Shanghai is mainland China’s most important financial center and also its most populous metropolitan area with over 23 million people. The city on the Yangtze River delta is also dubbed the “Paris of the East” owing to the unmistakeable influence of the West in its old buildings – represented in a grand parade of different European architectural styles on The Bund. Across the Huangpu River, the cluster of skyscrapers in the Pudong district is a glittering symbol of China as an economic power.

Arrival in Shanghai

The city was our first stop on our honeymoon in 2011. Arriving past midnight on a red-eye flight from Manila, we stayed at the decent and huge airport motel to spend the remaining hours rather than splurge on an early morning taxi ride. More importantly, I wanted to experience this:

Shanghai maglev

The Shanghai Transrapid

The Shanghai Maglev Train, officially the Shanghai Transrapid, is a magnetic levitation-powered train that whisks passengers from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road metro station in 7 to 8 minutes, covering a distance of 30.5 kilometers. On test runs it recorded a top speed of 501 kph, but during commercial operation the Shanghai Maglev only peaks at 431 kph. In reality the train takes roughly 3 minutes to accelerate to its top speed and the same time to decelerate, so the train runs on its peak in only a minute or so. The end of the maglev line is also nowhere near downtown Shanghai – another 20-minute ride by subway is needed – but this did not deter us from taking the maglev. After all, this is the only commercially operating maglev line in the world.

Maglev speed

Speed Displayed inside the Maglev train

Shanghai Museum

After leaving our luggage at our hotel, our first stop was People’s Square in downtown Shanghai. At the center of People’s Square is the Shanghai Museum, housed in a building with a square base and round top, an allusion to the ancient Chinese philosophy of a round sky and square earth.

People's Square

People’s Square. Shanghai, China.

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum

The museum collection of ancient Chinese artifacts such as jade, ceramics, and bronze is topnotch. But what impressed me most is the gallery of ancient Chinese paintings and how these were displayed in a dimly lit gallery. Motion sensors detect when a person is in front of a painting, and this activates soft illumination of the painting. Sadly, the Canon S90 we used mostly for indoor shots was stolen the next day in Jin Mao tower observation deck.

Expo 2010 China Pavilion

After its successful hosting of the 2010 World Expo, the $220 million China Pavilion was retained as a permanent structure. The pavilion resembles an ancient Chinese crown and incorporates a modern take on the traditional Chinese architectural element of interlocking brackets and overhanging roofs.  In 2012, the pavilion started its new life as the China Art Museum.

China Pavilion

China Pavilion at the Expo 2010 site. Shanghai, China.

China Pavilion closeup

China Pavilion close-up

Before retiring in the evening, we had a leisurely walk along Huaihai Road, which along with Nanjing Dong Lu, are the most popular shopping streets in Shanghai lined with huge stores of top global brands.

In the next installment, we will visit Shanghai’s top attractions, Yuyuan Gardens and the Bund, as well two of the tallest structures in the world: Jin Mao and Oriental Pearl Towers in the Pudong district.


Day 1: Shimmering Shanghai

  • Shanghai Maglev
  • People’s Square
  • China Pavilion
  • Huaihai Road

Day 2: East meets West

  • Yuyuan Gardens
  • The Bund
  • Jin Mao Tower
  • Oriental Pearl Tower
  • Nanjing Dong Lu

Day 3: Hanging out in Hangzhou

  • Lingyin Temple
  • Fei Lai Peak
  • West Lake