The final stop on our 3-week Northeast China tour was the large metropolis of Shanghai. It is home to 28 million people, only two million less than the whole country of Canada. This was intimidating numbers and we braced ourselves accordingly. But Shanghai surprised us. It was organized and comfortable to walk around. The children were not jostled by people as they have been in every Chinese city we’ve visited. We didn’t have to risk injury (or possible death) sharing sidewalks with bikes and motorized bikes or crossing streets where pedestrian crossings seem to serve no other purpose other than decoration on the road. In fact, walking around Shanghai’s city centre felt like walking in Toronto’s city centre, complete with colonial architecture. And despite the space needed to house the millions, Shanghai is not just a city of concrete, steel and glass. The number of trees and green spaces were a pleasant surprise. Shanghai is a good city to be a tourist. That said, we were exhausted by the time we reached Shanghai and it was difficult to rally anymore enthusiasm for tourist attractions . Instead we spent a day visiting the Shanghai Natural History Museum and the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.
We were also able to take a long afternoon tea break which set a different pace then we had been travelling for the last two and half weeks. Afternoon tea has become one of our favourite activities here in China. Everyone should take afternoon tea. It’s a good way to slow the day down and get rejuvenated for the evening ahead.
Our evening plan was to attend a performance of the Shanghai Circus that our hosts at East Normal University went out of their way to arrange for us. It was a fantastic show and one of the highlights of our three week trip for the kids. Unfortunately there are no photos to share as they were not allowed during the performance.
After giving ourselves the break from tourist attractions, we made up for it the next day by visiting Yu Garden and Shanghai’s famous Bund.
Yu Garden is a classical Chinese garden completed in 1577 by a Ming Dynasty government officer. It shares the same characteristics as other classical Chinese gardens such as water features and rockeries. What made it stand out for me was the exceptional dragon wall that goes around most of the garden.
The Bund is a one mile stretch along the bank of the Huangpu River lined with buildings of architectural and historical significance. It is one of Shanghai’s most famous tourist destinations and countless movies have been filmed here.
It was great to finally visit Shanghai after growing up with so many movies that referenced it. As I walked around I had the theme song from the epic Chinese drama, Shanghai Tan, playing in my mind.