I recently spent an incredible week in Shanghai, and I wanted to tell you more about the trip. This past December, I travelled with my mom and sister to visit Shanghai, China. Although my mom is from Hong Kong, and we have been to Hong Kong many times, this was my first visit to Shanghai! I had been dreaming of visiting Shanghai for years, and I didn't know what to expect. It's a bustling jumble of old world meets new, with construction popping up everywhere. The city is so rich in culture, and amazing food, and to visit is truly an eye opening experience. There's so much change happening so fast, and there's just SO. MANY. PEOPLE. The sheer scale of humanity is breath-taking, and I'm so grateful I got to experience this amazing city. Keep reading for a full recap of my trip, including the itinerary of where we stayed and what we ate:
We arrived in Shanghai around 1 o'clock in the afternoon - my mom, my sister, and me. The flight was not bad at all, actually - 15 hrs from JFK to Hong Kong, then 2.5 hrs from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I slept most of the way. The first thing that struck me as we approached Shanghai was the major smog pollution. The whole city was covered in a blanket of white haze. It was beautiful, but chilling - an unmistakeable sign that we've got some very real problems and need to change our ways. The city of Shanghai is sprawling, filled with modern skyscrapers and tall, gleaming glass buildings.
We stayed at the Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel, and the location was great. We could easily walk to The Bund - the stylish waterfront district, and Nanjing Road - a busy pedestrian mall. Our first night, we strolled through the nearby Old City. Shanghai has developed so rapidly in recent decades that there is very little of the old city left. This part of town is definitely worth a visit, but it's also pretty touristy. They have a bunch of cute, old-fashioned style Chinese buildings with souvenir shops. There's lots of street food to try, and we waited in line for the big soup dumplings with a straw. They were pretty tasty, but there is so much more great food to discover in Shanghai!
It was so much fun just to walk around and explore the streets of this fascinating city. It's super crowded and there is so much going on everywhere you look. We loved wandering through the backstreets where the locals live in little old buildings. And then just a few blocks from our hotel we headed to a modern mall with a giant Tesco. It was sleek and modern - a little city in itself. We were pretty exhausted from jet lag, so we passed out around 7pm. But I slept great all the way through the night.
Thanks to to jetlag, we were up by 6:30 am, and our second day was busy and jam-packed with lots of walking and exploring. We walked through some local back roads and got street buns for breakfast - so yummy!
Then we headed to the Nanjing Pedestrian Mall. It reminded me of Lincoln Road in Miami, or the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. It was a giant outdoor shopping street filled with enormous signage and flashing advertisements. There were so many giant malls that were maze-like and filled with stuff. Floors and floors of jewelry, and clothes, and watches. It was pretty crazy, and fun to get lost in!
One of my favorite parts of Nanjing Road was the people watching. There were so many people coming and going, and we were captivated by some ballet dancers performing in the street
We headed towards the end of Nanjing road, and then took a trolley back to The Bund riverfront district. There are stunning views of the Pudong skyline across the water from here, and it's a great spot for pictures.
There are historic buildings and fancy hotels along the waterfront, and we popped in to The Peninsula Hotel for a peek and my sister snapped this great pic of the door woman. Although we didn't stay for tea today, going for afternoon tea at The Peninsula in Hong Kong is one of my favorite things in the world.
From there we took a taxi to the Long Museum West Bund - an eclectic modern art museum in an up-and-coming part of town. The architecture was very industrial and modern, and the museum showcased a mix of many Chinese and Japanese modern artists.
Just outside the museum we went for a stroll along the water front. There were a ton of cute little dogs running around, and people flying kites. Feeling exhausted after a long morning, we hopped in a cab to a nearby Marriott hotel for afternoon tea where we enjoyed live music from a woman playing the guzheng, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument.
After a short nap to rejuvenate ourselves, we headed to the night markets at Shou Ning Road for dinner. My mom and sister ordered a big bucket of crawfish, and I watched as they messily tore into them. Then we headed next door to a barbecue place where we cooked skewers right at the table. We ended the night with mango pudding, red bean cakes, and sugar cane juice from various street carts. It was the perfect ending to a fun filled day.
We awoke early to an overcast and drizzly day. Today we were headed on a day trip to the famed gardens of nearby Suzhou. We took a taxi to the train station only to discover that we needed our passports to take the train! A quick ride back to the hotel to grab our passports, and we were back at the train station by 9 am. It's a 45 minute ride to Suzhou which, just outside of the train station, feels brutalist, grey and modern.
But the famed Tiger Hill Gardens were quite lovely. We strolled through the grounds and saw an ancient pagoda, and many examples of beautiful traditional Chinese architecture.
The gorgeous landscaping featured a bamboo forest and potted garden, a gorgeous temple, and a legendary sword pond. The grounds were really quite serene and peaceful. As the weather was wet and drizzly, the whole place was shrouded in a mystical fog. After viewing the gardens, we wandered through some local streets and canals, and stopped at a tiny little family-run, hole-in-the-wall spot for lunch. We had delicious hot beef noodle soup and Fantas. The rain was coming down pretty hard after lunch, and it started to get cold and damp. We had hoped to see more of the lovely gardens in Suzhou, but it was just too rainy. So we headed back to the train station which was insanely crowded. We discovered all the tickets back to Shanghai had been sold out for the day, but we managed to squeeze onto a train standing in the aisle. After a hectic train ride, we headed back to our hotel for a quick dip in the pool, hot tub, and steam room before dinner.
In the evening we got all dressed up and went to Three on The Bund for a Western-style dinner at Jean Georges Mercato. It was a sleek, fancy building with lovely nighttime views of The Bund. We enjoyed a delicious bread basket, lobster ravioli, pear and apple salad, and veal. For dessert we ordered an affogato sundae and cranberry pavlova. The restaurant had a chic, cosmopolitan feel with lots of Westerners. The interior design felt very New York with reclaimed wood floors and tables, subway tile, and blown-glass light fixtures.
We started the day with a morning walk around the neighborhood, and had breakfast at De Xing Guan, a popular spot that has been around for over 100 years. We ate soup dumplings and wonton soup, and then picked up bubble teas on the street. Dessert alert! There's a place called Chocotea that is basically my life's dream come true. If you're a chocoholic slash bubble-tea fanatic like me you'll love it! Next stop, the Shanghai Museum for a look at some traditional Chinese artwork. They've got a great collection of ancient ceramics, calligraphy, paintings and artifacts.
We did a lot of walking today, exploring different parks and neighborhoods by foot. We wandered through the People's Park, and the French Concession which has lovely historic buildings in traditional french style. We also headed to the trendy shopping district of Xin Tian Di. It was a mix of modern, high-end malls, old-fashioned style mansions, and restaurants with chic outdoor patios.
We had a couple of cute cat sightings as well. But unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse in the afternoon. My mom got sick, and it turned out she had come down with a case of food poisoning! We suspect it was from the soup this morning, but we can't be sure. Since my mom wasn't feeling well, we decided to take it easy that night, chilling at the hotel and ordering room service.
Our last full day in Shanghai. We slept in and had a leisurely morning as my mom recovered from food poisoning. Then we had a stroll to The Bund, and took the sightseeing tunnel to Pudong - the busy commercial district across the water. Riding the sightseeing tunnel was a bizarre experience. We rode in a little tram through an underground tunnel while LED lights flashed ahead. Pudong was filled with giant glass buildings, and the iconic TV tower. It was mostly office buildings so there wasn't a whole lot to do.
We decided it was too hazy to go up for sightseeing at the top of the tower, but we did take a look at some of the giant malls. We also walked along a rather futuristic pedestrian ring over the street that was used as a backdrop in the movie Her.
After that, we headed back across the water for a delightful afternoon tea at Light & Salt in the hip Rock Bund building. We poked into a few nice hotels on the way to tea just to have a look including the historic Waldorf Astoria and Peace Hotel. Afternoon tea at Ms. Ding's was quite a treat. I ordered a Chinese Jasmine green tea, and my sister and I shared a tea for two with fois gras and mini-toasts, ice cream pops, salmon salsa, scones with clotted cream and orange marmalade, fruit jellies, a mini tiramisu and macaron. Yummy! We headed back to the hotel for a rest, and to get ready for our last night in Shanghai.
For dinner we decided to go to Xibo to try Xinjiang cuisine, a specialty from the northwestern region of China. Xinjiang has a large Muslim population, and is heavily influenced by Turkish culture. We enjoyed a savory meal of naan, pumpkin dumplings, tasty lamb chops, and a clay pot beef stew. It was sort of like Middle Eastern Chinese food, and I quite liked it.
Today we continued on our journey to Hong Kong, so we really didn't do much in Shanghai. We left the hotel around 8 am for our flight to Hong Kong, and said farewell to this beautiful, chaotic, cosmopolitan, and fascinating city.
Goodbye Shanghai! Until we meet again.