Three friends and I flew from Hong Kong to Shanghai on February 22nd, 2018. This adventure would be our first experience in mainland China. While I had very little knowledge about Shanghai heading into this spontaneous trip, I was really excited to explore the well-known culture and nightlife.
We took a taxi from the airport — quite the distance — down to The Phoenix Hostel, which we had booked just a few days prior. It ended up being the perfect place to stay…they had an awesome restaurant, super friendly staff, and very helpful recommendations for eating/going out.
They also had a really cool rooftop, where one of our friends ended up competing against the owner of the rooftop bar in a ping-pong tournament (and won us 10 beers)!
In hindsight, my trip to Shanghai can be summarized in three words: eating, drinking, and dancing (though, perhaps all of abroad could fit into these categories).
We did also spend a decent amount of time sightseeing. The beginning of our first day was spent checking out the Shanghai Museum.
The Shanghai Museum is a museum of ancient Chinese art, situated on the People’s Square in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, China. Rebuilt at its current location in 1996, it is considered one of China’s first world-class modern museums.
The architecture of the museum is definitely impressive, and the museum did have some cool artifacts. But I would probably not go back.
The history of Shanghai, though, is really compelling and fascinating:
We did lots of other touristy things too…
While the area around Yu Garden is commercialized and the garden itself not as impressive as the classical gardens of Suzhou, it’s one of the few old sights left in Shanghai, and a valuable piece of the city’s rapidly disappearing past. Commissioned in 1559 by Ming Dynasty official Pan Yunduan, the garden was built over nearly two decades by the renowned architect Zhang Nanyang. In the mid-1800s, it was here that the Society of Small Swords planned their uprising against the French colonists, who then destroyed the garden during the first Opium War. After you walk around carp-filled ponds and through the rock gardens and bamboo groves, visit the small museum dedicated to the Society of Small Swords rebellion. Source
The temple was first built in 247 AD in the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. Originally located beside the Suzhou Creek, it was relocated to its current site in 1216 during the Song Dynasty. The current temple was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty but, during the Cultural Revolution, the temple was converted into a plastic factory. In 1983, it was returned to its original purpose and renovated with the Jing’An Pagoda completed in 2010. Source
We went to the top of the Shanghai tower — the world’s second tallest building (and home of the world’s fastest elevator). The tower-complex is really fascinating, they do a good job providing the history of skyscrapers as well as other general information about construction in China.
I thought the views from the top were really cool — we even ate ice-cream on the top floor.
Designed by international design firm Gensler and owned by the Shanghai city government, it is the tallest of the world’s first triple-adjacent super-tall buildings in Pudong, the other two being the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Centre. Its tiered construction, designed for high energy efficiency, provides nine separate zones divided between office, retail and leisure use. Source
One thing you will notice exploring Shanghai, much like other Chinese supercities (that I would later venture into), is that bike pollution is everywhere. Dock-less bikes litter the streets.
Though I read about it on the news before coming to China, I was certainly amazed to see these bikes literally everywhere.
The Bund is an awesome area to walk-around alongside the water and enjoy the views of downtown. Our hostel was relatively nearby, so we ended up making it to the Bund walkway a few times. Though, it did end up raining really hard as we were walking around.
The Bund or Waitan ( Chinese: 外滩; pinyin: , Shanghainese: nga 3thae 1, literally: "Outer Beach") is a waterfront area…en.wikipedia.org
There are dozens of really up-scale restaurants surrounding the Bund. We ended up going to several modern Chinese places that were really good.
There were also several good restaurants near our hostel — serving up delicious fried buns and noodles.
Going out in Shanghai was super fun.
Very different from Hong Kong — Shanghai had tons of big nightclubs.
We went out both nights to a number of different bars/clubs:
- M1NT — Sharktanks inside the club!
- Bar Rouge — One of the nicest clubs I have ever been to (definitely felt out of place). They have a cool casino system inside.
- Zapatas — Mexican party bar.
Shanghai was also my first (of many) experiences drinking Baiju. If you are not familiar, I consider Baiju to basically be gasoline that Chinese people drink to get drunk. They call it “drinkable alcohol…” I beg to differ. It is generally somewhere between 50 and 65% ABV. And…the crazy thing is that it only costs like a $1.50 for a decent sized bottle. Would recommend going for it!
All-in-all, really enjoyed my time in Shangahi. Although it was only a few days, I would definitely like to spend more time there in the future. Chinese supercities, like Shanghai, can definitely feel overwhelming. As someone who does not speak a word of Chinese, I definitely had some moments of frustration.
As I later learn via three more trips to China (including one solo venture), it is important to be flexible and learn to adapt, especially while traveling in a foreign country.