Shanghai - A City Hungry for the Future

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March 21st 2018
Published: July 15th 2021
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After a short 2.5 hour flight, I had arrived in Shanghai. It's starting to get dark and I find myself queuing for ages to get a taxi to take me to my hotel. I am so grateful to Elaine for writing the address of my hotel on a big sheet of paper in Shanghainese, the local dialect, as I now find myself in a country where they speak literally no English.

Upon arriving at my hotel, I find the reception staff speak a little English. I notice my internet on my phone has become very restricted in which applications and internet search engines I am allowed to use in this communist country. Elaine has very kindly brought me this Hong Kong sim card that I can use in China and it literally lets me use all the restricted apps as it thinks its in Hong Kong still; she's a good egg, as I think I would have struggled being alone and not having all the social media platforms to keep in contact with friends and family.

I find myself feeling anxious to leave the hotel at night to get food, when all alone, but luckily the hotel has quirky vendor machines that sell Korean noodles and treats.

My first full day in Shanghai and I decide to grab a taxi to visit Disneyland. I know it may sound strange to want to visit a Disneyland but I've only ever been once whilst on vacation in Florida and this park in Shanghai is relatively new and I feel it is a rare opportunity to say I've visited Disneyland in China. The taxi ride is about an hour and feels long as there is no way of making conversation with the taxi driver since I cannot speak Shanghainese and he no English.

Upon arriving at Disneyland the queue to get in is huge and people just push in front and there is literally no personal space. For someone who is not accustomed to this, it makes me feel uncomfortable but I have already experienced this in Hong Kong and so it must be a culture thing as I tell myself to not take it personally. I figure I can order my ticket online, which saves me having to queue again once we get into the main entrance.

Entering into the theme park is amazing. For someone who loves Disney, it brings back the magic of when I visited the Florida theme park some 14 years ago; only this time, it is Disney with a twist of China.

Now when it comes to theme park rides, I can be quite nervous, as I get motion sickness and not particularly keen on going upside down or being good at heights where I feel I have no control. I do go on rides but avoid some of the bigger ones, as I am not that adrenaline junkie; however, I talk myself into going on the Tron ride. I am a fan of the movie and my friend who has visited before told me it was a good ride. This ride is currently only available at the Shanghai theme park and could therefore be my only opportunity. This ride goes at top speeds of almost 60 mph within seconds of it starting. Once I am past the initial shock of going from o to 60 mph within seconds, I am loving the ride and build-up and hype prior to getting on was pretty cool.

I find myself going on many rides throughout the day but as you find with most theme parks you end up spending most of your time queuing up; and in China, they don't like to queue orderly. I find I have a couple of hours spare before the parade and so decide to go on the Roaring Rappids as the queue time is just over an hour long. This decision turns into a bad one as the queue is unbearable; it literally isn't moving and people are pushing forward and, to keep your place, I find myself having to stay very close to people I do not know. I am bored and becoming frustrated. I contemplate on ditching the queue as I have been queuing up for way more than an hour and the time is close to the parade. I am messaging Fiona on Whatsapp and sharing photos of this crazy queue that I find myself stuck in, but at the same time, I believe I am close to getting on the ride and to leave the queue after queuing all this time would be mad. Finally, I get on the ride but I can hear the parade starting. By the time I get off the ride, I have missed the parade but luckily I manage to see the fireworks.

My experience of Disneyland has been enjoyable but queuing up for that last ride was insane; perhaps everyone else was thinking the same as me and so we doubled the queue time.

Next day

My second full day in Shanghai and I leave the hotel early via a taxi to visit the Yu Gardens. The Yu Gardens are traditional Chinese gardens set in the centre of the old city of Shanghai. The gardens are around 400 years old and host six scenic areas, covering about 5 acres. The garden was build in the Ming Dynasty and at the time was the largest and most prestigious of its era. I am fascinated by the architecture as I walk around in this beautiful and peaceful garden.

Next to the gardens is the Yuyuan Bazaar, this area has a number of small streets lined with restaurants, tea houses and shops. I enjoy walking around as I explore the shops, looking for souvenirs and local snacks.

I next visit the City God Temple, which is situated in the Yuyuan Bazaar and Yu Gardens. This temple dates back to the Ming era, like the gardens, and once housed the patron god of Shanghai. It is a popular tourist location for a small temple, given its prime location.

I decide to start using the subway as the lines are colour coded and seems easy enough to follow and figure out how to get back to my hotel, as well as find the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch before heading over to the financial area for selfies with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. This tower is a distinct landmark for the city and was once one of the tallest buildings in China.

In the evening, I meet up with my tour guide, Chris, from Intrepid and other fellow travellers in the group; it looks like I am the only male. We have delicious Chinese food at the hotel. After dinner, we decide to head out as a group and go to The Bund to see the night-time views of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and financial area. The views are incredible in this heaving area of the city, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower already looks like something from the future but with everything else all lit-up, it really does make you feel that you have teleported into the future. It is very clear this city is hungry for the future.

Next day

Our next day as a tour group and our tour guide gives us a tour around Shanghai; we get to see what it is like to live as a local in Shanghai and start to learn about Chinese culture. It sounds like the city has evolved over the years and attracted many people to the area for work purposes. We next visit a Chinese local market area for the experience of shopping like a local; these market stalls sell so many unusual things; from large frogs, baby sharks and really tall & thick bamboo canes.

We then head over to The Bund, known as the heart of colonial Shanghai. This area is located on one side of the waterfront area with the financial area on the opposite side. The architecture has been influenced from Great Britain as it was used as a settlement back in the British Empire days. Its such a contrast to have old British buildings on one side of the river and then modern/futuristic buildings on the other side.

We head over to Yu Gardens and some of us are not too pleased because the Intrepid itinerary told us to do Yu Gardens in our own time and so we do not want to revisit again, especially now in the afternoon with it being super crowded, so myself and a few others decide to enjoy Chinese tea at a tea house and its good to have a break and soak in the Chinese chilled-out atmosphere whilst enjoying a nice tea.

Next we visit the Shanghai Museum, that houses a collection of 120,000 pieces. This museum displays some of the best cultural relics from China's Neolithic period to the Qing dynasty, a span of some 5,000 years.

Finally, after a quick noodle meal at Gourmet Noodle House, we spend our evening at the Shanghai Centre Theatre to watch the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. An amazing acrobatic show with a twist of China.

Next stop; Xitang

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16th July 2021

Wow, Shanghai looks beautiful, and such a contrast between the historical and the modern. I too would probably have gone to Disneyland, I love theme parks. But the certain style of queuing "etiquette" that I too have experienced in China would not have been much fun for me. The Bund, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and local market all look amazing places to visit 😊
16th July 2021

It really is a beautiful city and probably the only place in China that feels like it has some kind of westernised influence.
17th July 2021

It is good reading about past trips. It sounds like you had a wonderful experience. This is a city I hope to explore at some point.
19th July 2021

I really hope you get to explore this city someday

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