I knew immediately that Shanghai would be different from the places that we had visited in China so far. From our room at the Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund, we had a beautiful view of Pudong, a district with its spectacular skyscrapers, and The Bund, a gorgeous waterfront promenade. Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower, and the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower were some of the extraordinary buildings standing before my eyes, showing Shanghai as a very Western looking city. The rapid economic growth is reflected in this contemporary architecture style, showing the openness of such a traditional culture to the outside world.
The skies were overcast, but it was very pleasant to walk through the streets and appreciate the locals’ everyday life. As we walked, we noticed that this part of the city preserves the traditional Chinese architecture style.
The Yu Garden, dating from the Ming Dynasty, was huge and took us about two hours to walk through. It was an impressive compound of halls, rocks, ponds, and monasteries. According to sources, it was built by one of the government officers, as a place for his parents to have a restful and happy life during old age. These days, it still feels like a place of peace in the middle of busy Shanghai.
The People’s Park
The People’s Park, one of the biggest public parks in downtown Shanghai, is home of museums, green scenery, and many sculptures. The plan was to walk from there to People’s Square, located directly south of the People’s Park. Unfortunately, it started raining heavily and we had no umbrellas. We found shelter in a pedestrian underpass, and after 10-15 minutes, the rain slowed just enough for us to run over to the Shanghai Grand Theatre and wait inside. The rain didn’t stop and we were trapped! No umbrellas and no plan B!
We checked our phones to see where we could go in that area, and a restaurant at the JW Marriott popped up. We ran over. They had an afternoon tea service on the menu and we thought it was the best thing to do then. I am so glad we chose that. Everything was delicious and the service was outstanding.
By the time we finished, the rain had stopped. We walked through Nanjing Road, a well-known pedestrian shopping district that extends to The Bund. The view of the downtown Shanghai skyline at night from The Bund was spectacular.
The next day, the rain continued on and off, and the weather was a bit colder. Yet, we powered on. Our first destination was the Tianzifang shopping area in the French Concession. In 1849, after the Opium Wars, the Chinese were forced to give the French land in Shanghai for them to settle, which gave the neighborhood its name. Despite the progress over the years, the area still holds a distinguished character and charm resembling a Western city.
Tianzifang was an interesting and colorful area composed of narrow alleys with craft shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and cafes. It was busy but entertaining to walk around. However, we decided to leave because the clouds started getting darker. The rain was coming back.
We rushed back through the French Concession. From there, we hopped from metro line 9 to line 2, to get to the Shanghai World Financial Center. By the time we got back to downtown, it was pouring. We walked into the IFC shopping Center for protection.
Shanghai World Financial Center
I felt like every time it was raining, our plan B was limited to food and shopping! Good trade, I think! We walked into Isola, a bar and café, for lunch, had a nice glass of wine, hoping the rain would let up.
We made it to the Shanghai World Financial Center and went to the observation deck on the 100th floor. Because there were too many clouds and it was still raining, the views were just okay.
The truth is that we didn’t get to do very much in Shanghai due to the bad weather. If one day we come back, hopefully it will be with clear skies.