Shanghai Shenanigans Express
My last visit to China was focused on Beijing and the Wall, for this trip Shanghai and Xian(home of the warriors) were on the agenda. All arrangements were made through “Christine” owner of China prime tours(firstname.lastname@example.org) she was easy to deal with and everything was PERFECT.
Arriving Shanghai Pudong airport(PVG) is a journey in itself. The airport is massive and the taxiway to the gate is long. Having been to China before (I had a 10yr visa) immigration was relatively quick, however, you will be required to fingerprint more than once at various Kiosks and the machines tend to get temperamental. At the airport we met our lovely guide “Lucy”( everyone in China has an English name) I did not want to tackle the traffic so I had planned to ride the Shanghai Maglev train, the world’s fastest commercially operating train with speeds in excess of 250mph. The 19 mile journey to downtown was covered in less than 7 minutes an awesome ride that the landscape just zooms by your window. We then transferred to the subway and reached the “Pudong” district. Booked my 6-night stay at “Central Hotel”, superb location in the heart of the Pudong district, very reasonable price and terrific rooms.
Went to Shanghai’s Old City and walked through the “Yu” Garden that is filled with classical pavilions, rock gardens and arched bridges, we made our way through alleys that have not changed since the 16th century.
The highlight of day and perhaps my entire Shanghai visit was going to the spiral-shaped 121-story Shanghai Tower the worlds 2nd tallest building, getting to the observation deck on the 118th floor is a fun ride but once you arrive start walking on the glass in the world’s highest fixed observation building the feeling can not be put into worlds. To end our day we strolled the famous “Bund” which is a walk along the Huangpu River, contrasting the past with the futuristic geometry of the Shanghai skyline.
Day #2- We battled Shaghai traffic and had about a 90 minute trip to reach “Zhujiajiao” a water town which some refer to as the not so real Venice of the east…happen to agree, it is a Venice without the European influence. The water town is very well preserved with many bridges, we had a fun Gondola ride on one of the many canals and following our Gondola canal ride we walked through the narrow alleys admiring the ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
It was “CRAB” season and watching the vendors wrap the and sell the crustaceans was interesting.
Took the subway to the domestic airport(also huge) and boarded our direct flight to Xian.
Xi’an a very bustling city of 9M and is often called the birthplace of Chinese civilization. As the former capital of China it was the home to “The First Emperor” who united China and left his mighty legacy “The Terracotta Warriors”. No to waste time, we immediately went to the city walls which are the largest and best preserved military defensive structures in the world. We biked half way around admiring the city below. Following our quick check in at our hotel, we headed downtown to visit the magnificent “Bell Tower”. After figuring out how to avoid the multitude of vehicles and getting to the tower entrance we were disappointed that we had arrived too late and it was closed. The next challenge was trying to find a way back to the hotel, taxis seemed impossible to flag so we just stood around for about 20 minutes watching the locals as they flagged passing cars for a ride. I decided to give it a try and stood at the corner with my fingers out. A number of cars stopped but no English was spoken, finally a car stopped I handed the driver the hotel name in Chinese, he pointed to money, I asked how much and he showed me a currency bill.. I agreed and within minutes we were at the hotel.. wow a fun adventure.
Following a one hr drive we finally made it to the entrance of the “Terracotta Warriors”. The Terracotta Warriors and Horses, is a super large collection of life-size terracotta sculptures in battle formations they are reproductions of the imperial guard troops of first Emperor . The entire collection are housed in three large covered underground pits. The majority of the sculptures are in PIECES and the Chinese government is slowly putting the pieces back together. In pit “one” which is the largest pit and most photographed stand long columns of warriors in formation and behind them along the pits are the numerous broken pieces which are being put together. The entire complex is amazing so are the throngs of visitors. We never made it to the ‘Wild Goose Pagoda” due to our schedule, just grabbed a flight back to Shanghai.
Walked along Nanjing Road which is the main shopping street of Shanghai but no real bargains are to be had, visited the Shanghai Museum, walked in Peoples Square park and eventually made our way to the former French Concession. This interesting area of Shanghai was developed in the late 1800’s and was the trendiest section of Shanghai till 1943. Following the communist takeover the area lay undeveloped, starting in the 1990’s the French concession started to come back to life, the area is now home to live-music, boutique wine bars, fashion shops and European style delis totally unexpected to find in China. Following a dinner at a typical local Chinese dinner at a local establishment we rode the bus back to the Bund and admired the the enchanting night view of the city all light up.
Our departure was marked by another ride on an even faster Maglev train.
Tips; Shanghai is China’s most cosmopolitan city with 24 million, the city is quite compact and can most of the main tourist districts can be easily be covered by foot however, the air quality is VERY bad. The metro which is the world’s largest is very well connected and simple to follow but expect crowds. Overall a fun city city to spend a few days.