Alive with the constant hum of a million mopeds and illuminated by the sparkling lights of the skyscrapers lining the water’s edge, Shanghai is a force to be reckoned with. A city that never sleeps, the Chinese global financial hub had me captivated from the moment I stepped out of the taxi. Undoubtedly modern yet laced with authentic traditional architecture and culture to beat the band, 48 hours is not nearly enough time to take in all the sights – but we gave it a good go! Here’s how I spent two days exploring China’s biggest city.
Fresh off the 11 hour flight from London Heathrow, I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my friend and hit the ground running exploring all Shanghai had to offer. We luckily were able to check into our 28th floor room at our hotel – The Radisson Blu off Nanjing Road – dump our luggage, grab a much needed shower and head out onto the streets. The location of our hotel was perfect as it was right across the road from the pedestrian only street in the centre of the city’s CBD, Nanjing. Running on no sleep and pure adrenaline, of course Starbucks was our first port of call and after inhaling an iced coffee it was time to have a wander and go in search of some lunch.
A chopsticks novice and a slightly fussy eater, food in China was something I had anticipated to be a small bit of a challenge. Having a native speaker with me was a godsend considering absolutely everything was in Chinese with not a hint of English in sight. Since Juju had spent time in the city before, she knew just where to take me to try local dumplings and before I knew it I was tucking in, chopsticks at the ready, like I’d been eating soup wrapped in dough all my life. (I can’t remember the name of the place we ate at but if you continue on straight past the Starbucks at the Radisson hotel end, you’ll see it straight in front and to the right)
After a good feed, it was time to continue on our exploration of Chinese culture and have a traditional massage. Much needed after being cramped in a seat for most of the previous day, we headed up to the spa in the JW Marriott building just down the street from our hotel, for 60 minutes of pure relaxation. The next thing we did I will remember for ever as it was just too funny. With all pamper related appointments being so cheap in Asia, we decided that a blow-dry was in order at popular spot, Dongying Salon . As some of you may know, my hair is extremely curly and not something you’ll see parading round the streets of Shanghai. One look at the mop piled on my head had all the stylists chins on the floor with a worried conversation of who the unlucky soul would be that had to wash and dry it. Eventually after much staring, three combs and four hair stylists later, my locks were lusciously straight and ready for dinner.
Suffering from jet-lag and finally coming down off my Shanghai adrenaline rush, I wasn’t able for a fancy meal out so we quickly ate something in the hotel restaurant and hit the hay in prep for a big day of touring in the morning.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, jet lag wasn’t about to beat me as I got dressed, ready to take on a jam-packed day of sightseeing. After filling up on the most interesting buffet I’d ever seen – noodles and stir-fried meat sitting alongside croissants and cocopops – we left the hotel and went in search of the notorious underground markets selling all sorts of everything.
Narrowly dodging a potential kidnapping by an eager woman desperate to peddle us some Louis Vs which just happened to be a short car ride away, we reverted to plan B and headed towards the science and technology museum where an underground market apparently took hold of the lower levels. To our relief, sliding double doors gave way to hundreds of tiny shop fronts full of bags, clothes, shoes and pretty much anything else you could ever want. An hour spent and god knows how much Yuan gone from our wallets, it was time to explore the subway and head back to our hotel to dump the purchases before meeting up with our tour for the day.
Settled into the packed coach with the forty odd other Chinese tourists, I sat back and pretended to understand what the guide was screaming at us in rapid Mandarin – a trend that would continue for the remainder of the day. Our first stop dropped us off in the old section of the city. Composed of the type of streets every China Town in the world aims to replicate, we dodged mopeds and stopped for a look inside the lavish … temple. Nearing lunchtime, we were starting to get peckish and took the opportunity to tuck into some local snacks from one of the many street vendors in the buzzing square.
Full and excited to see what else the city had in store, we piled back on the bus, had another load of instructions thrown at us in Mandarin and sped towards one of Shanghai’s most iconic landmarks, the Pearl Tower. A real must-see, the minute you get inside, go straight up to the viewing platform and snag the ultimate Insta pic as you pose on the clear flooring. A VR roller-coaster ride and wander round the Chinese heritage museum later and we were back on the ground floor, ready to set sail on a cruise of the River Bund.
By this stage, while still incredible awe-struck at what we were experiencing, we were slightly wilting after taking in so much in such a short amount of time. The last thing on the itinerary was a weirdly wonderful tram ride through the colourful lights in the Sightseeing Tunnel. After we’d finished this, we began our evening walk back through the city in search of our hotel and some beef noodles.
One to rival the lights of New York, I can honestly say Shanghai is one of the most exhilarating places I’ve spent time in. Drifting off, still semi reeling with the electricity of the streets below, I was in no way done with this dynamic Chinese city but nevertheless, ready to venture out to the countryside to experience more of one of the world’s most quirky cultures.