Shanghai

Vibrant doesn’t even begin to cover the sense that you get when you first arrive in Shanghai. Considered to be the largest and most developed of all the great cities of China, Shanghai has a fairly modern history, being nothing more than a fishing village until the opiate wars of the 1840’s, the result saw the village split into French, American and British districts, with remnants of these colonial times evident today.

Shanghai embraces change, the cityscape constantly evolving, with each new building taking the mantle of being bigger, brighter, and bolder than the last, all in keeping with this city’s obsession with mirroring and surpassing the West; although modern in tastes and stature, Shanghai still has its traditional touches, slip down between the impossibly modern buildings to discover temples and contemplation gardens, all making this the perfect place to experience how East can meet West to create something truly special.

Pudong is the place to stay in Shanghai, and the Shangri-La is the place to stay in Pudong, the two towers filled with luxurious rooms, each with their own appeal, choose tower 2 for spacious rooms with special touches, or choose tower 1 for the amazing views over the Bund (the traditional colonial riverside). This hotel is pretty spectacular whichever way you look at it, but be prepared to pay for the privilege.

There are of course plenty of budget alternatives, many are further away from the heart of the city, but Boxianghui Hotel manages to combine a location close to the Pudong Expo Centre with the most affordable of rooms; don’t expect luxury, but you’ll be quite content with the facilities at this great little hotel.

Dining in Shanghai is a very social experience, large noisy groups sit around circular tables sharing a multitude of dishes, all laughing and drinking, don’t be surprised if you are invited to join in, and if you are, then make the most of this fantastic cultural opportunity. With Shanghai being such a dynamic country there is of course a fine dining scene, but these, unlike the local restaurants, charge international prices that make the city suddenly seem expensive; stick to the places that the locals eat at and you won’t go far wrong.

The stand out restaurants in the city include names such as Jesse, Yin, Yu Xin Chuan Cai, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and Mia’s Yunnan Kitchen; in this vast city, if you do find yourself close to any of these fantastic restaurants, be sure to try them out.

You can’t go to Shanghai and not visit a traditional tea house, however be aware that some will massively inflate the prices when dealing with tourists, Tang Yun (199 Hengshan Lu) is a good place to try out this traditional pastime, and although not the most exciting way to spend your time, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of this fantastic city.

You need to see at least one great Temple during your visit, and none is finer than Jinshan Donglin in the south of the city, the history of the temple is plain to see, and the sympathetic renovations make it quite spectacular; don’t miss the statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva, which holds the world record for being the world’s tallest indoor statue!

With its subtropical climate Shanghai can be incredibly hot during the long summer days, with temperatures reaching the 90’s, and a humidity that can be overbearing, conversely the winter months are cold with overnight temperatures often falling below freezing point; although the main draw of the city is far more than good weather, both these seasons can be problematic for the traveller. Spring and autumn are far more pleasant times to travel, although spring can be cloudy with frequent rain, however these showers do generally pass quite quickly.

Shanghai is an amazing place to visit during Chinese New Year (usually during February), in Shanghai it is known as the Spring Festival, and the feeling is fantastic, with events reflecting the truly multicultural feel of the city,  the festivities might bring the city to a standstill, but go with the flow and you’ll love it.

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