Shanghai Surprise

We were in for several surprises when we disembarked from a 17-day Grand Asia Cruise in Shanghai, China. First of all, it is a massive city—ranking sixth on the list of the world’s largest—with a population of almost 24 million people and stretching over 2,700 square miles. Another surprise: the Chinese government has installed a giant firewall preventing people from accessing America’s social media websites. I had to figure out a way to circumvent this irritating barrier in order to update folks back home, which I did through a free VPN—which stands for Virtual Private Network. You can download several free VPN’s through the App Store for iPhone that have free trials. It worked brilliantly and allowed me to access my gmail as well as Facebook and Instagram.

On our first day we were treated to a bright, sunshiny day, which is unusual for Shanghai—another nice surprise. The plethora of skyscrapers in Shanghai are more often than not hidden in the fog and clouds. We were met at the port by our guide, Elaine, and driver, Mr. Ho, from China Highlights. We made the hour-and-a-half drive to Zhujiajiao with our new friends from California and Alaska, Laurie and Gary, whom we met on the cruise.

In the centuries past, Zhujiajiao was a trading area due to the many canals, which were used to ferry products along in little boats and barges. Boats are still very much part of the charm of the place. Now young people and those who want to unwind after a day’s work go there from Shanghai to relax.

We took a boat ride, had a traditional Chinese family-style lunch, and visited Kezhi Yuan at the northern edge of the old district on Xijing Street,which is a garden dating to 1912. The word “kezhi” means to learn to plant, a lesson on plants or a class of plants, so it was a place to see and learn about them. Fangsheng Bridge is another of the main attractions among the ancient 36 stone bridges, some only one yard wide. It was built in 1812 and is said to be the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai.

Shanghai, Hu for short, also known as Shen, is a multi-cultural metropolis with both modern and traditional Chinese features. The city has a status equivalent to a province, and reports directly to the central government. Serving as the largest base of Chinese industrial technology, one of the most important seaports and China’s largest commercial and financial center, Shanghai draws the attention of the whole world.  

Shanghai, whose name literally means “on the sea,” is located on the east China coast just to the south of the mouth of the Yangtze river. Bordering on Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces on the west, Shanghai is washed by the east China sea on the east and Hangzhou Bay on the south. It also occupies a central location along China’s coastline. Thanks to its advantageous geographic location, Shanghai is an excellent sea and river port, boasting easy access to the vast hinterland.

Shanghai is an international city that melts with different cultures from all over the world; they call it Shanghai Regional Culture. Shanghai Regional Culture is originally derived from Traditional Chinese Culture and melted with the Wu and Yue Dynasty Culture, and also deeply impacted by Western Culture.

Broadly, central Shanghai is divided into two areas: Pudong (east of the Huangpu River) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu river). On the east side of the Huangpu River is Pudong, a special economic zone of banks, skyscrapers and new residential compounds. The Bund lies on the historic Puxi side of the Huangpu River and looks across to the new cutting-edge skyscrapers of Pudong’s business district. The Bund derives its name from the Persian word “band,” meaning embankment. It offers breathtaking panoramas of the Shanghai skyline.

While the sun was still shining, we made our way to the top of the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower. Its location at the tip of Lujiazui in the Pudong district by the side of Huangpu River, opposite The Bund, makes it a distinct landmark in the area. We went to the top of the 1,554 foot tower and even tested our bravery by walking along the see-through floor whilst looking upon the traffic and buildings below our feet!

We called the Ritz-Calrton Portman our home for two nights. Located in the French Concession area on the fancy-schmancy Nanjing Road, the main shopping street, it is nestled among restaurants and high-end designer boutiques—truly a shopper’s paradise.

One of our favorite stops, also in the French Concession area, was the Tian Zi Fang section of alley-ways dotted with small shops that featured local art, clothing, restaurants and bars. One section featured an umbrella of Chinese fans overhead.   
Din Tai Fung offered the most scrumptious lunch of Chinese favorites, including their speciality—dumplings with meat and soup inside. Pick one up with your chop sticks, put it on your soup spoon, slurp the broth, then eat the delicious, savory morsel filled with shrimp and pork, our personal favorite. After lunch we strolled the breathtaking Yu Garden. 

Shanghai is a city full of delightful surprises. But don’t get caught up and taken off guard. Hire yourself an English speaking guide and driver. It’s too difficult to navigate the traffic and language barriers without assistance.   


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