Since we arrived a night before, we had a whole day to explore Shanghai. Similar to the tour setup in Beijing, we had a different set of tour guide, driver and transportation to cover the upcoming 4 cities: Shanghai, Xitang, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
We spent the entire morning wandering along the Shanghai Old Street and its vicinity. This street is structured in a way to show progression of architectural styles from different periods: the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and finally, the early republic with influences from the European culture. While there are century-old establishments embedded here, most of them do not have significant historical values. At the Yuyuan Bazaar, we split up into smaller groups to explore at our own leisure. Based on high recommendation from Angelina’s dad, we followed him to visit the Yu Garden. A few of us also made a quick dash to the Old City God Temple before hopping on the bus.
In the afternoon, the bus dropped us off along the Nanjing Road, a century-old shopping street in Shanghai. From there, we strolled our way to the Bund before using the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to get across the Huangpu River to the Pudong district. Pudong has several iconic skyscrapers, including the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. We spent a few hours exploring the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai Municipal History Museum, located at the base of the tower.
We ended our day with an evening river cruise along the Huangpu River to watch the spectacular light show and Shanghai skyline. Everyone was exhausted and slept during an hour ride back to the hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 10 PM. Based on our initial tour itinerary, we were supposed to visit the Oriental Pearl Tower the next morning. Nevertheless, we were glad to be able to cover all these attractions without extending another half day because the traffic in Shanghai was horrendous.
A couple of observations…
- While Beijing has many traditional hutongs and historical sites, Shanghai seems to be on the opposite end of that spectrum. Being the 3rd largest cities in the world with more than 25 million of population, Shanghai is an incredibly modern city that has experienced rapid growth since the mid 90s where more and more old buildings are being demolished to make way for new development.
- Our tour guide shared many stories about life in China. One fascinating story that sticks on my mind was while Shanghai has worse traffic than Beijing, most people tend to obey the traffic rules here. Breaking the law, such as running red light or jaywalking, means they will get points deducted from their social credit scores. First announced in 2014, China plans to rank all its citizens based on their “social credit” by 2020. This Orwellian-like system has been piloted in various cities in the country, including Shanghai. Citizens with high scores may enjoy better social privileges and economic benefits while those with low scores may face complications, such as travel ban or exclusion from top schools.