As China celebrated another National Day, we had a few days off of work and yet another case of itchy feet. This time, we decided to head to Shanghai and Hangzhou, places I had already been to but neither Rachel nor Sean had. The bullet train from Beijing brought us to the Pearl of the Orient in just around five hours, where we checked into our hostel before going out to meet one of Rachel’s friends.
New Shanghai as seen from the Captain hostel’s rooftop bar.We stayed at the City Central hostel, but we started our night at the rooftop bar of the Captain Youth Hostel on the Bund with some tasty cocktails and an incredible view of the Huangpu River and all of the massive skyscrapers that line it.
The next day, we headed out to do some exploring. It being one of China’s two Golden Week holidays, the subways and streets were packed full of camera wielding Chinese tourists. Traveling during major Chinese holidays in China kind of sucks, but with our new jobs that had less vacation time, we didn’t have much of a choice. We braved the crowds and visited the Yuyuan Gardens, which proved to be a good idea, as the 40 RMB entrance seemed to deter plenty of travelers. It’s a peaceful place to relax in the middle of a bustling metropolis that never seems to stop moving.
In the evening, we headed to the other side of the river to admire the view of the Bund, with its classic western architecture, and the impressive modern structures like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao tower that definitely earn the title of skyscraper. Walking around this area was yet another reminder of why China really is Shakedown Street, as we saw plenty of street vendors with blankets laid out and covered with glow toys. Naturally, we had to buy a few.
That night, we flashed back to our middle school glory days as a big group of us found a newly opened lazer tag spot. Before engaging in an epic battle, we found a restaurant and got some dinner as well as a few pre-game beers. A few intense games of lazer tag followed, with drinks in between as the place is also a bar. Lazer tag + booze = a great idea.
Enjoy a video tour of Shanghai with us.
Before heading out to Hangzhou, we took a stroll through the People’s Park, where we checked out the love market. This is a spot where locals look for a partner for themselves or their children by hanging up a flyer with information such as: age, income, and whether or not they are a homeowner. You know, the important stuff!
Wandering through local parks is perhaps the best way to quickly experience the local culture in a Chinese city. As most people live in massive high-rise buildings with little to no green space around, the parks are the best place to get together to sing, dance, play games, or just relax.
Of course, no visit to Shanghai would be complete without an order of xiao long bao – delicious soup filled dumplings that are a local specialty. Getting to Hangzhou was a breeze, as we took an hour and a half train ride.
Shanghai is definitely a cool, modern city with lots to offer. Although we’ll always side with Beijing in the ongoing battle of the Chinese mega-cities, we had a great time in Shanghai, will definitely visit again, and would even potentially consider living there.
Transportation: A ton of trains leave Beijing every day bound for Shanghai. Your best bet are the “G” trains, which take around 5 hours and cost about 550 RMB for a second-class seat or over 900 for a first. Of course, you can also fly into Shanghai from just about anywhere.
Get Around: The public transportation of Shanghai is heavily developed. There are multiple subway lines, tons of buses, taxis, and even a ferry.
Accommodation: We stayed in the City Central hostel, where we shared a three-person room for 210 RMB/night. It was a nice room and the place had a cool bar/restaurant area with a free breakfast that we of course missed.
Activities: As it is a big international city, there’s a lot to do in Shanghai. From museums, to temples, to gardens, to the classical and modern architecture on both sides of the river, you shouldn’t find yourself bored on a visit here.
Food/Drink: We’re no experts on the dining scene in Shanghai, but there are tons of options at your fingertips. The xiao long bao soupy dumplings come highly recommended, as we could eat those every day. In terms of drinking, the nightlife of Shanghai is bumping, with tons of bars and clubs for you to choose from.
Recommended Time: Two or three days should be enough for you to hit most of the sights. While in Shanghai, you might as well do what we did and explore some other places in the area, such as Suzhou or Hangzhou.