I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting. Thousands of communist grey concrete buildings? Red flags from every building? Thick smog?
I absolutely did not expect vibrant colours, greenery everywhere and clear blue skies.
Shanghai has taken my by surprise. 24 million people might be bustling around this former fishing village, but it’s far from chaotic and crowded. In the newer part of the city, called Pudong, the streets are wide and tree-lined; the architecture is striking; the atmosphere is dynamic. In fact, Shanghai seems culturally diverse and as current as any other major city anywhere in the world.
Across the Huangpu River is Old Shanghai (Yu Yuan). While many of Pudong’s buildings are a mere quarter of a century old, Yu Yuan history reaches back 700 years to the Ming dynasty. Pagodas, stone bridges, cobblestone streets, tea houses and the iconic Yu Gardens give the visitor a very different perspective of the city.
Back towards the Bund – an esplanade area along the western bank of the Huangpu River – the modern pedestrian mall of Nanjing Road is lined with department stores and many of the brands that you would expect to find on London’s high streets or downtown Tokyo. However, take a dozen steps away from the bright neon signs and the Apple store and you find yourself in quintessential China. Narrow streets heaving with food vendors and stalls; laundry hung out of third-storey windows; scooters and bicycles weaving their way through roadside tables, pedestrians and hawkers. The food is fresh and delicious – and not to mention very, very cheap. Little English is spoken but pointing and smiling seems to get a non-Mandarin speaker by.
This city is modern, clean, safe and inviting – a fusion of old and new. Thank you, Shanghai, for surprising and delighting me, and to Helen Wong’s Tours for the chance to experience such a great destination. This city has shot right up my list of most-loved cities in the world.
x Sonia x