15 minutes into the BBC’s first episode of The Silk Road and I was researching trips to China with my favourite small tour operator – Intrepid. I had always wanted to visit China but always thought I should give it a decent amount of time – it’s so big! Suddenly feeling inspired but lack of holiday days left to take at work, I found an Intrepid trip which was only 8 days and visited what I considered the essentials… Shanghai, Xi’an, Terracotta Army, the Great Wall & Beijing. A quick check on Expedia for flights to correspond with Intrepid trip dates – to fly into Shanghai and out of Beijing was a mere £96 (+taxes obvs….). Sign me up!
For me, Shanghai conjures up an image of that fantastic futuristic skyline of the financial district. As soon as I arrived in Shanghai and freshened up, that view was my first port of call. Luckily my hotel was only 15 minutes walk away from The Bund – and for my first time in China it was easy to navigate. The Bund stretches for a mile, one side has big grand colonial relic buildings and on the other a boardwalk overlooking the river. I could have spent days just sat down there, looking at the view, watching young newly married couples on photo shoots, or possibly models, I never really figured that out – I know there are a lot of people in China but there can’t be that many people getting married each day in big meringue dresses?
The Bund, day and night is bustling and offers completely different looks. I’m surprised I even went to see anything else I was quite mesmerised.
If you can get near them, the Yuyuan Gardens in the old part of Shanghai are worth a wander around. I’ve heard they are very peaceful and tranquil first thing in the morning. For us we had to shuffle along the zig zag bridges very slowly to reach the entrance. The bridges are zig zag because apparently evil spirits can’t turn corners….. Whilst most probably overpriced and touristy I loved having a little rest at the Tea House trying some flowering tea and local sweets, which we still have no idea what they were. Also, my first opportunity to have some tofu – little did I know about “stinky tofu” until it was too late…
A NIGHTIME VIEW
To reach the financial district you can either take a ferry costing very little, take the metro or take the psychedelic Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. You can reach the area by taxi but for a city with 23 million people, traffic does not flow quickly……
There are lots of options for experiencing the lights of Shanghai at the top of one of the tallest buildings. There are various bars in some of the surrounding hotels but you can also go to the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the World Financial Centre or the more recently constructed Shanghai Tower. We had tickets for the Shanghai Tower. At the time it was only open to tour groups but when we got there the top of the tower was engulfed in clouds and they didn’t seem to be clearing. So we changed to the World Financial Centre instead. For those not after picture perfect opportunities then this tower suffices (the windows were filthy!) but searching through Instagram there are better places to capture some special snaps. Of course by the time we reached ground the cloud had cleared from the top of the Shanghai Tower!