ARMED with basic Mandarin, anti-pollution masks and a game husband, I prepared for a 24-hour transit in Shanghai, China. It’s impossible to squeeze in the breadth of Shanghai – China’s most affluent city, famous for colossal skyscrapers and the best display of concession-era architecture – in just one day.
It’s not a contest to see it all so fast; we could wring our hands exploring the city forever. My goal was to explore the city as efficiently as possible in one day with a focus on futuristic skyscrapers and China’s ancient history.
We arrived in Pudong International Airport after a four-hour flight from Cebu City. The first thing we did was buy a Jiaotong Card, a smart card that can be topped-up for transportation around the city. But we didn’t get to use that right away because our preferred ride required a separate ticket. Known as the world’s fastest commercial train, the Maglev Train uses magnetic levitation technology, approaching 300 mph to rocket us to our stop at Longyang Station. From there, it was a short taxi ride to our hotel.
After an early dinner of steamed dumplings called ‘xiaolongbaos’, we took another taxi to The Bund, a famous waterfront display of heritage architecture. We saw the Customs House known for the Big Ben, one of the biggest tower clocks in Asia and an exact replica of the original in London’s Palace of Westminster. Across is the iconic Pudong skyline, which Lonely Planet describes as a “shiny melange of architectural feats.” As an art lover, seeing the beautifully preserved art deco and neoclassical architecture gave me sparks inside and out.
We looked down and saw hundreds of people run to get seats at a Huangpu River Cruise. All of these breathtaking views are free, with only one price of admission: willingness to get squished by a huge crowd. Shanghai is home to 24 million locals and visited by 8.5 million tourists a year, mostly cash-rich and upper-class Chinese who are hungry to spend.
The most famous building in the Bund is the Peace Hotel. Built in the 1920s, the former Cathay Hotel by businessman and hotelier Victor Sassoon still stands in full glory today as a grandiose art deco building. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the world’s oldest jazz band, with band members averaging 82 years old, was about to start a performance. After being ushered inside the Jazz Bar by a young lady in a black fur coat, we enjoyed the legendary musicians’ set over scotch and red wine.
Our next stop was Nanjing Road, once China’s famous shopping street. It’s around five-kilometers deep, glowing with neon signs and filled with shoppers looking for luxury watches, silk scarves, scrolls and panda paraphernalia. That was our last mission for the day as we returned to our hotel to rest.
Over breakfast, we decided to mark the destinations we’d like to see. We started at the People’s Square to ride a red double-decker hop-on hop-off bus. They go around major tourist landmarks with an audio guide in multiple languages and also serve as actual transportation around the city. We took the route that would get us to Pudong on the far side of the Huangpu River.
Taking in the view at the Nanpu Bridge was one of the highlights of our day. In the bus’s open top deck, we took in expansive views of the new Pudong and historic Bund right on the Huangpu River. Aside from new construction at the edges of the city, everything else surrounding Shanghai were uniform brown-grey buildings, which gave us a glimpse of how locals live.
We were at the Lujiazui, Pudong area and the view of Shanghai Tower hit me. Also known as having the tallest non-enclosed observation deck in the world, this ‘twisted glass’ mega tall skyscraper is also five-star hotel, 24-hour office, entertainment and shopping hub at a staggering 632 meters tall. My neck twisted trying to look up its height from the bus window.
A massive line of people forced us to skip getting tickets to one of the largest ocean aquariums in the world, the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. Instead, we walked around to take pictures of the adjacent Oriental Pearl Tower, stopped by for snacks in the Super Brand Mall, and window-shopped at the World of Disney Store.
Housing treasures of a millennia, the Shanghai Museum, one of the best museums in China, was the last stop of our day. As an irrepressible museum-goer, I loved seeing 3,000-year old pottery, ancient sea green jade and 20th century Chinese landscape paintings. The museum closes at 5 p.m., so we had plenty of time to reflect on how we made the most of our 24-hour visit in Shanghai.
*Crystal Neri is a Cebu-based inbound marketer. Her passion for encouraging people to travel flows through in the extensive blogs she writes and videos she produces. You can find her on Instagram (@nericrystal) and in her blog, www.crystalneri.com.