When plans were made to visit China, I knew I just had to be there-Shanghai, the country’s financial capital. Shanghai in Mandarin is made up of two characters, ‘Shang’ which means above, and ‘Hai’ which means sea. So, Shanghai literally means above the sea. Located by the Yangtze River Delta in East China, there’s something so magnetic about this city, that even just the name generates images of tall skyscrapers, flashy lights and an extravagant lifestyle. Accompanied along with three Nepali friends and two Korean friends, our bags packed behind, I headed out to explore this mesmerizing city.
The mid of June was a bit damp and cloudy with slight rains now and then, which kept us from getting toasted in the sun. Our first stop was Madame Tussauds. The life size wax statues of our favorite starts from the famous Jackie Chan, to popstar Lady Gaga, US president Barack Obama, X-men and many others were mind-bogglingly real. After spending hours snapping photos and selfies with the wax stars, our next destination was the Bunds.
It is amazing how Shanghai proves to be a cultural melting point. This city, which stands today as a symbol of financial power and human development, was once under the rule of the British, French and even the United States. Once an old ship port, the architectures of yesterday still stands tall as orators of the past. With the Huangpu River dividing the Pudong skyline, home to some of the tallest skyscrapers on earth, and the neo classical European architectures behind, just sauntering beside the bunds was relaxing. The Bund, a one kilometer waterfront filled with European neo classical architecture is today the home to some of the most exotic restaurants, hotels, topnotch banks, financial companies and more.
As dawn fell to dusk, the night view of this place got even better. It is equally surprising and interesting to know that there are economy hotels and student dormitories here just a few meters down the Bund. While the first class dined in the exotic hotels, we were lucky to find cheap and good food while walking past the alleys. Food was art and the taste just perfect as I ate one of my favorite ‘Ma La Tang’ (hot spicy soup).
Day two, we climbed unto an open roof bus, and as the air rustled past by we got a rooftop tour of Shanghai, the Bund again, the People’s Square, the old markets and the French Concession. We stopped by at the Shanghai Museum for a quick view of Shanghai’s history and rich art. Our next stop was the Pudong district, home to the skyscraper world that made your neck bend and your eyes roll to reach the sight of the top. We got up the 468m tall Oriental Pearl Tower for a vantage view of the city. We could look straight at some of the tallest manmade structures on earth, everything else on ground seemed like ants. Under completion was the world’s second tallest skyscraper, Shanghai Tower.. The part of the Oriental Pearl tower with transparent floors was breathtaking. I could see straight through the glass the ground beneath. It gave me a few chills every now and then.
Oriental Pearl tower also had an extended Museum which portrayed Shanghai’s detailed history from the earlier times of the village like lifestyle to the arrival of the European forces, the city’s rich culture and transformation over time through wax statues, miniature houses, and lightening effects.
The night view of the Pudong district from the open rooftop bus was spectacular. When all of the lights were up, the city looked stunning, like a single piece of jewel. And I must say the transportation of this city was systematic and well arranged, that even foreigners like us who could only speak basic Mandarin could find our way.
To know Shanghai intricately like its history is to spend a long span of time, which I couldn’t. I do hope that someday I get to visit this futuristic city again, and uncover more magnificent details.
Pictures are from my visit in 2014.
Also published in The Himalayan Times Travel and Lifestyle on 4th December 2014.