Shanghai, China | Tales from Two Sides of the River
Shanghai fulfills your vanities. It pumps your energy & blinds you with its bright lights. It tickles your imagination & feeds your craving. Shanghai after all, is one of the world’s best megacities.
Thinking about its ultra urban frenzy, I have to admit that I was quite anxious before I got into Shanghai. Although Beijing & Xian’s chaos had somehow prepped me for a bigger city challenge, I still felt I was going to be swallowed whole.
Thankfully, there was Lirie, a childhood friend who has lived here for over a decade as an expat. And since we haven’t seen each other since college days, she took a week off from work to show me her newfound home.
Is Shanghai the New York & Paris of the East?
I’m used to traveling in shorts & sandals but when in Shanghai, you have to dress the part. Besides, it was springtime when I came & my island-boy dressing won’t make me last even an hour out in the chills.
True enough, walking around especially in elite districts like the French Concession & Xin Tian Di is a fashion assault. People here seemed to have bolted out from magazines & into a real-life runway strutting in their million dollar super brands.
Karl Lagerfeld, Ermenegildo Zegna, Alexander McQueen & Diane von Furstenberg are not just census names here but gods worshipped by restless Chinese millionaires.
If you ever think that West Nanjing & Huaihai are just quintessential road names, you’d gawk in surprise. They are in fact roads—but glittered with stores like Rolex, Prada, Hermes, Shanghai Tang, LV, Gucci & Stella McCartney.
But China isn’t China at all without the knock offs. So we scoured through the subway malls for some cheap finds. Voila! I got an entire ensemble & sashayed down the posh Zongshan Road later in under $20!
Shanghai by the River
Shanghai’s megalopolis tales is bisected by Huangpu River. On the west bank is Puxi & on the east is Pudong. But both sides of the river scream of China’s economic showpiece to the world—its magnificent skylines.
Puxi is the historic side of the city with The Bund as its famous landmark. This mile stretch waterfront promenade is decked with heritage buildings reminiscent of its European opulence in the 19th century.
Today, these graceful architectures house HBSC, Shanghai Gold Exchange, Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Waldorf-Astoria, Sassoon House & Fairmont Peace Hotel.
But sadly, people don’t really come here for The Bund itself but to marvel at Pudong’s skyline across. If only they’d turn around, they’d see what this lane is all about & how it made Shanghai to what it is today.
Pudong on the other side is a new & supersized townscape. It is developed into the city’s new financial district & admired for its Lujiazui skyline.
The Oriental Pearl Tower is undeniably it’s most famous resident. But it is also home to megastructures like Shanghai World Financial Center, Super Brand Mall, Shanghai IFC, Jin Mao Building, Bank of China & Shanghai Tower.
Garden of People
Shanghai in itself is already clogged up but nothing comes closer to being breathless than in Yuyuan in the Old City. Here, you’ll experience what its like to stand on a garden of people.
Honestly, I was expecting to see a classic Chinese garden laden with pavilions, motes, flowers, trees, rock art & bridges. But because of the unimaginable swarm of tourists, I must say it’s what you call “hidden beauty”.
But if there’s one thing I like at Yuyuan, that would be food hunting. Lirie & I were so stuffed that we went hopping from one teahouse to the next. And oh, that xiao long bao stall there that rakes in a long queue is just a hype. Go to Hualien City in Taiwan!
High in Shanghai
My favorite part of the city is Tianzifang on Taikang Road. This cobbled lane used to be just rows of old warehouses & stone-gated residences until it was transformed into a district flanked with chic lifestyle shops & al-fresco dining.
Tianzifang is a wonderland for homegrown Shanghai fashion brands, art studios, quirky cafes & lacquerware shops. If your ethnic jam is hand-stitched Miao fabrics, this place is swoon-worthy.
For its shikumen houses on the heritage block & outrageously delicious cafes, Xin Tian Di is also delightful.
Truly, Taikang Road is my Shanghai high!
My last day in Shanghai was spent picnicking at Gucun Park under the lush billowing blossoms of cherry & peach. It was such a nice time to just lay flat on the grass & watch the world pass by.
After all the fun times, I never really wanted to leave Shanghai so soon. But Zhangjiajie was waiting & I couldn’t be more excited to experience the Chinese Hallelujah.