A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published June 23rd 2013
Standing on The Bund, we drank in the atmosphere of Shanghai with its heady mixture of hustle and bustle and a stunning skyline of soaring futuristic structures, while our guide explained that the fast-flowing Huangpu River on which the city stands surges into the Yangtze further north.
It was a special trip a few years ago as my husband and I were celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary. China has fascinated me since I was a child and it didn't disappoint.
Shanghai is a vibrant city of over eighteen million inhabitants that swells with visitors and temporary residents to over twenty-four million at times, and is the home to some of the world's biggest commercial enterprises.
After an eleven hour flight from London we arrived at PuDong airport late in the afternoon, just in time for the rush hour. One of the first things I noticed was that all the hedges along the connecting motorway were trimmed and clipped and suddenly we were aware of the scale of manpower this task must take.
We stayed in Shanghai for three days as part of a tour of China in which we took in all the major sights and a Yangtze cruise. Our tour company, Archers Direct, certainly packed in a lot for us to see and do, a visit to The Bund being just one of them.
Our first day was spent in the heart of the city in People's Square, where tall tower blocks surround the park, reminding you of how new this part of the city is. We found that local people were very happy to come and say hello. A little knowledge of English Premiership football goes a long way when trying to explain where you live.
Right next to People's Square is the Shanghai Museum, where you can see ancient Ming Vases and precious artefacts from centuries of Chinese history.
A Nice Piece of China on Display at Shanghai Museum
One young girl called Lucy came and introduced herself in perfect English, a reflection on how China is modernising as millions of primary school children now learn English as a second language.
We emerged from the museum to witness the spectacle of some of the locals playing in the public fountain nearby, much to our group amusement. Wonder if they did it just for the tourists?
After all that excitement we were ready for a cup of tea and of course, you can't go to China without a visit to a teahouse. Our next stop was the Jade Buddha Temple, in the heart of Shanghai, where time-honoured old buildings sit right next to skyscrapers and the traditional pagoda style was a magical sight, just how I'd imagined the place would be. What's more, the teahouse was right there in the same grounds.
Once inside the teahouse we were served with different types of tea in little china cups and then had the chance to buy some to take home. Some blends were said to ease various ailments and you can talk to assistants if you wanted to take this advice on board. We chose a 'morning' variety but despite being a tea drinker, I couldn't quite get used to sieving tea leaves again when I returned home.
One final delight at the temple before we left was to walk through the Moongate. The Chinese believe it is good luck for couples to walk through together as a symbol of life-long love and happiness. After 25 years of marriage, I guess we were up for that.
A night out at Shanghai's huge Carlton Hotel to see the Chinese State Circus was our next treat. Inside the beautiful theatre we were entertained and enthralled by the acrobatic feats performed to both eastern style music and western pop tunes. Returning to our coach we dodged the traffic on one of the busiest streets I've ever seen.
A Beautiful Performance
The next morning was a true assault on your senses when we visited a local indoor market.
Bikes and Trikes at Shanghai Market
Outside buzzed with the noise of local people on scooters, bikes and trikes, leaving and returning to place their goods in the carts attached, while inside they sold live fish and eels, which you could choose from the water barrels around the stalls. One such fishy jumped out and landed a few feet away just as my husband and I were taking in the scene, the stallholder laughing as she scooped it up and put it back in its tub.
Fishies in little dishies in Shanghai Market
From there, we experienced a traditional Chinese village built around a canal, (although I reckon this one was specially built for the tourists). It is said that Marco Polo took this idea back to Italy as a blueprint for Venice; sampans are the gondolas of the East and we took the opportunity of a sampan ride along the canal.
Stopping for lunch in the village, we were served with some kind of spinach leaf soup (at least that was my best guess). I don't like soup all that much so I wasn't impressed. All the food on the tour was superb otherwise. I had been concerned because I do have some food allergies, especially when eating take-away Chinese food at home, but everything on the tour was freshly prepared and served in a banquet-style so, chop sticks at the ready, you could choose what suited you.
Our final night in Shanghai proved to be amazing. We took what could only be described as a 'Chinese junk' along the Huangpu River to see the city lights. If you thought the skyscrapers were amazing by day, just wait until you see them at night. As we sailed down the river, we stood open-mouthed, the word 'wow' issuing from our lips time after time. According to others on our tour, 'La Paris of the Orient' can easily rival 'The Big Apple'.