People, People, People! So Many People.

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Saturday, August 13, 2011

Between this year and last year I have spent about a month in Shanghai. If I had to place it on a list of my favorite cities in China Shanghai would rank third. While the people are not very friendly, which you can't really expect in a big city, Shanghai is relatively clean and quite efficient.
Shanghai's history only includes a few hundred years, during which the city was not very notable. It wasn't until the mid 19th century that it started becoming the huge international trade center it is today. Therefore there aren't many historic sites in Shanghai. It is a modern metropolis and definitely has more of a feeling of America than China.
With more than 20 million people Shanghai ranks as one of the most populated cities in the world. Even though it has an enormous population I don't feel that Shanghai is as crowded as some of the other cities I have visited. This is likely caused by the superb public transportation system. With more taxis than you could imagine, a well organized bus system, and 11 metro lines traversing Shanghai is quite easy, which helps to alleviate both road traffic and pedestrian traffic.
Though there isn't much in terms of history to see in Shanghai a half a day can be spent visiting Yuyuan and the City God Temple. The former is a beautiful Chinese garden on par with the ones in Suzhou, which allows for a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the extremely crowded Old City just outside the gates. Though it can rather crowded if the weather is nice. The latter is a temple also located in the Old City. While City God Temples were normally only built in places that had reached the level of cities Shanghai was special and got a temple when it was only recognized as a town.
The Old City is definitely one of the places in Shanghai where you will wonder how so many people could constantly gather in one place. Every couple steps someone will try to sell you a watch or a bag and after a little while it can become quite annoying.
Probably the most crowded place in Shanghai is the Bund at night. This is a section of the Huangpu river that was lined with foreign banks at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Along the Bund you can see many old European style buildings, while on the other side of the river stands some of the tallest most recognizable buildings in Shanghai, including the Pearl TV Tower. People normally go there to look at the lights coming from Pudong (the area with the skyscrapers), so during the evening it can become crowded enough that walking is difficult. 
As a side note, always be careful of scams when walking near the Bund. Since this area is commonly visited by foreigners there are usually some people trying to pull of scams. One of the most common scams in this area involves two to three girls, who speak English, acting friendly and inviting the foreigners to a tea ceremony. Needless to say the girls work for the tea people and the tea is exceptionally expensive. When I was in Shanghai in June my friends and I got in an argument with some people trying to pull this scam on us.
Another day in Shanghai can be spent visiting the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Art Museum, both of which are around People's Square, one of the main shopping areas.
Transportation Guide to the Above Locations:
Old City - take Metro line 10 to Yuyuan. It's a short walk from the stop, but I'm not entirely sure what direction, so take a map. Plus, once you are inside the Old City, it can be pretty disorienting, so make sure to read the signs.
The Bund - you can either take lines 2 or 10 to East Nanjing Road and it is a short walk away, or line 1,2,8 to People's Square then walk east down Fuzhou road for about a kilometer.
Museums and People's Square - lines 1,2,8

If you find yourself bored in Shanghai then you can take day trips to Suzhou and Hangzhou. Suzhou is famous for its gardens and is only a half hour train ride away. Hangzhou is famous for its West Lake and is an hour train ride away. Unfortunately foreigners are now required to show passports in order to buy bullet train tickets, so you will either have to go to the train station or a train ticket office to purchase your tickets. Definitely buy the ticket a day or two before you travel, that way you can save yourself the hassle of waiting in a huge line. 

Train Stations:
Hongqiao - Metro lines 2 and 10. Be careful, they don't always go all the way to Hongqiao, you might have to transfer.
Shanghai train station - Metro lines 1,3,4
Shanghai south train station -  lines 1,3   
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