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! 💕