Shanghai - From Here to Modernity

Trip Start Apr 26, 2012
Trip End Oct 31, 2012

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
City Centre International Hostel

Flag of China  , Shanghai Shi,
Saturday, May 5, 2012

We woke up pretty chipper having had a good nights rest. I had a pot noodles for breaky and we shared some Mentos lollies and some mandarins for the rest of the ride. The Kindle came into its own as I rapidly finished off two books and before we knew it we were pulling into Shanghai South railway station.

From the minute our new friend Andy helped us get a transport card, the heart and soul of Shanghai was available to us via the Metro. With 23 million people the city is just too big to walk around and traffic makes taxis a poor choice, depite them being very cheap. Shanghai's modern, efficient, clean and cheap metro made a tourist’s job much easier. In fact pretty damn simple.

This truly international city is very tourist friendly and immediately begs comparison to is sister city Beijing. The capital is history driven with places like The Forbidden City and the Great Wall. It is where communism and party politics hold a tight reign over everyday life and progress bows to tradition. Ultra modern Shanghai has cast aside the shackles of the capital and has seized upon progress and modernity as its creed. Nor does Shanghai look inward for its inspiration. It actively invites the world to its doorstep as a significant global player. For visitors, everything is much more accessible as English is commonly spoken and signage and menus are subtexted in the global language. People are much warmer here too. They are friendly and helpful, a nice change to our experiences in the north.

The sites and people of Shanghai would have to wait for one more day as our first priority was to secure a visa for Kazakhstan. Fortunately Shazz had chosen a hostel close to both a metro station and to the Kazakh Consulate.

The visa application process was like watching grass grow as the guy plodded through the proceedings. To their credit, we were allowed to keep our passports while the week long process unfolded. This left us plenty of time to get about and see all of the main sites in both Shanghai and in nearby towns.

First we joined the throngs along Nanjing Road East and The Bund. Nanjing Rd is capitalism at its finest. If shopping were an Olympic sport, no-one else would bother to show up!!  All the big names are here and plenty we’ve never heard of too! You can eat anything you like, but finding a bar here is hard work. Capital Square has a couple of street side cafes where you can kick back and relax with an over-priced beer and watch the endless stream of humanity amble past and take sneaky photos of you!!

The Bund displays Shanghai’s unique history with its lengthy collection of colonial style buildings capturing just about every period and style of European architecture. The area is pivotal in explaining the city’s openness to the rest of the world - especially the West. Unlike the West though, nowhere along this impressive section of real estate can you sit down and buy a beer! Even The Bund Brewery, on a side street, is closed for renovations. This means the full effect of the night lights, both on The Bund and across the river to uber slick Pudong, are not lost on the completely sober rowds.

Just like Hong Kong and Singapore, Shanghai was a strategic trading port that has transformed itself into a major international shopping destination. Everything else has followed suit. All the infrastructure is here. All you need to do is arrange a visa and buy a ticket. China’s front door is open and the welcome mat is out.

Not to be seduced by modernity and all things familiar, we decided to spend a day seeking out some culture to balance the whole experience. Whilst the Shanghai Museum showcased a large range of artifacts from dynasties long gone, the Shanghai Art Museum was scratching to hold anything much of interest on its gloomy walls. The bottom floor exhibition, all by the same artist, was good at times. Both museums however, lacked any significant pieces to draw crowds and it seems like Beijing managed to get in first. One that didn’t get away though was the Urban Planning Museum. This place highlights Shanghai’s obsession with all things new, as well as housing an entire scale model of the city that occupies about 30 sqm of the 3rd floor. This alone is worth the admission as the city is laid our before you and you can grasp where everything is in relation to your accommodation and everything else. Add to that a spectacular 3D fly through that had you wizzing through significant parts of the city from the airport through to the expo site and this place won our best attraction award hands down.

No visit to Shanghai is complete without a visit to Pudong, the space-age suburb directly across the Huangpuo River from The Bund. Featuring the distinctive Oriental Pearl Tower and a plethora of towering glass skyscrapers, this futuristic collection from the "Fuck You" school of architecture could be a film set from the Thunderbirds movie and is as far removed from Beijing as it gets. A walk around the serene, green Central Park is recommended just to keep it all in perspective! Once again the night lights are really worth hanging around for, even if it does cost too much for a beer!

As good as the metro is, we still managed to walk a lot – a real lot! One stroll took us from Shanghai Railway Station to People’s Square via the canals and back streets. Another through the mish mash of old and new in the French Concession to Yu Gardens. And of course, how could we forget the overhead walk at Pudong. Transiting from one metro line to another could have you out of breath. This always earnt us a beer, preferably outside where we could watch the world go by. The easiest way to get a beer is to follow the tourists as all the locals appear to drink is tea. This lead us to places like Xintiandi, Tian Zi Fang, Capital Square, Pudong Riverfront and, when stretched, the front deck of the hostel which only had 3 chairs (perhaps to discourage discussion and mixing among the inhabitants??)

Eating was hit and miss despite the huuuuge variety, but we did find a really nice hotpot restaurant (Taiwanese style) in the food court of the local shopping mall. The owner of “Yami, Yami” spoke perfect English which was good as the menu was almost all Chinese. We ended up eating there three times and even took Andy (our Chinese friend from the train) and his friend Louise there.

We had a great time in Shanghai and both love the place. It certainly turned out to be a lot different from what we had expected based on a previous 8 week stint in China. We may even come back and teach for a year after this leg of our travels concludes…but we’re not really wanting to think about that just yet!!

PS. And just so you all know….we successfully received out Kazakhstan visa…allowing us to head west with one less hurdle to deal with.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • You must enter a comment
  • You must enter your name
  • You must enter a valid name (" & < > \ / are not accepted).
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: