SHANGHAI: A Glorious New Age City
Decorated with palatial structures, warm gardens and a cosy riverside – today’s Shanghai is a confluence of elegant architecture, traditional flavours and modern lifestyle.
The city of Shanghai is China's showpiece metropolis that has drawn the attention of discerning world travellers. The city is ideally located on the estuary of the shimmering Yangtze River and, over the past decades, has evolved into one of the most significant economic and financial hubs in China.
Needless to say, the city, with its plethora of attractions, both natural and man-made, has become one of the most visited cities in China.
For the first time visitor to this thriving metropolis, the sheer scale of modernisation is astonishing. This Chinese city is renowned for its multi-culturalism, and the harmony of contemporary culture with the traditional is quite unique. Shanghai is best known for being the largest city and the economic powehouse of the country.
Shanghai is largely a port city on the picturesque Huangpu river and in the days of yore it used to be a fishing and textile hub. This great city has carved a niche for itself after the Chinese opened up the city via the Treaty of Nanking, way back in 1842. As a result, this port city was much preferred by the British, French, Americans, Germans, and Russians, each of whom have left their indelible architectural impression through their distinctive river banks, trading centres and graceful mansions, all of which fascinates today's global traveller.
The city's cosmopolitan culture and booming commerce, earned it the soubriquet of "Paris of the East" in the 1930's era. Even though the city used to be the focal point of Chinese Communism, much to the amazement of the world community, Shanghai was ignored and overlooked during the 1960s and 1970s – the period of Chineese Cultural Revolution. It was only in the 1990s that the Chinese chose this city for accelerated development to become a beacon of China's reform.
As dusk descends on Shanghai, the city comes alive in all its glory. The Huangpu river bank, which is dotted with diverse architectural specimens, popularly referred to as "the Bund," offers a truly surreal sight. Each of these historical edifices was built during different eras and is an amalgamation of Gothic and Baroque style architecture.
The two most remarkable edifices are the magnificent Bank of China Building and the exquisitely designed Peace Hotel, both of which are suffused in state-of-the-art lighting. Apart from the Bund, the city of Shanghai is replete with stately mansions, impeccably designed garden estates, elegant clubs and magnificent cathedrals built by Western seafarers more than a century back. Visitors to Shanghai would do well to embark on a walking tour of the Old City with the sights of an old teahouse, oriental temples, exquisitely designed pagodas and archetypal Chinese gardens arriving as breaths of fresh air. Time permitting, a visit to the Huangpu River bank, popularly referred to as Puxi, can be a very rewarding sight. There is also the Pudong New Area, which is well worth a visit, with its plethora of skyscrapers, like the iconic Orient Pearl Tower, which happens to be one of Asia's highest observation decks. Other prominent edifices like the contemporary Jin Mao Towers and the outstanding World Financial Centre, where the world's tallest hotel – the Park Hyatt – is positioned, can be a very exciting sightseeing option.
The renowned "Nanjing Road", which happens to be China's foremost commercial district, has, over the years, evolved into an iconic landmark. This buzzing commercial hub, which stretches approximately for 5.5 kilometers, is replete with shops selling everything from ordinary groceries to some of the world's most high-end brands and luxury gadgets.
From the excitement and buzz of Nanjing Road to the serene vistas of Yuyuan Garden, with its harmonious blend of Ming and Qing style of architecture, makes for a truly ethereal experience. The most beautiful part of the garden is the Grand Rockery and in close proximity is the graceful City God Temple, where one can indulge in mouth watering Chinese delicacies served piping hot by local street snack vendors.
For Buddhist aficionados, Shanghai's magnificent Jade Buddha Temple is a must visit. Legend has it that the White Jade Buddhas were transported all the way from Burma (Myanmar)in the 19th century. The cynosure of all eyes is of course the sitting Buddha and the fascinating array of images of royalty, which makes for a veritable treat.
Those with a passion for art and culture would do well to visit Shanghai Museum, where some of China's rare and priceless artifacts are impeccably preserved. The Museum has carefully preserved ancient Chinese bronzes, pottery items, rare paintings and inscriptions. The remarkable feature of the Museum is that it looks a lot like the ancient Chinese cooking pot –"Ding". Apart from Shanghai Museum, there are several other museums worth visiting such as the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China, among others.