Shanghai’s importance as a center of trade grew in the 19th century when the British, following their victory over China in the First Opium War, opened the city to foreign trade. The French, British, and American Concessions were subsequently established in Shanghai. Today, Western influence is evident in the architecture of buildings in the former concession areas that coexist with traditional Chinese architecture in the old city.
Our first stop on our second day in Shanghai was at Yuyuan Garden, a picturesque classical Chinese garden tucked in the Old Town area. The approach to the garden from the Yuyuan Garden subway station is through the Yuyuan Bazaar, a touristy arcade lined with shops selling all kinds of knick-knacks and souvenirs. We heeded the travel guide’s advice to come early; the area wasn’t jampacked with tourists yet when we arrived.
The garden is arranged in different mini-gardens in “Suzhou” style, each section connected to the next by passageways of different shapes. The landscape portrayed in each mini-garden varies: rocks, ponds, and small hills which are often accompanied by a balcony where the best views can be had.
It took us less than an hour to walk through the garden. If you follow the clockwise route starting from the Bridge of Nine Turns, you’ll emerge at the east exit on another alley lined with shops.
Walking from Yuyuan Garden to Gucheng Park in the northeast, we emerged on the south end of The Bund, Shanghai’s riverfront promenade lined with colonial-era buildings that overlook the Huangpu River and Pudong district. Here, dozens of buildings built in Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles stand as mute witnesses to the transformation of Shanghai from a bustling port center in the 19th century to the global financial center that it is today.
The main avenue along the Bund, Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, was reduced from 11 lanes to 4 in order to widen the promenade in preparation for the 2010 World Expo. A road tunnel was constructed to divert the displaced traffic. As a result, a stroll on the Bund promenade didn’t feel cramped even with the hundreds of tourists with the same itinerary as ours.
Pudong and the Lost Camera
To get to Pudong across the Huangpu River, we took a ferry which was the most convenient and scenic mode of river crossing. To take the subway meant backtracking a few blocks away from the riverfront.
After late lunch at the huge Super Brand Mall, our next stop was the observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower. Standing at 421 meters, the Jin Mao Tower was the tallest building in China before being overtaken by its neighbor, the Shanghai World Financial Center which stands at 492 meters.
The Jin Mao tower is built around what the Chinese consider a lucky number: 8. The building has 88 stories, built around 8 composite and steel supercolumns, and was inaugurated on 8-28-1998. The fee to the 88th floor observation deck was even priced at 88 RMB during our visit. Inflation apparently took over as the entrance fee is now 100 RMB.
From the Jin Mao observation deck one can see its next-door neighbor, the Shanghai World Financial Center. The trapezoidal hole, designed to reduce wind pressure on the tower, gave the building the monicker “bottle opener”. The design of the hole was originally circular, but this was changed to trapezoid when some Chinese nationalists protested that it looked similar to the Japanese flag’s rising sun.
We were too engrossed with sightseeing on the observation deck that it was too late when we noticed our Canon Powershot S90 was already missing. After searching all the nooks and crannies in the observation deck for half an hour, we gave up. I wanted to ask for the building’s CCTV but with the language barrier, doing that was close to impossible.
We didn’t want the lost camera to spoil our trip so we just moved on. Before going back to the other side of the river, we passed by the space-age Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The Shanghai Municipal History Museum inside the tower has good dioramas depicting Shanghai in the early 1900s.
The view from the Bund was even more breathtaking in the evening, when the skyscrapers across the Huangpu are lit up.
The Bund side was just as pretty with the old buildings beautifully illuminated.
On the way back to the subway station, we passed by the Nanjing Dong Lu, a popular shopping street in Shanghai.
We called it a day shortly afterward as our faces were already becoming numb from the winter wind chill.
In the last installment of my Shanghai series, we will go on an excursion to Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province and one of the most visited tourist destinations in China.
- Shanghai Maglev
- People’s Square
- China Pavilion
- Huaihai Road
Day 2: East meets West
- Yuyuan Garden
- The Bund
- Jin Mao Tower
- Oriental Pearl Tower
- Nanjing Dong Lu
- Lingyin Temple
- Fei Lai Peak
- West Lake