Shanghai, Paris of the orient
Shanghai, though not large in size is one of the most populous cities in the world. The city only spans 62km’s across yet could easily fit the entire population of Australia.
This imperial city is considered the centre of innovation and progress. It is a city of contrasts with the Pudong skyline, neon signs of Nanjing Road and serenity of Yu Garden and an elegant section of riverbank lined with European styled buildings.
One of the most fascinating cities on earth, Shanghai is the commercial and financial centre of China. The Bund, situated on the bank of the Huangpu River played a pivotal part in the history of modern China. Today on the financial square is a statue of the charging Bund Bull, a replica of that featured on New York’s Wall Street.
On the other side of the road is neo-classical HSBC Bank (now Pudong Bank) with a feature dome ceiling which is a highlight to see inside the building. At the time of being built in 1923 the most luxurious building was the largest bank in the Far East and the second largest in the world. Two large bronze lions flank either side of the entrance leading clients up the stairs, through the revolving doors to the octagonal entrance hall. The huge dome is decorated with frescoes depicting the twelve zodiac signs. The eight murals depict the cities where HSBC had branches, Shanghai, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Calcutta, Bangkok, Paris and New York.
Another famous building on the Bund is the former Sassoon House, now the Peace Hotel, easily recognized by this green steepled roof.
Prominent buildings opposite the Bund in the Pudong District are the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Centre and the Jim Mao Tower.
Shanghai’s streets are filled with people, cars, bicycles and buses yet serenity and beauty are ever present. Exquisite temples, mercantile houses, elegant mansions or superb museums, Shanghai is the showpiece of a booming economy with a renowned skyline.
Known as a global financial centre and major transport hub with the world’s busiest container port, Shanghai grew its’ importance in shipping and trading in the 19th century.
Our hotel, Shanghai Sofitel Hyland was located in the heart of the city on Nanjing Road, a great location within walking distance of People’s Square, the Bund, Shanghai Museum, Grand Theatre, metro stations and right on the main shopping street of Shanghai. Check in at our hotel was super easy, up on the 30th floor. We were advised we’d been upgraded to a suite which was lovely having been in a stateroom onboard a cruise ship for the past 21 days. The hotel staff were very obliging. Steve had found the bed too hard and a quick phone call and a soft pillow top was added to the mattress giving him peaceful nights’ sleep until we checked out. It’s the little things like pillow menu, daily newspapers, complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, happy hour, even the elegant touch of silk covered coat hangers that make it easy to choose a hotel where it truly feels like home away from home.
The bathroom was well laid out, had a separate, full size bath and beautiful French Lanvin products. Our suite offered views overlooking the city from our two large windows in our 25th floor suite and access to the premier lounge which offered daily breakfast, afternoon tea and happy hour with snacks. We ate at the restaurant, Mosaic for one meal and enjoyed the variety on offer. We enjoyed farewell drinks at the tres chic lounge bar, Bar 505 where they serve anything from a freshly brewed coffee, flashy cocktails or a sophisticated glass of bubbly. We never ate at the other restaurant, Mao, or made it to the fitness centre or spa unfortunately, but if the parts of the hotel we saw were anything to go by, we are sure they would have been very high quality.
Language wasn’t a problem either at the hotel or out and about. We had our hotel written down in Chinese so the taxi driver knew where to take us when we first arrived. The hotel gave us cards with “please take me to” Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Railway Station, Maglev Train Station, Yu Garden, Tai Kang Road, The Bund, Shanghai Museum, Jade Buddha Temple, Oriental Pearl Tower and several other places written down with how far they were and how much to expect to pay (day and night rate).
Despite constant development making Nanjing Road one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, it is a street that begs to be wandered. Nanjing Rd is the earliest and most prosperous shopping streets here and is divided into an east and west section. A wide pedestrian mall said to attract 1 million shoppers a day offers a one stop shopping mall, fabulous restaurants and spectacular night views. Housing several five star hotels and upscale shopping centres and restaurants, Nanjing Road is the world’s longest shopping mall, 5.5km long.
Luxury fashion brands like Gucci, Tiffany, Mont Blanc, Cartier, Nike, Zara and Jimmy Choo are intermingled with KFC, McDonald’s and traditional silk, jade and teashops on both sides of the road.
The bustling Nanjing Road also has historical significance. Since becoming a treaty port after the Opium War Nanjing Road became the main road to reach the Bund.
But don’t just stay in Nanjing Road, head down some little alleys and stroll through the backstreets too.
We found a few restaurants where only locals were present so went in and had a tasty meal. We enjoyed it so much, next day we went back to another nearby and had another very enjoyable meal.
We took the metro to the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum, but don’t let the name fool you. Here we found a very large market selling all your knock-off products. At the fake markets you get inexpensive tailor made clothing, luggage, shoes, bags, electronics, just about anything.
As night descends, the entire city from the elegant skyline to the neon lights of Nanjing Road comes to life. A number of trackless sightseeing trains take shoppers along past open air bars, sculptures and street musicians. For those taking an evening stroll the night-time mall is transformed with flashing neon lights luminating the magnificent buildings of this lively city.
The glittering waterfront and colourful shopping mall are a buzz, impressing everyone who sees them.
Transport is very easy with public trains, buses and sightseeing buses, but Shanghai is especially good for walking.
We saw a performance of the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, a sensational performance of juggling, balancing and athletic justice that held us in awe throughout the performance. They never had any nets, pads or trampolines, just manpower and determination. I wasn’t expecting much initially but every single performance was absolutely jawdropping.
Shanghai is a fascinating mix of east meets west, European flair blends with Chinese tradition, a cosmopolitan French feel, richness of Art Deco, even English Tudor style.
Referred to as “Paris of the Orient”, Shanghai has great attraction with its state of the art skyscrapers. But don’t just take our word for it, you can read Top 10 things to do in Shanghai and some insider tips on top things to do in Shanghai. The contrasts of east and west and blend of ancient and modern is what makes this city the number one metropolis in China.
We missed out on travelling on the Maglev train, never tried traditional hot pot or dumplings, or get to the Marriage Market held in People’s Park but we did manage to stay connected to Facebook for our entire trip. Looks like we’ll just have to go back for those things and see if if Facebook gets blocked next time.
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*Sofitel Shanghai Hyland kindly provided a media discount and upgrade for our stay and as always, all opinions are our own.