“I took a walk in the woods and came out than the trees”
– Henry Thoreau
As I promised yesterday, today I will introduce you to a world, even more interesting than the one I talked about in my previous article. Today’s destination is: Shanghai – the largest city by population not only in China, but in the whole world! Impressive, right? Shanghai, with its 24 million people, can offer so much to a traveler that it needs to be part of every person’s travel list and one has to spend at least a week wandering around this Chinese jewel.
Here are some facts about Shanghai you need to know before going there. Shanghai is the largest city by population in China, beating the capital, Beijing, with 3 million people. The local currency is the Chinese yuan (1 Chinese yuan is equal to 0.16 US dollars). It’s situated on China’s eastern coast, on the Yangtze River Delta (the city’s water resources are very rich, including many rivers, lakes and canals). The climate is humid subtropical with very hot summer. The best time to visit it is in autumn because most of the times the weather is hot and dry.
Shanghai is the financial and commercial center of China and that’s why when you visit it you shouldn’t be surprised to see all the skyscrapers and modern building that cover the whole city (the tallest building in Shanghai, also the tallest in whole China, is 121 floors, or more than 2,000 feet!). Shanghai is not the cheapest city to stay in, but the best thing about China is that you can easily bargain about the price of almost anything so you will be able to find a decent place to stay for less money. Of course, if you want to stay at a 5-star hotel, be ready to pay around 200-300 USD or 2000 CNY for a night. Food is relatively cheap if you eat in a typical restaurant that serves Chinese cuisine. Again, like with the hotels, if you want to eat at a fancy place, prices go up quickly. Don’t be surprised if you pay around 5 dollars for a coffee, that’s the standard price in Shanghai. Traveling with the public transport because it’s cheaper, although it may be weird for you at first because of all these people (again, 24 million in a single city!).
Okay, so you have found where to stay and where to eat for a decent price. Now, where to go? I would advise you to just walk around the streets and embrace the culture, but in a megapolis like this, that’s not the best idea! Instead, go to a small suburb of Shanghai, called Zhujiajiao, which oddly looks like a Chinese version of Venice. Along with all the rivers that run through the small town, there is an ancient street, North Street, that gives you the opportunity the traditional Chinese architecture a lot better because of well-preserved buildings and houses.
The next place you should go is the Jade Buddha temple that’s located in the western part of the city. In the temple there are two Buddha statues, around 1 m each, dating from around 1880. It’s a real treat for the eye, especially for people who are into arts or just want to run away from the busy Shanghai environment. On that note, if you are an artistic type of person, definitely visit the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center or the Shanghai dramatic Arts Center to get to know Chinese drama a lot better (did you know that Chinese cinema was born in Shanghai?). Along with these two places, Shanghai offers a lot art galleries and centers that will please even the most fastidious taste.
If you don’t want to waste time with galleries, try the local museums. The Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai National History museum and the Shanghai Arts Museum are just e few of the places where you can get to know the Chinese culture a lot better. Spend at least one day in one of the many gardens and parks that the city offers. That’s what I like the most in Chinese cities – no matter how big they are or how much space there is, there always will be at least several gardens and parks that you can relax in and be in contact with nature (which is extremely important, especially in a place with the scale of Shanghai!). Lastly, go shopping on Nanjing Road – the top commercial street in whole Shanghai. It will offer you not only traditional goods, but also many western-inspired products, worthy of the commercial center that Shanghai is.
Shanghai is not the place where you can go to explore the history of the oldest Asian country. Shanghai is a place for the modern traveler, for people who are ready to live, even for a week, the dynamic lives the locals live and who want to see in person how the traditional Chinese culture clashes with the enormous western influence that Shanghai has. So, if you want an adventure in modern China, this is the place for you!
And tomorrow? Well, who knows. But I definitely feel like eating something European…