by the Communist government. Today, the spectator stands are still around, but are now used only for parades. A musical fountain graces the centre, and a 600-m long People’s Avenue spans the square with abundant greenery on either side.
9. Explore Shanghai’s Soho
This is where you go to see traditional Shanghainese architecture. On display are shikumen houses with their signature stone-door-frame, trendy bars, cafes, art-and-craft shops, galleries, and swish design studios. French colonial buildings make up the rest of the Tianzifang, and the narrow streets are crowded with yuppie locals, artists, designers and expats whiling away their time at one or the other top-notch restaurants.
10. Explore Shanghai’s hidden suburban gem
Zhujiajiao Ancient Town
This tiny but picturesque suburb dates back 1700 years, and its unique waterways and boat transport systems have earned it the title of China’s Venice. The 36 bridges that span the water canals were built by the Ming and Qing Dynasties, with material ranging from wood to stone to marble, and decorated with ornate motifs of lions and dragons. For a different view of the city, take a boat cruise. Book hotels in Zhujiajiao today and get best deals here.
It’s a very good idea to have a translator app on your phone. Carry a card with the hotel’s address at all times. Use the Metro; peak hour traffic is awful here. Try the dumplings at the Din Tai Fung chain of restaurants.