After disembarking the Westerdam in Shanghai we made our way through long hallways and many lines finally making it through the port only to find another long walk to the taxi stand. Too far for the wheels on my $30 bag, one of which started having issues about halfway through the terminal making the bag feel twice as heavy as it actually was. By the time we finally got to the taxi stand the wheel was bent into the frame and no longer mobile. At that point I decided I was done with cheap suitcases and invested in better quality luggage before my next trip. I haven’t had a problem with my bags since. It actually costs less to spend the money for good luggage once than it does to frequently replace broken cheap bags too flimsy for airplane travel.
Even though we walked the long distance to the official taxi stand in an attempt to avoid the much closer overpriced scam taxis, you don’t get any choice in which cab you get when your turn comes up. Though the ones in the approved taxi line are all registered cabs it doesn’t prevent the driver from not turning the meter on and charging too much. John pointed out that he had not turned the meter on, but he still refused to do it. Even after we said the amount he quoted was way too high and he pretended to agree on something a bit more reasonable he still charged what he originally said and not the agreed upon price when we got to our destination. Someone we met randomly at a restaurant who came to the same area from the same ship had a rare English-speaking driver and paid his honest cab a third of what ours cost. We did not take any cabs for the rest of our time in Shanghai. It’s easy to get around town on the subway when you want to go too far to walk, and the hotel had a shuttle to the airport.
We had a reasonably priced hotel called the Bund Riverside Hotel, which was walking distance to both the Bund and Nanjing Street as well as other area attractions. Our room had a view of the nearby canal, which is much smaller than the one by the Bund, and of the tall buildings in the Pudong area across the canal from the Bund with an especially good view of the Oriental Pearl Tower, one of 3 tall very towers in that district.
A few blocks walk to Nanjing Street brought us to a subway where on line 2 it was just 4 stops to the Science Museum, which is also the station where you find the AP Plaza market with knock-offs or back door name brand products at more reasonable prices than in stores. The market is underground right at the subway station and extends for quite a distance with stalls up and down many hallways. Some are more willing to bargain than others, but if the price is too high at one shop you can always find the same item somewhere else. The quality of products here seemed better than at some of the other markets around town. Most of the shops are out in the open, but there was one designer purse shop hidden behind a panel in another store where you could only see their merchandise if someone invited you in.
Nanjing Street itself is a tourist attraction with many brightly lit shops, little trams and tram trains for people who’d rather not walk too far, and a pedestrian mall on part of the street so people can shop free of worry from cars.
West Nanjing Street boasts the world’s largest Starbucks in the Starbucks Roastery – a large round building housing actual working coffee roasting equipment as well as coffee bars on two levels and a teavana tea bar upstairs. You can also get chocolates and pastries there, but the prices are as oversized as the building. In spite of the high prices the place was packed when we went in.
The walk to the Bund was a bit farther than to Nanjing Street, but not bad. Even at night the area is well-lighted in most places, though the street leading to Nanjing is a small one and not lit as well as larger streets and there is a bit of a darker patch between there and the Bund as well where all the shops shut down at night, but neither is too dark to see. There are funny little alleyways off most of the bigger roads that have open gates leading to numerous little doorways. Some are small shops or massage parlors, but most of the places in the little alleys are people’s homes. We never felt unsafe walking around Shanghai in the dark, though day or night you do have to watch out for scooters. They’re everywhere, and often don’t use their lights at night. Scooters also rarely bother with any traffic laws, using sidewalks as well as streets (or parking up the whole sidewalk so people have to walk in the street), running red lights while people are in the crosswalks, and sometimes even traveling in the lane for traffic going the opposite direction. Somehow though they miraculously seem to manage not to crash or hit anyone. Which hardly seems possible considering they’re electric and run very quietly so you don’t hear them coming.
The Bund is a raised waterfront walkway along a wide canal where all the buildings are lit up at night. Mostly in white lights on the Bund side, and a neon light show across the water in the newer Pudong area. If you take one of the night cruises on the canal you can see color-changing lights on waterfalls under the edge of the Bund. About halfway between Bejing Street and Nanjing Street if you stay on the street level sidewalk rather than going up to the raised walkway of the Bund there are lots of little shops.
Hiding between a couple shops is the entrance to the Sightseeing Tunnel, a ride that goes under the canal to the other side with a light show along the way. Shanghai’s hop on hop off busses can also get people across the canal on their route between tourist attractions.
If you want to get to the other side of the canal cheaply then go up to the raised Bund area and walk down to the ferry landing because it costs next to nothing to take the ferry across. In the daytime the canal is full of working boats, many of which the people who operate them live on their boat. Boats pass by in all states of repair or disrepair.
In the evening after dark the river comes alive with brightly lit boats taking people out for short river cruises. Mostly they’re just sightseeing cruises to look at the light shows on the buildings at the Bund and in Pudong on the other side of the water, but dinner cruises are an option too. The sightseeing cruises run for about 50 minutes. The ships sail past the Bund and Pudong before turning around to go back the other way and return to the dock. While it stays within the area of well-lit buildings, the cruise does venture farther down the river than the average tourist would walk along the shore on either side.
The Sightseeing tunnel is the fun way to cross the river between the Bund and the Pudong area regardless of which direction you want to go. On the Pudong side the entrance is by a convention center near the Pearl Tower. Little glass-sided trolleys take people through the tunnel on narrow gage tracks with an ever-changing light display along the tunnel throughout the ride. Try to get in the very front of the car because that is the only place where you really see the whole experience. They tend to stuff the cars full, but when it wasn’t busy we asked to wait for the next car when there were people ahead of us and they said that was fine so then we were first in and got to ride up front. Other ways to cross the river besides the super cheap ferry and the tunnel are by subway, bus, or taxi.
Shanghai is full of tall buildings, but even there some tower above the rest. The Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center which looks like a giant bottle opener, and the Shanghai Tower, which is the tallest of them all. At the time we were there it was the second tallest building in the world next to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which is still the tallest. The Merdeka 118 in Malaysia is now second, but also still under construction. The Shanghai Tower had the world’s fastest elevator and an observation deck 120 stories up. The other 3 nearby very tall towers also have observation decks, and all of them are open to the public for a price. The night views are actually better than daytime views because in daylight only the things near to the towers are easily visible with everything else vanishing into the ever-present smog. At night you can see the lights of the city for a much greater distance.
Not far from each other, and fairly close to the Bund on Huaihui Road sit Yu Garden and Yuyuan Garden. The bus tour map that we had showed Yu Garden and our other tourist map that showed the subway stations showed Yuyuan Garden. Google Maps showed both.
The ship’s explore on your own lecturer on the Westerdam mentioned Yuyuan Garden in his talk on sights to see in Shanghai, but the description he gave of it actually fit Yu Garden. Yuyuan Garden is a small park, but Yu Garden is a large former temple complex full of shops in ancient buildings, pathways, a pond, and places to eat. It’s free to walk around the shopping areas, but it does have an actual garden and there’s a fee to go in there.
Shopping is a big thing for tourists in China and there are plenty of shops in Shanghai. In addition to all the shops found at street level, there are numerous stores underground. Most of the subway stops have at least a few stores, and some have sprawling malls which can be anything from discount stores like the ones at AP Plaza to upscale malls like the one by the station in Pudong.
Shanghai is a sprawling metropolis, but it does have some green space. We found several parks or gardens within walking distance of our hotel, and from the window of our room we could see a trail running along the canal. Gucheng Park between the Bund and Yu Garden has trails through greenspace with sculptures and plants and even sculptures that are plants.
Of course Shanghai has temples too. We didn’t visit any in Shanghai other than the former temple buildings at Yu Garden, but there are temples there that tourists can see.