Rooftop terrace at URBN Hotel Pudong, Shanghai, China. Image courtesy of URBN Hotels & Resorts.
Sophie McGovern wrote this guest post on Sydney hostels. A writer, freelance journalist and traveler, she lives on a house boat near Bath. Her articles are featured on various websites including Heading There, Lonely Planet, The Lost Girls and Southbank Centre Literature.
Shanghai is a cool and contemporary city which keeps its history and culture very much alive.
No wonder then that many China and Asia bound travelers begin their adventures here. Cheap flights to Shanghai have increased the city’s appeal, as have ever improving transportation links to the rest of China.
First impressions of Shanghai are often lofty skyscrapers and monochromatic contemporary architecture that dominate the business and commercial districts. Some of these buildings mix modern materials and classical shapes, as with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
The traditional China exists within and around this modern sprawl in its temples, floating markets and tranquil gardens which add color and calm to the city.
Canals wind through Shanghai, and ornate boats are available for hire or with a guide. This is a lovely way to take in the sights at a leisurely pace, with temples and palaces on the banks and plenty of opportunity for people watching. Buy lunch from a floating market and disembark at one of the many temples for a tour.
The Old Town is the place to go to immerse yourself in traditional Shanghai, with tiered buildings, tumbledown shops, lanterns and dragon motifs a plenty. Enter through the traditional gateway on the west side for full atmospheric effect, where gold animals decorate red and black paneling.
This will bring you onto Fangbang Central Road. Here you can buy every kind of souvenir and trinket imaginable, from Buddha statues to Junk kites and ornately-carved chopsticks.
For a less touristy shopping experience, visit the Old Town’s Yu Yuan Bazaar. Along with modern mall type shops, a host of traditional arts and crafts are sold as well as Chinese medicines and cooking ingredients.
After your shopping, it will be time for tea, and the old town is packed full of traditional tea houses. The variety of tea types is phenomenal, and there isn’t a teabag in sight. Black, green, Dragon Well, Oolong; choose your tipple and enjoy the dainty service set complete with traditional teapots.
One of the best tea houses in the Old Town is Mid Lake Pavilion Teahouse built in the 1800s, which stands at the centre of a lake, with views of landscaped gardens beyond.
When you’re done with your tea, take time to explore the neighboring gardens. Locals practice Tai Chi and yoga on the grass and in the many traditional pavilions. Built in the 1500s, the gardens are the most beautiful in the city, representing the world’s wild spaces in miniature.
In the evening, there are a number of entertainment options, some with roots in ancient Chinese folklore and spirituality.
Chinese Opera is an extravagant event characterized by masks, costumes, storytelling and high-pitched singing.
The Circus comes alive with drama and tradition, acrobats demonstrating their extraordinary skills, which combine elegance and strength.
This is a Guest Post.