My Week In: Shanghai
Shanghai-A city that is associated with so much mystery, history and allure. Growing up, I always felt a calling to the East and Shangai in specific. This came from stories from my father, history books and movies. All vivid accounts no doubt, but I needed to experience it all for myself. Spoiler Alert-That is what happened this year when I finally decided to follow the calling to China and included Shanghai as a destination city. The Shanghai Tower, The Yu Garden and Tongli Water Village are all must see travel destinations. Yes, you guessed it, they all were in my adventure and all the original photos and videos are below!
The Bund Bull
The Shanghai Tower
I saved Shanghai as the last city on my tour, the best for last? What I will say about China is that each major city has it's own energy and atmosphere. Shanghai in question, is one of the more "younger" cities when compared to Beijing and Xian in terms of history. That being said, Shanghai definitely maintains a balance between being historical and cosmopolitan. It does not get more cosmopolitan than the Bund financial district housing the famed Shanghai Tower.
The Tower is located in the heart of the city centre and stands at an impressive 632 metres being 128 stories high. It also stands as the tallest building in Asia and second tallest in the world, the first being the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. With all this "towering" over me, I asked my tour guide if we could see it as the first stop on the tour. A fresh Monday morning I had breakfast at the hotel and was greeted by my guide before we headed off into the city. As we arrived, I thought the weather had suddenly become overcast, when it was actually the sun being blocked by this modern day 128 story masterpiece! I tried to see the top from the outside, but it's impossible even with a zoomed out camera. *Screams Internally*
I joined the queue at the entrance and eagerly waited to finally see the inside of the building. The building houses offices, restaurants and a hotel, but the bottom floor and observation deck his designed specifically for the public and tourists as a spectacle to showcase the city. All through the foyer to the elevator I was surrounded by a brief history of The Tower, from early sketches to scale models. Finally we reached the elevator to the observation deck, in a matter of second (yes, SECONDS), we reached the observation deck. Two words. Skyline Views. The observation deck is a circle floor that has glass windows and wraps around the whole building in order for guests to have a 360 degree view. From being eye level with the clouds, I was both humbled and impressed its design and grandeur.
The Shanghai Tower
The Observation Deck
The Yu Garden
Before I continue, something about myself. I've always believed every now and then we need to take some time off to rebalance our energies, escape the fast pace life we live and reconnect with music and our surroundings. That being said, the next stop on my Shangai tour was The Yu Garden. The ultimate escape from the world as we know it.
A secret garden hidden not too far from The Shanghai Tower. I say hidden because this 2 hectare garden is surrounded by an unassuming wall in the middle of street stores and apartments. I later learned that this was built during the Ming Dynasty and given the progression of time, modern Shanghai developed around it, while the garden stood the test of time. The second I walked through the entrance, one truly feels a sense of calm come over you and your energy automatically being aligned. The Garden itself is structured like a giant courtyard with various rooms each with beautiful jade statues and ponds complete with koi fish and the occasional turtle. All symbols of prosperity and longevity. What made the experience all the more authentic was the traditional music playing all throughout the garden, in truth, it is a modern day time machine.
A question you may be wondering and the same one I did is, why was this garden built? The architect and designer created the garden for his father as a means of comfort in his old age. A place to escape, reflect and process his thoughts while feeding bread crumbs to the eager dragon koi. Yes, this has made me rethink a gift I had planned for my father, but a WHOLE garden may be difficult to wrap. A must see stop on your inevitable trip to Shanghai...
Scenery in The Garden
Tongli Water Village
My final stop in Shanghai was a suggestion from my tour guide. From getting to know me across the week, she said this would be the perfect place for someone who loves escapism. A place located in the Suzhou district called the Tongli Water Village. After a peaceful hour long drive, we arrived at the village with the weather slightly overcast and a light drizzle. This all added to the mystery and intrigue, so I was nervous and excited at the same time. The entrance to the village is through long outdoor corridor which looks like a place out of time given the fact that village is nearly 1000 years old.
As we turned the corner, my instant visual was water canals with gondolas, children playing while their parents had lunch and all local vendors waiting to welcome tourists. For reference, it felt like Venice, but with the magic of the East. The village has a central canal that flows all through it with a town square and a collection of locals and tourists present. I was treated to lunch in the town square, the best beef noddles I have ever tasted, followed by a walking tour of the history and architecture before a surprise my tour guide had arranged.
The surprise being a cruise along the canal to see the village from a different view. Together with a local oarsman, we experienced the energy of the city and people where the main focus each day was a sense of community, showcasing the beautiful culture and heritage, while spending time to reflect and escape life's worries. In that moment on the water, I caught a glimpse of the old ways and how China has managed to not lose its allure which keeps people from all over the world coming back to be part of it. Magic.
Homes in the Village
Normally at the end of a holiday, you are tired and happy to be going home. My week in Shanghai, however left me full of energy and with sadness to be leaving this beautiful city. I won't even be indirect, after you have read this piece, draw up a budget and start planning your trip. There is no comparison to being a part of the people and city even if just for a week. Who knows, on your trip you may bump into me on the canal cruise as your oarsman, because I'm considering moving to Shanghai. Permanently...
Be sure to take a look at the other two stops in my China adventure...
© 2019 Kedan Pentia