Saturday, June 30, 2012

Travel Advice in China: Shanghai

Prepare to spend a lot of money-- prices are high in Shanghai.  However, it’s fun place to visit. Take a walk along the Bund; on one side of you, there are 18th century European buildings; on the other is the river with the Pudong skyline on the other side.  I got some good pictures of the skyline from there.  One Saturday night, it seemed like half the city was down  there walking around. The Pudong area of Shanghai has some of the highest skyscrapers in the world, and there are three you can go up in: the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and the Jin Mao Tower.  The World Financial Center looks like a giant needle with a square eye cut out; you can go up to about the 100th floor.  I’m not sure of the cost, but probably between 100-200 Yuan. I went up the Jin Mao Tower, which is right next to the Financial Center.  I chose this one because from it you could get good views of the other two, which are more architecturally interesting.  In it, you can go up to the 88th floor (there is an observation deck with windows all around).  It cost 88 Yuan in 2010.  Just try not to do it at the same time as a group of 200 middle-schoolers from Wuhan like I did.  Oh, and what I did was go up close to sunset.  That way, I got to see the city by day, waited around up there while the sun set, and then got to see the city lights by night as well.  Might as well make the most of it!  I’m not sure how much the Oriental Pearl costs to go in; it’s the one that looks like a purple and silver tinker toy spaceship.  

There are plenty of other things you can do in Shanghai: shopping, museums, cute little neighborhoods that look European.  You’ll find them in any guide book or such.  Nanjing Road is worth a visit for the shopping and crowd scene; it’s right in the middle of everything, so you can’t really avoid it anyways. The other thing I really enjoyed was the food: I was working in Jingzhou, a smaller town in Hubei province.  The only good American food in Jingzhou was Pizza Hut, and there was very little other foreign food.  In Shanghai, there were Italian restaurants, French restaurants, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s, etc.  I really enjoyed having that kind of variety again! And, they had Mountain Dew! 

There is a neighborhood called Xujiahui which I particularly enjoyed; if nobody was speaking Chinese, you would think you were somewhere in Europe.  One subway stop up from Xujiahui, at the Hengsheng stop on the red line, is a district with tons of restaurants of all sorts.  

I stayed at the Captain Youth Hostel on Fuzhou Road, right off the Bund, when I was there.  It was fine, although the front desk staff weren’t terribly friendly.  It was nice to be only a few steps from the Bund and the river walk, but it was a pretty good walk  to the nearest subway stop.  However, in route to the subway, you do pass a Dunkin’ Donuts...Anyhow, next to the hostel, on Fuzhou Road, there was a really good Italian restaurant, if you’re looking for that type of thing.  Also on Fuzhou Road, five to seven blocks from  People’s Square, there are some  English-language bookstores.   If you go on google maps and zoom in, they are marked on the map.  

Oh, and it seems a lot of the guide books recommended a place call Qibao.  I don’t recommend it.  It’s ‘ye olde Chinese village’, and it’s a tourist trap in the worst way.  All the “quaint old shops” sell cheap sunglasses and popsicles and Hello Kitty key chains, and swarms of old people shuffle through jabbing you with the edges of their umbrellas.  This is really only for people who only go to Shanghai and have no chance to ever see anything else in China; you can see much much better ‘villages’ elsewhere.


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