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By far the largest city in China, Shanghai has been at the forefront of Chinese development since the reforms brought in by Deng Xiaoping in 1979. Particularly in the last 20 years the special economic zone of Pudong has sprung forth from the marshy ground east of the Huang Pu. Shanghai is the economic and trading centre of new China, and sits just south of the mouth of that main artery of Asia, the Yangtze. The city has a long history, but much of it is rapidly disappearing under progressive modernism.

I found myself in Shanghai during the Chinese National Day holidays in 2008, being the 59th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. I had arrived in China less than two weeks previously for work, and had no idea these holidays were coming up, so I figured Shanghai would be a good choice for a few days at very short notice. I stayed in Puxi near the Ling Ping Lu subway station, in a fairly good place called the "Sleeping Dragon Hostel".

Pudong, the new face of Shanghai

From the Bund in the west you can gaze across the Huang Pu to new Shanghai rising out of Pudong special economic zone in the east. Prominent in the foreground is the Oriental Pearl Tower with its pink baubles, one of the first monuments to modern Chinese development to be erected here, in 1992.

The Bund itself is where the action happens in old Shanghai. Previously a stretch of gardens along the waterfront, it is mostly a busy road now, but you can walk along the path right next to the river and admire the views on both sides.

The Bund

Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower is one of three supertall structures in Shanghai which you can travel to the top of. The highest observation deck is at 350 metres, higher than the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Also in Pudong are the giant Jin Mao building in the foreground, and the beer-bottle opener Shanghai World Financial Center, completed just a month before my visit, conveniently.

Jin Mao building and Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center

Inside the viewing gallery of the SWFC, in the glass floored bridge at the top of the bottle opener. This is the world's highest public observation deck at 474 metres, and will probably remain so for some time, as it's higher even than that of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Puxi as viewed from the top of the SWFC, through the ever present Chinese smog. Shanghai is one of the most dense cities I have ever been to.

Smog in Puxi

Lake in Pudong

This sunny lake in the centre of Pudong, by the Jin Mao Tower, belies the smog of the previous day.

Looking down through the atrium of the Jin Mao Tower, which stretches up inside the building from the 56th to the 87th floor. I sat in the little coffee bar at the bottom and had a drink.

Jin Mao atrium

Pudong by night

Pudong district viewed from the Bund by night. Pudong literally means east of the Pu (river), and Puxi means west of the river.

Puxi district viewed from the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower at night. As it was National Day, the queues were enormous and I doubt I would've waited the 3 hours it took to get to the top, if I'd known from the start. It was daylight when I started queuing!


Nanjing Road, Puxi

In central Puxi, Nanjing Lu is the main pedestrian artery, running west from the river in a riot of shops and colour..

I'd heard about the world's only public maglev (magnetic levitation) train, so I made a point of taking a ride out to Pudong airport. Within 3 minutes of departure we were doing 267mph (431kph), it cruised for a minute then we had to slow down again before running out of track. This is the world's fastest train of any sort, and may one day be extended to Hangzhou.

Shanghai maglev

Shanghai science museum

In the spirit of technological tourism, I spent an afternoon at the Shanghai Science Museum, a pretty good affair overall, the way science museums go.

This was a very popular exhibit - robot karaoke! The robot played the piano while the visitors yowled out their favourites. I was impressed at the robot's performance, it was really quite good. The little girl however, was not.

I did it my way...

Shanghai in miniature

In line with China's propensity for preparing five-year-plans and suchlike, they've planned out Shanghai in a very grand fashion by building a model of what the city will one day look like. Check it out at the Urban Planning Museum.

Underneath People's Square there is a complex of shopping malls, with the ceiling painted blue to remind you of what the sky once looked like...

Outside in?

National Day

The flags were out in force on Nanjing Lu for Chinese National Day, 2008.

For the end of my trip, and mere moments after I stepped outside of the Oriental Pearl Tower, they had a go at blowing it up with fireworks. Spectacular!


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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2010