Shanghai has always been a mystery to me. What makes the city so attractive that six friends in the fashion industry who visited chose never to come back? What brings big-name moviemakers there to film top box-office sellers such as Skyfall 007, MI3, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? And how can a city grow so fast in twenty-five years from this:

shanghai skyline 20 years ago
Shanghai 25 years ago

… to this…?

shanghai 2015

When the opportunity came, I decided to see for myself.

Our schedule only allowed us to stay for a weekend but we experienced the most out of it, thanks to some local friends. There were still a bit of hit-and-miss: the hit-where the locals took us; the miss-the day we decided to be smart alecs and explored on our own.

Hits & Tips:

Stay

We stayed at Sofitel Shanghai Hyland, which is conveniently located in the heart of Shanghai’s commercial hub and a short walk away from Shanghai‘s famous luxury shopping district, Nanjing Road West (maybe not so convenient for the husbands).

Getting around

Shanghai’s maglev train is the world’s first commercial magnetic levitation train that speeds up to 431 km/h and it transports passengers to/from the Pudong International Airport in just 8 minutes.

Though Shanghai’s metro takes us to just about anywhere, the city’s low taxi fare (at around USD$0.50/km) convinced us to cab around instead.
Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai and can be booked through apps or phone.

Ferry is also an option to cross the Huangpu River, Shanghai’s main river that divides the city into east (Pudong New District) and west (Puxi Area).

Attractions

The Bund

The Bund is a waterfront located on the Puxi side. A place I call haunted after the New Year’s stampede incident. Still beautiful, however. From there we experienced the past and the future. The Bund houses several colonial and Art Deco structures from the 20s/30s; overlooking the river sees the future, the futuristic buildings on the other side make a nice photo-op for the Shanghai city skyline. From there we captured stunning shots of Shanghai’s iconic skyscrapers including the Shanghai World Financial Centre that looks like a beer opener, the Jinmao Tower, the Oriental Pearl Tower that illuminates at night, and China’s tallest and the world’s second tallest building, Shanghai Tower, which has just completed construction. I was glad the pictures didn’t turn out with a few extra spirits.

the bund Shanghai
View from The Bund Shanghai (Shanghai Tower in progress)

Shanghai Chenghuang Temple & Yu Garden

Built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), the Shanghai Chenghuang Temple (City God Temple) is the place to experience traditional Chinese architecture.

The temple is surrounded by hundreds of shops selling antiques and souvenirs like traditional Chinese tea sets, chopsticks, and handicrafts.

The temple is also connected to Yu Garden, a traditional Chinese garden built expensive in 1559.

The Yu Garden is a favourite spot for Shanghai’s famed street eat-soup dumpling (xiaolongbao). Nanxiang Steam Bun Restaurant is where we tried unconventional soup dumpling flavours like foie gras and shark fin, and burned our tongues from sucking juice out of Nanxiang’s giant steamed bun with a straw.

Tianzifang

Tianzifang/ Tian Zi Fang is an artsy area composed of labyrinthine alleyways. It is located in the French concession area and preserves Shikumen architecture (traditional Shanghainese architectural style with stone gate frames) from the 30s.

It is where we found art galleries, street food, street wear, quirky knick-knacks, nostalgic postcards, and souvenirs that we didn’t understand.

It is also where we enjoyed our afternoon beer and shisha in one of its many nice bars.

Shopping

Being the first city in China to open up to Western culture since 1843 (when China opened up their commercial port), Shanghai has no shortage of fashion. International (and local) fashion brands are seen everywhere throughout the city.

Nanjing Xi Road (Nanjing Road West) is where thousands of dollars can be spent within minutes on International luxury goods. Huaihai Road carries fashion goods starting at a lower price point. A ten-minute walk from Huaihai is Xin Tian Di, another pleasant area to shop for lifestyle brands and to enjoy a cup of coffee.

 

Drinks & Nightlife

Like all big cities, Shanghai is a place that never sleeps. At night, The Bund and the former French concession areas are where the city comes to life. Bars and clubs illuminate the streets.

We spent our first night sipping whisky at Bar Constellation before heading to a private piano bar where members sang to live music; and the second night at MUSE on The Bund, a spacious nightclub where the locals took cellphone pictures of the performers, and the expats danced.

Ritz Carlton Pudong’s Flair lounge located on the 58th floor of IFC was the perfect call to fuel ourselves up for the flight. There we tasted exquisite cocktails made with fresh ingredients, and enjoyed a stunning view of the Shanghai city and the Oriental Pearl Tower.

More of Shanghai:

(photos by Tanya)

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