Wherever you look, wherever you stroll, Shanghai continues to come up trumps as a vital player in attracting visitors – business and leisure – to the Asian region.
BY MIKE SMITH
From the contemporary restaurants and trendy bars that take up residency along the historic Bund and Pudong waterfronts to the viewing platforms atop such impressive skyscrapers as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the city of more than 20 million mesmerises guests with its diversity of new and historic offerings.
“It’s a city which genuinely lives up to the billing as a giant global centre,” said Helen Wong, marketing representative in Australia for the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration.
“Apart from its historic east-meets-west characteristics, Shanghai is a modern city very much on the move. And the move has been swift in recent years.”
Whether you visit for a meeting, conference or perhaps one of the growing numbers of exhibitions, it’s almost mandatory to set aside enough free time to “at least touch the surface” and see some of Shanghai’s tourist attractions.
Old or new, slow or high paced, China’s Paris of the Orient has an appeal which spans far beyond the conference and convention centres and the 100,000 guest rooms the city boasts in the 500 star-rated and luxury hotels (a massive 50 hotels have five stars).
There are a variety of restaurants and bars to discover, ritzy shops to browse through and ancient relics to admire – and that’s only the beginning.
In fact, on the official Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration website – www.meet-in-shanghai.net – a list of 20 “top” things to do and see is available, some free.
Among those are:
- Huangpu River Cruise, by day or night, this cruise offers a spectacular view of both the Bund and the soaring skyscrapers on the Pudong side of the Huangpu River.
- The Bund, very much the symbol of Shanghai for its 52 historical buildings that once housed banks and trading houses from the UK, France, the USA, Italy and Russia. The style of architecture ranges from Romanesque to Gothic Renaissance and Baroque – unique to China – and the main road is pedestrian friendly.
- Yu Garden, a famous classical garden once famed as the “top beauty in southeast China”. First built during the Ming Dynasty, 400 years ago, it has been renovated many times by the government since the liberation and is now one of the key relic sites in the country under state protection. The garden is divided into the scenic sections of “mountains and forests in the city”, “magnificent woods and beautiful valleys”, “historical relics of heralding spring”, “water and rockery scenery”, “tops in the world” and the inner garden.
- Xintiandi, a car-free shopping, dining and entertainment area of Shanghai housed in restored traditional shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys. Apart from modern shops there are book stores and tiny cafes and renowned restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating. Xintiandi has an active nightlife area on weekdays as well as weekends.
- Nanjing Road, a long time favourite for shoppers, this main thoroughfare has more than 600 stores on both sides of what is today a 1km long pedestrian strip between the Bund and the People’s Square.
- Jinmao Tower, very much a symbolic building of the 21st century, this tower soars 88 storeys and 420 metres above Pudong as the second highest building in China. The main building is from the first to the 52nd floor, with the floors above belonging to the five-star Grand Hyatt. Worth a visit for a drink and a bird’s eye view of the city is the bar on the 88th level.
- The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, another tower making up Pudong which was completed as far back as 1995. It soars 468 metres and for many years was the tallest structure in mainland China.
- Jade Buddha Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple, has two jade Buddha statues imported to Shanghai from Burma by sea. These are a sitting Buddha (1.95 metres tall, three tonnes), and a smaller reclining Buddha representing Buddha’s death. The temple now also contains a much larger reclining Buddha made of marble, donated from Singapore. But don’t mistake this larger sculpture for the original, smaller piece.
- Ancient water town Zhouzhuang, a short drive from Shanghai which, like a lotus on the water, is surrounded by rivers. There are many arched bridges as well, the most famous being Yong’an and Shide, alias Double Bridge, from which many artists have drawn inspiration. At night when all streets are empty, you can catch a glimpse of dim lights down the narrow lanes.
- Longhua Temple, only one left over from the original eight sceneries of old Shanghai, this “Lustre of the Dragon Temple” was first built in 242 AD.
- Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, another of Pudong’s attractions, located close to Century Park, the largest park in the city. Expect to see an IMAX theatre and 12 main exhibits, including “Spectrum of Life”, “World of Robots” and “Information Era”.
There’s little doubt the decision to host World Expo 2010 paid off handsomely for Shanghai, proving once and for all it was a city capable of big things. The 73 million people to pass through the extravaganza was testament to that.
Its reputation for holding exhibitions, international conferences and incentives was heightened by the event’s success, with many sites the legacy of actually hosting World Expo.
The skyline has broadened further since then including such new venues as the Sky Room, on top of the 1933 Art Deco Shanghai Grand Theatre, capacity 500.
“All the excitement of Expo 2010 helped put Shanghai on the map as a city that knows how to handle large-scale events – a city that never sleeps and one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for international events, “ Ms Wong said.
Recently, the city hosted yet another Shanghai Tourism Festival, the opening ceremony appropriately themed a “Happy and Healthy Tour”.
That’s how Shanghai looks in 2012.