We arrived in Shanghai in the afternoon and took the subway to our hotel, Grand Central, located downtown near Nanjing Road - one of the main shopping and entertainment areas of Shanghai. The hotel was in a fantastic location - close to the subway and 5 minutes from the Bund (riverwalk). We got a great rate on our room as well as a room upgrade. The hotel is massive, but very comfortable and luxurious compared to many of the places we have stayed on this trip.
One of the first things we did was to check out Shanghai's famous skyline from the the Bund. The Bund is Shanghai's waterfront area along the Huangpu river, facing Pudong. The name Bund comes from a Persian world that means embankment. This particular bund was named after the bunds in Baghdad along the Tigris river. When the Baghdadi Jews settled in Shanghai in the 19th century, they built heavily on the bund along the Huangpo river. The name stuck, and it is now the most famous bund in the world.
We visited during the day and at night and can easily say that night time is best!
Each evening we would stroll down Nanjing Road to check out the shops, find some food and observe the local entertainment. Nanjing is an electric street. Literally. The entire street glows with neon lights from store fronts, buildings, trolleys, billboards and people selling stuff along the road.
Normally I don't dedicate an entire section to food, but these dumplings were so good that they deserve a special shout out. As some of you may know, I'm not a huge fan of Chinese food. We'd read good reviews of this dumpling chain in Shanghai and decided to try it for dinner. It was phenomenal! The pork and hairy crab dumplings were the best. We loved it so much that we went back the very next day for lunch. It turns out they are expanding and have opened up branches in Los Angeles and Seattle. Not sure if it's as good, but definitely worth a try. Fingers crossed they make it to Boston (or New York at the very least).
One day we walked over to the YuYuan Gardens. We walked down the Bund and then wandered through some of Shanghai's old city, the equivielent of the Houtongs in Beijing. These small winding streets were full of all sorts of things - food, bikes, laundry, garbage, people, construction and stray dogs. It was really interesting to see the disparity between these neighborhoods and the very modern parts of the city just around the corner.
Here is a typical scene in the shopping area outside of Yu Yuan Gardens. Needless to say, after we saw the Yu Yuan Gardens, we beelined it out of the shopping area.
Here are a few more things we did in Shanghai that I'd recommend:
French Concession - We walked around the neighborhood around mid-day and had a healthy lunch at Sproutworks. Although we didn't spend much time shopping, it looked like there were some great boutique shops for both men and women.
Lingo Bistro - Located near People's Square, this is a great little spot for French food. We had steak, tuna, a cheese platter and a bottle of red. It was a nice break from Chinese food!
Fairmont Peace Hotel - This beautiful art deco building is located right on the Bund at the end of Nanjing Road. The interior is beautiful. I especially loved the tile work!
We had planned to go out for a nice dinner at M on the Bund, but Chris wasn't feeling well that night due to a cold so we skipped it.
All in all, we had a great time in Shanghai. It was a completely different experience from Beijing. If comparing to the US, Beijing was a lot more like Los Angeles and Shanghai was similar to New York. Shanghai is very cosmopolitan, and at times we forgot we were in China because it is so diverse and looks so much like a major American or European city.
After a week and a half touring around big cities, we were ready to slow down and see some of the Chinese countryside. Next stop - Guilin and Yangshuo!