After months of anticipation, we finally arrived in Shanghai which was soon to exceed all our expectations.
After saying goodbye to Martine and Ella at Dubai airport, we had an easy eight-hour journey from Dubai to Shanghai. The quality and service at both Dubai and Shanghai airports are excellent, putting airports like the UK’s Heathrow and Gatwick to shame. For example, arriving at passport control at Shanghai we were greeted by a security guard who welcomed us warmly to Shanghai in English.
We were met by our guide, Leon (not his real name of course), who kindly took charge of our luggage and led us to our awaiting car and driver, the same driver and guide who were to be our team for the rest of our stay here in Shanghai.
We quickly arrived at our historic hotel on the famous Bund, with magnificent views of the Huangpu River and directly opposite the Russian Embassy.
Here are some of the highlights of our first two days in Shanghai:
- Our first full day was Sunday and immediately after the important Independence Day holiday – apparently millions of Chinese descend on Shanghai for this public holiday – fortunately, we arrived late and so did not have to experience the extras, as Shanghai has a twenty-three million population anyway – more than Australia, just imagine.
- We left our hotel on foot, walked along the legendary Bund, beside the river, and headed for the famous Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road boasts enormous history and today Nanjing Road East contains an important one kilometre pedestrian area for shops, restaurants, hotels and other attractions, including Peoples Square. It has a really great atmosphere, with dance classes in the street, so noisy that it is difficult to have a conversation and the usual naggers trying to sell you roller-skates or a table at a club or restaurant, or maybe a handbag or watch – they don’t specialize!
- Walking on the streets of Shanghai, we soon picked up the energy of the city, with people laughing and joking with friends and family – it was warm and sunny but having just come from Dubai it was for us only temperate and quite pleasant really.
- We sampled some excellent Shanghai Chinese food for lunch, in a restaurant near People Square, washed down with good local beer. We are informed that the Shanghai cuisine is lighter than other types of Chinese food and probably contains more fish.
- We strolled in and out of the many shops, buying nothing but enjoying the experience.
- We then walked back to the Bund, which acts as a beautiful promenade, along the Huangpu River.
- The fabulous colonial architecture is to one side of the Bund and across the river you see the commercial quarter with its numerous skyscrapers, often amazing in design, which at night become a spectacular electric light show. Also it’s a delight to see the variety of ships large and small on the river, also illuminated at night.
- The first evening, we saw the Russian State Ballet perform Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky, at the Chinese Cultural Centre. It was a truly amazing evening, an excellent performance, state-of-the-art auditorium and being amongst a handful of westerners, a great opportunity for us to observe the Chinese at leisure.
- After the ballet, we had a late supper and few glasses of wine at the famous Jazz Bar in the Peace Hotel – a beautiful building in Art Deco style, it was a wonderful experience listening to this very experienced sextet as they had apparently been there for decades and reminded us of what real traditional jazz sounded like. This bar which traces its history back to the 1920s, is a true Jazz Age place – thoroughly recommended to enjoy some spare time in the evening.
- After breakfast the second day, Leon and his driver arrived to take us to the famous, historical, Yuyuan Garden, in the Old Chinese Quarter with its beautiful pools, bridges, pavilions and statues dating back to the Ming dynasty. We also visited the Huxinting Teahouse, which we are told is one of the most famous in China. After that, we looked around the Chinese market in the same area, which was a bit tacky.
- We enjoyed a typical Shanghainese lunch of “dim sum” in a lovely restaurant, which we found quite different to the “dim sum” of Hongkong.
- The second afternoon, we visited the French Concession area, now called “Xiantiandi”, with its many trendy bars, cafes and shops. We also spent three-quarters of an hour in the historic Chinese Communist Party (CCP) building, which is now a museum, which provided us with an excellent insight into China’s history in the twentieth century.
- We spent the rest of the day walking on the Bund, by the river-side, just wandering, mingling, eating and drinking, and truly enjoying Shanghai, just like everybody else!