Planning a trip to China? Maybe you should consider visiting Shanghai!
It may probably be the most exciting city in China, and perhaps it is! With an array of modernity and history, and over 23 million people from all around the world, the city boasts diversity and glamour.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT YOU NEED BEFORE AND DURING THE VISIT
Follow Airline Websites/Pages for Promos, and Book in Advance – because who doesn’t wanna save ka-ching? You may also want to use Skyscanner app.
Where to stay – There are a number of places to stay from hostels to fancy hotels.
For Hostels; visit hostelworld.com
For Apartments/Rooms for Rent; you may want to check out airbnb.com. We found an apartment in Gubei near Shuicheng Subway Station thru this site.
For Hotels; check out tripadvisory.com.ph
Learn Basic Mandarin Chinese – like “Please” “Thank you” “Excuse me” “Waiter!” “How much is this?” to name a few; or you can download Chinese-English translator/dictionary apps on your phone. Some of the Shanghainese can’t speak English at all, which is weird since the city is full of foreigners, so it’s better to learn Mandarin or go with a Mandarin speaking friend.
Know How to Get Around – The first thing my brother did when we arrived was to acquire a Travel Guide brochure which can be acquired from information stands around the airport ( for free). The guide includes famous food spots, things-to-do’s, tourist spots to visit in the city, and a map of the subway. This proved to be VERY useful for the whole trip.
If you prefer to take the subway when touring around, like I do, you may want to buy a Shanghai Public Transportation Card (SPTC) or Shanghai Jiaotong Ka which is a rechargeable cash card that can be used for various public transportation services like Buses, Metros, Taxis, Ferries, etc. You can purchase one from a subway information window for 100RMB initial load and a 20 RMB refundable deposit. Or you can buy a single journey card from subway automated tellers, which is also available in English.
Internet – There’s FREE internet anywhere you go. You just need one thing: a phone number. It will serve as your username and the password will be texted to you. You can buy your sim card at the airport (They offer a 3G Only sim) which is a lot more expensive than when you buy from telecom stores. They will require your passport upon purchase but don’t worry about it. I don’t think sim cards are available in convenience stores.
VPN Services – China has banned foreign apps and sites including Google, and other social apps like FB and Twitter. So if you need to access these, you will need VPN. It acts like a proxy server for your smartphone, it basically lets you visit blocked sites by pretending to be accessing from another country.
Powerbank – You wouldn’t want your gadget dying on you. Internet access = Survival
WHAT WE DID IN SHANGHAI
1. The French Concession Stroll
The French Concession (Concession française de Changhaï; 上海法租界; Shànghǎi Fǎ Zūjiè) is the area of Shanghai that was established for the French government to administer from 1849 until 1946. It has been a fashionable area for well over a century and is now very developed. The tree-lined streets and old houses in the area gives it the name “Paris of the East”. You could pretty much get off at any stop in the area and just stroll around the shops, restaurants, and others. What my Korean friend (Who was a flatmate during our stay) and I did was get off at Xintiandi (South Huangpi Station) at the east and strolled randomly towards Tianzifang (Dapuqiao Station) at the south. Use any Map apps, or stroll randomly then ask locals or fellow foreigners for directions. I tell you, you’ll spot them in a second.
Tianzifang (田子坊) – is an artsy residential area of shikumen housing that has been redeveloped. What I love about this place is that I could get lost in its maze of small alleyways for hours, that I regretted saving this stroll for our last day in Shanghai! It could be touristy and crowded but you’ll have a fun time. It is newer than Xintiandi and emphasizes arts, crafts, and boutique shopping. It also houses bars, cafes, design studios, and galleries. This place is easily one of my favorite places in Shanghai.
How to get there: Take Metro Line 9 and get off at Dapuqiao and exit from Exit 1. Walk across the street.
Xintiandi (新天地) – is a busy upscale part of shanghai that stresses more on branded goods and entertainment. It’s a pedestrian-only area of shops and restaurants, and is also famous for its nightlife when the Western style bars open their doors for business.
How to get there: Take Metro Line 10 and get off at Xintiandi Station and walk north. Or you can take Metro Line 1 to South Huangpi Station and walk South with roughly the same distance.
Jade Garden (蘇浙匯; Jardin de Jade) in Hong Kong Plaza. We came back another night for dinner with my brother’s ring designer.
You can visit this site for a detailed French Concession Walk Tour guide. The truth is we attempted to follow the guide but for a number of reasons (eg. time constraint, wanting to explore without following anything because where’s the fun in that) just settled on walking randomly from Xintiandi to Tianzifang. I recommend doing it the other way around since Xintiandi is more alive at night, while Tianzifang is already as alive as it is during the night.
Here are some of the places that we (kinda) randomly came across on the way to Tianzifang:
Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China – Free Entrance
Mao zedong et al.
Fuxing Park (Photos Not Available)
The Former Residence of Sun Yat Sen – I think the entrance fee was 20RMB. Didn’t want to pay.
The Former Residence of Zhou En Lai (Photos Not Available)
2. Yuyuan (Yu Garden; 豫園) & Cheng Huang Miao (City God Temple)
Cheng Huang Miao is the area surrounding Yuyuan (or Yu Garden). Yuyuan is a touristy, hustling and bustling area full of shops with handmade crafts and folk artwork that are unique to China. People usually go here to buy pasalubong. Also DO NOT MISS the famous xiaolongbao (Steamed soup dumpling) near the pond! The queue could be long but if you’re lucky you might be able to get your share in 10 minutes. Towards the middle of the area, the garden is a well preserved beauty considering you’re in the middle of the city. The entrance fee to the garden itself is 40RMB.
How to get there: Take Metro Line 10 and get off at Yuyuan Station and exit from Exit 1. Walk via the service road until you see shops then turn to your right.
You’ll see this as you turn right from the service road. Walk a little further.
You should see this! Welcome to Yuyuan!
Xiaolongbao!! DEAR JESUS. 22RMB for 16 pcs.
Inside one of the souvenir stores pretending to be a buyer.
Inside the garden. Time to find your inner zen.
*Also, find the kinda-hidden wall-size mirror! Why? Nothing really. Just for the sake of it!
3. Shanghai Comics & Animation Museum
You enter to see animation’s history on the ground floor which is interspersed with life-size figurines, short film clips and a hall of movie posters. The second floor is supposedly kid friendly. It’s a cool place but sadly it was awfully empty. Might be due to the rain or it being a weekday. Entrance fee is 30RMB.
Transportation: We took the cab from the Line 2 Jinke Station because it’s far.
Miss it and You miss Shanghai! There are two most famous and popular programs which have regular performances here. They are ‘ERA Intersection of Time’ and ‘Happy Circus’. We were able to watch ERA. The 100-minute performance shows not only creativity but personality. It wasn’t as impressive as I was expecting but I liked the gymnastics parts and it was awesome nonetheless. We contacted a ticket officer here and got Zone B seat tickets for only 180RMB each. I don’t know how we got the the tickets for almost half the price.
How to get here: Take Metro Line 1 and get off at Shanghai Circus World Station, exit from Exit 3. Walk across the street.
For some odd reasons, we didn’t get a physical ticket. We were told to take a picture of the ticket so I took a picture including the Tourist Wingman’s face just to be sure. I thought he was a ticket officer and now I don’t know what to call him.
Look at the crowd! Look at that 7 Girls 1 Bicycle stunt (I named it ha ha). And come on, flipping a person up high to make a 5-human shoulder-stand. Tell me that’s not impressive! That is why you’ve got to see it!
5. Shanghai Natural History Museum
The museum was moved to Jing’an Sculpture Park in April 2015.
The museum has a collection of 240,000 samples, including over 62,000 pieces of animal specimens, 135,000 plant specimens, 700 specimens of the Stone Age, and 1,700 specimens of minerals. There are also rare species which cannot be found elsewhere outside China, such as a Yellow River mammoth, a giant salamander, a giant panda, and a Yangtze Alligator. (Wikipedia)
The largest exhibit is a 140-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton of Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis from Sichuan Province, which is over four stories high. The museum also has two mummies and several human embryos. (Wikipedia)
I was so overwhelmed when we entered the museum that my phone battery drained from full to less than 20% by the time we left. It’s truly modern and comprehensive; housing skeletons, to models, to fossils of animals and plants and other creatures from various era of evolution! The exhibit starts on the second floor, and basically winds down to Basement 2 where they exhibit geological specimens, present-day macrospecimens and microspecimens. Took a picture of anything and everything because THIS IS THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH! It’s really magnificent. The entrance fee’s just 30RMB. I’d go back any day making this my #1 Must-Go in Shanghai!
How to get there: We took a cab from the old one because I actually thought we were headed to the new one already, but the nearest subway station is Nanjing West Station. It’s probably a 15 minutes walk, or you may take a cab from there.
6. Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is the largest ocean aquarium in Asia that includes a 120m tunnel that takes visitors to life in the Ocean! It is designed to provide the insight in almost all sea species that can be found in Asia. It is divided into eight major exhibition area: Biological, Sub-Asia, Amazon, Australia, Africa, Cold Water, Polar sea and Ocean Depths area. The entrance fee is 160RMB for adults.
How to get here: Take Subway Line 2 to Lujiazui Station, exit at Exit 2 and walk towards the Pearl Tower. The Ocean Aquarium is directly adjacent to it.
The Bund actually refers to the waterfront area in central Shanghai with dozens of historical buildings lining the Huangpu River. The experience highly depends on the time and weather when you visit the promenade. I’ve been to either side on a sunny day, rainy day, cloudy day, and at night; unintentionally! And I’m telling you, the best time to take the walk is at night BEFORE 8AM facing the Pudong or the pearl tower side because the Shanghai Tower (Tallest in Asia and 2nd tallest in the world) turns off their lights early AND you’d want to check out East Nanjing Pedestrian Street shortly after.
We actually walked from People’s Square to The Bund facing the Pudong Side. We got lost and we were tired but it was enjoying! We had a yakiniku dinner somewhere, walked further and stopped again for some milk tea since we’ve read about this milk tea that’s supposed to be the best in Shanghai.
I’m in love with the CoCo
We reached The Bund at around 8:30PM and I fell in love with the scene; the windy after-rain weather with fading clouds was L-O-V-E. I didn’t mind the crazy crowd like I usually do, it was noisy but at the same time very relaxing. I enjoyed the wind, the people, the sight. It was my kind of city night! And what else? It’s totally free! We left for the metro East Nanjing Station at around 9:45PM which closes at 10:30PM.
You may also take the ferry across the river to the other side of The Bund.
How to get here:
Facing Pudong side (The side with the Pearl Tower): Take Metro Line 2/10 and get off at East Nanjing Station. Head East.
Facing Puxi side: Take Metro Line 2 and get off at Lujiazui Station. Head west.
*Dong (东) means East and Xi (西) means West; Hence, Pudong means East of Huang-PU river and Puxi means West of Huang-PU river. Just so you know!
The Bund facing Puxi (from the side of the pearl tower) on a sunny day! We had lunch at Paulaner Bräuhaus.
The Night Scene
WHAT ELSE TO DO IN SHANGHAI
(Maybe I’ll clear this out the next time I’m in Shanghai)
Go up the Pearl Tower / Shanghai Tower / Shanghai World Financial Center
Science and Technology Museum & Subway Station Underground Market
Zhujiajiao (Other ancient towns)
Visit neighboring cities: Hangzhou & Suzhou
Party. It’s Shanghai!