4 things to enjoy when you are in Shanghai

Arlene Burgos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2019 07:07 AM | Updated as of Jul 06 2019 10:36 AM

Shanghai is a shining, shimmering spectacle, especially at night. Contributed photo

This is not a country a Filipino will be excited to visit weeks after Hong Kong -- one of its two special administrative regions -- refused an old Philippine diplomat entry. 

Days before, the same country was embroiled in what has been dismissed as an ordinary maritime incident between Chinese and Filipino fishermen. 

Against this background, a trip to Shanghai - among four municipalities directly under the central government of the People's Republic of China - is one that somehow inspires fear and anxiety. 

Yet Shanghai, China's biggest city that evolved from being a fishing village to a post-world war treaty port to the home of the country's stock market, during these nights, is an almost golden, sparkling place that glitters from a distance, as it might have had in the 20s or 30s when people called it Oriental Paris. 

Its skyline is inviting, pretty much in the same manner that lights would lure moths; the sight could be so seductive it's enough to melt away a foreigner's fear and anxiety. 

Its rivers seem to carry commercial secrets; they flow and snake around shops that sell everything from pig's innards to the comfort small fishes bring if only you would dip your toes into an aquarium. 
 
Its streets are lined with old walls that feel cold and ancient even as they carry large neon signs announcing Western luxury brands. 

And just like the meaning of its name, the place has a way of bringing you to a situation you may not exactly like: Shanghai forces you to open your eyes when you are standing on glass floors on elevation so high it feels like you're in the sky, teasing you with the thought of the entire city's beauty spread-eagled - if only you would stop letting your fear of heights torment you. 

This market's large outbound travel potential drove Cebu Pacific, one of two local airlines plying the Manila-Shanghai route directly, to trade in April its 230-seater aircraft for the larger 436-seater A330. 

So, yes, charming Shanghai, with its contradictions and paradoxes, is both the old and the new, its most famous places harking back to its colonial past even while declaring its current Asian powerhouse standing. 

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, check out these 4 things that will demonstrate what the contradictions are all about, and why Shanghai is one paradox of an urban paradise. 

1. The tallest and the biggest
Shanghai seems to have a thing for heights and hectarage. It boasts of structures that are so tall and so wide its tourist brochures make a reference point out of these buildings' height or floor space. 

2. Lights and spectacle 
In Shanghai, it's all about the lights, be it day or night. Whether you choose to experience the city on water or on land, what you should never lose sight of is the sky during the day and the lights that illuminate it at night. 

3. Shopping and food 
Shanghai has an interesting way of updating its old houses and communities: they convert these into shopping districts or rows of cafés that make it cool to watch a parade of people with pricey designer bags pass by. Out here, they carry signature purses and satchels casually as if they're just meant to go to the supermarket for milk. 

4. History 
Shanghai has a way of ensuring it preserves its storied past, undisturbed in some instances, as if it's supposed to stay that way forever. But as a visitor, these are the same stories you try to snuggle into your heart and mind's storage bins, sort of take home with you. 

Photos contributed by Nick Olayao

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Orient Pearl TV Tower in Pudong district 

With the spire, this tower's height is 468 meters. It was built in 1994 and is Asia's tallest TV tower.  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Orient Pearl TV Tower in Pudong district

 Describing itself as "the only 360-degree, completely transparent observatory in the world," the glass gallery is a challenge to look at or even step onto, especially if one has fear of heights.  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Orient Pearl TV Tower in Pudong district 

It offers probably one of the best panoramic views of the entire city with its glass-floored gallery from 259 meters above the ground.  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Coke Park in the Orient Pearl TV Tower 

A bonus: On the tower's lower grounds is the world's first Coca-Cola-themed restaurant that sells Coke memorabilia, and serves buffet of Chinese, Japanese, and American dishes.  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Shanghai History Museum in the Orient Pearl TV Tower 

Another bonus when visiting the Orient Pearl TV Tower: the Shanghai History Museum on the tower grounds. It's like the Madame Tussauds museum in Nanjing Xi Road, but with more wax figures set against life-like dioramas representing about 700 years of history.  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Shanghai Tower in Pudong district 

This is China's tallest building, and in the world ranks second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

"Twisting to the sky with 128 floors... (the tower) embraces an inner glass facade and a twirling exterior. While inside the tower features nine zones created by the stacking of interior components atop one another, the curved exterior not only provides a unique aesthetic as the third of three skyscrapers in close proximity, but also offers an engineering benefit by reducing wind loads," Popular Mechanics said about it.  

Located in the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone of the Pudong district, the tower is near the Shanghai World Financial Center (leftmost), and the Jin Mao Tower (left of Shanghai Tower).  

THE TALLEST AND THE BIGGEST 

Starbucks Reserve Roastery in West Nanjing Road

Up until the Reserve Roastery opened in Tokyo this year, this Starbucks roastery was the world's largest at 2,700 square meters of floor space.  Nestled in the HKRI Taikoo Hui mall, the roastery offers an experiential coffee encounter from bean roasting, packaging, to brewing.  This Starbucks attracts long lines, and among its most patronized products are pastries baked onsite.  

LIGHTS AND SPECTACLE 

Huangpu River Cruise in Huangpu district 

An hour-long boat trip around the 45-kilometer long Huangpu River that is best taken at night, the cruise offers a visual feast of Shanghai's lighted skyscrapers - from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the buildings of the Lujiazui business district, the hotels near Binjiang Avenue, and the historic Waibaidu Garden Bridge.  Day tours, on the other hand, may be done via double-decker buses that feature sky roofs, and seating with tables, allowing one to marvel at the skyscrapers while sipping coffee. 

LIGHTS AND SPECTACLE 

Shanghai Circus World in Zhabei district 

Try to catch the program "ERA: Intersection of Time," a 90-minute ensemble performance showcasing acrobatics, porcelain jar juggling, and an 8-motorcycle showdown inside a steel globe (shown in photo).

 The performance is also a nod to Chinese history, and references modern Chinese achievements such as the Shanghai Donghai Cross-Sea Bridge - the world's longest sea bridge, the Maglev Train powered by the principle of magnetic levitation, and Shenzhou 5 - China's first manned space mission. Photo by Arlene Burgos, ABS-CBN News

LIGHTS AND SPECTACLE 

Sightseeing Tunnel in Pudong district

A 5-minute underground ride that features psychedelic lighting effects as one crosses from Pudong to the Bund.  Fun, if only for the novelty of an underground cable car with man-made light displays.  

SHOPPING AND FOOD

Nanjing Road

 When Shanghai was a treaty port, this was the main road to reach the Bund. 

Today, it is a 5.5-kilometer row of high-end brands that may well be Shanghai's response to Fifth Avenue, with the new names standing next to old labels like Cai Tong De pharmacy and Duo Yun Xuan art shop. (Again, contradictions.) 

SHOPPING AND FOOD

Xin Tian Di in Huangpu district

This is history straight out of the 1920s. The alleyways, walls, even the pavements tell a story. 

A Shanghai-style lane neighborhood, Xin Tian Di was reimagined and converted into a shopping-dining destination in 2001. But traces of history remained, and these appear to be strong drawing points for local and international tourists.  

SHOPPING AND FOOD

Food

Peking ducks and hotpots are par for the course when visiting China. But it may delight you to determine for yourself if these places are indeed the best in Shanghai. 

Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant 

Sea Palace Floating Restaurant 

Hai Di Lao Hotpot 

 

HISTORY

Yu Garden in Huangpu district 

Also known as the Yuyuan Garden, this is a 400-year-old classical garden that was said to have been built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) by a son to comfort his ailing parents.  It has six areas whose names are just as intriguing as their construction; there is one called The Great Rockery, for instance, and another one called The Exquisite Jade Rock.  These days, it is crawling with tourists who would discover they could get lost in alleys lined by bazaars of crafts and art works.  

HISTORY

Zhuijiaojiao water town in Qingpu district 

This area is among those around the Dianshen Lake, where they say rice was cultivated thousands of years ago.  The water here is 7 to 9 meters deep, and can be traversed via a gondola ride, which is also a good way to view the town from the water.

After you get off the boat, you can continue exploring by going up the Fangsheng Bridge. It was built in 1812 and is said to be the largest stone-arch bridge in Shanghai, resting on five arches, and being about 70 meters long and 5.8 meters tall, according to a local travel website 

People love to have their pictures taken on this bridge, which explains the crowd. At the foot of the bridge are rows of shops that sell anything from pork meat to nougat.  

HISTORY

The Bund in Huangpu district

Possibly among the most famous Shanghai landmarks, the Bund is the iconic waterfront on the western bank of the Huangpu River on whose streets numerous buildings of differing architectural styles have been built since the 19th century.  An attraction is the only bronze statue (not shown in photo) at the Chen Yi Square of Chen, the first communist mayor of Shanghai.  Reminiscent of big statues built for Mao Zedong, Chen stands proudly in his Shanghai square, like an overseer of some sort to the establishments and infrastructures that have come to embody local culture fusion with Western influences.