East Meets West: Shanghai

For our Golden Week holiday, Tommy and I had the chance explore Hangzhou and Shanghai.  I’ll share more on Hangzhou later, where we had a great time catching up with Tommy’s old roommate Bin and trying weird new foods (have you ever watched your meal die in front of you? We now have!).  But for now, Shanghai!  This city knocked it out of the park with its crazy skyline – sorry, Hong Kong! – and blend of new and old, East and West.

What We Loved

  • Lujiazui – Shanghai’s financial district and home to its most famous buildings, such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building, Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC/Bottle Opener), and Shanghai Tower.  We decided to skip the expensive tickets and long line to the viewing platform of the world’s second tallest tower (Shanghai Tower) and instead got drinks on the 87th floor of its neighbor, the SWFC.  This was the perfect decision, as it ended up being one of my absolute favorite memories.  Park Hyatt’s “Living Room” was an elegant, quiet bar with breathtaking views of the city at night.  We were able to admire a direct view of the Pearl and Jin Mao while enjoying top shelf liquor and romantic music for half the price of the tower – and not a jostling, loudmouthed tourist in sight!
  • The Bund The historic walkway along the Huangpu River that offers views of both modern Pudong and colonial Puxi skylines.  We were too busy to make it to the Bund during the day, which we’ve heard is completely different than at night – but what we experienced, we loved!  Yes, it was crowded and full of visitors trying to get that perfect selfie with the iconic skyline.  There were also about 8 separate brides trying to get photographed in the slim gaps between tourists along the road! But quite honestly, it’s so special we can’t blame them.  The full moon on the night we visited was a particularly nice touch.
  • Tianzifang – An artsy neighborhood whose narrow streets are filled with shops selling handmade or specialty items and delicious food.  Some buildings retain traditional Shanghai shikumen architecture.  I loved finding quirky little treasures around every corner, and we enjoyed an amazing brunch on Kommune’s alley patio that allowed for prime people-watching.

    Other Shanghai Attractions

    Although those were our highlights, we did see a lot more in Shanghai! A few details:

  • Jade Temple – An active temple home to two famous jade Buddhas from Burma.  We came for the art and architecture, but were surprised to find how many others had actually come to worship.  It was interesting to see their prayer and incense practices, but as Christians it was also a little sad to see so many who have not been saved. Also, on-site construction took away from the architectural beauty.
  • Shanghai Natural History Museum – We loved the architecture of the building, the mineral/gem and “Colorful Life” collections, and the surrounding Jing’an Sculpture Park. The rest of the museum was mostly, as Tommy put it, “a zoo for dead animals.”  A taxidermist’s dream – although many of them were so poorly preserved, maybe their nightmare.
  • Shanghai Museum – Ancient Chinese art and artifacts.  Asian Art was the one Art History class I didn’t take in college, so I was lacking the knowledge to fully appreciate it. There were some beautiful pieces, but we weren’t sure it was worth the hour we queued to enter.
  • West and East Nanjing Road – Both famous shopping roads that we went through due to convenient metro stops. West was a cute and fun market road with some tasty restaurants, East was huge and crowded with every store imaginable.
  • IFC Mall – Luxury shopping mall in Lujiazui.  We stopped to pick up some Western food from their import grocery store – yes, Doritos are basically a luxury good here! As in Hong Kong, the window displays of the designer brands were almost an attraction in and of themselves.  They get a bit bizarre!

In keeping with my Chinese family metaphor, Shanghai was also a more restrained cousin.  Like Hong Kong, they’ve got some weird family history that lingers in the form of some uniquely Western attributes.  However, Shanghai definitely felt more restrained and inherently Chinese. All in all, we had an amazing trip!

We’re back in Sinan now, with classes resuming on Monday. Lots of love to everyone back home, props to those who read all the way through! 💕

3 days discovering Shanghai Our Quarter Life Adventure

6 Replies to “East Meets West: Shanghai”

  1. Emily and Tommy, We love hearing about your adventures through these blogs. Thanks for the photos and commentary. The skyline is amazing, and the mix of history, and culture is great to hear about. Are you learning any Mandarin? Will you be working any of your travels into your classes? I assume many of your students haven’t seen Shanghai, but maybe I’m wrong.

    1. We haven’t learned much Mandarin – we are trying little by little, but the four tones make it really hard to differentiate the words! We might use the travel a little, my students are too low-level to use much of it but Tommy was thinking of incorporating it. Planning a holiday is a pretty common lesson plan, so if he does that one in the future it will probably come up. Good talking to you today, love you!

  2. Wow! Simply gorgeous! How was Bin and his family? Glad you were able to make the trip. Sorry about my last comment last week….it was sent before I proofread it..someday mastery might just happen.Malachi started basic training this week for Army reserves..So glad you can explore and see this fascinating country. Thanks for the pictures.. Love you G and G

    1. Bin and his family were good! We didn’t get a chance to meet his wife, but we met his baby and she is adorable. No problem about the comment, I didn’t notice anything weird? We will be praying for Malachi! Good hearing from you two, love you both.

  3. Your descriptions are wonderful. Thanks so much for taking us along on your adventures via the computer. How did your group thanksgiving dinner turn out? Love you!!!

    1. Happy you’re enjoying the posts. 🙂 The group Thanksgiving was great! We had quite a spread – I made roast chicken, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, and green bean casserole, the other two Americans made bread rolls, banana bread, and brownies, and the Australian brought drinks. It was a little sad to be away from family, but it was nice that we had friends to get together with!

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