I am not a lover of cities. Snow capped mountains and gently undulating hills are my thing, and if I must, I can lie on a beach imbibing too many scorching sunrays and drowning in the blue expanses of sky and sea. Skyscraper cities have little appeal for me but living only 100 km from Shanghai -the New York of China as I have been told-, and less than an hour away by bullet train, dictated that I should not give it a miss.
‘You only need a day to see what Shanghai has to offer,’ Lorita explained. She has been in China a little longer than me and has had plenty of opportunity to explore the touristy parts. Jeff managed to fill a two-day weekend in November when Shanghai was cloaked in drizzle and gloom but he did not seem in any rush to add to the experience. Faith, freshly out of uni, all but worshipped the wonders of Shanghai and recommended the Pearl Tower and The Bund as the places to visit. Blogs I have dipped into raved about Shanghai’s Champagne Brunches.. Having carefully accepted all the friendly advice, all I lacked was some decent company to help me with navigation and map reading and, if I was lucky, with a few words of Chinese to keep me on the right track to find those places worth checking out. So I approached J, who has lived in China for a number of years and frequents Shanghai on an almost weekly basis, for work mind you, so it is more an in-out affair although he knows the touristy spots. An ideal companion for the weekend.
Of course there was no escaping a healthy dose of Chinese culture so we started off with the impressive Jing’an temple, cowering amongst high rise buildings in flourishing downtown Shanghai. Intricately carved timbers and lattices, exquisite marble reliefs, an imposing silver Buddha, and gilded steeples and finials evoked an opulent past. The temple was destroyed by a fire in 1972, but meticulously restored to its former glory and is still an active place of worship.
Next we ventured to the Yuyuan Gardens, a famous classical garden, dating back to the Ming Dynasty and built by a government official as a place of tranquillity for his parents to enjoy in their old age… The six scenic areas are carefully woven into a spectacular garden with so many unexpected turns, nooks and crannies that it would make an excellent paradise for playing hide and seek..
We explored the famed Bund, on the banks of the Huangpu river in central Shanghai, a waterfront area lined with historical buildings, tokens of China’s brushes with Western colonial forces. We revelled in Shanghai’s skyline on the other side of the water, by day and night, with its Oriental Pearl Tower tucked between dizzying skyscrapers. From the heights of the Pearl Tower’s viewing platform, we watched modern Shanghai unfold, scanning past some of the world’s tallest buildings such as Shanghai Tower (second tallest in the world) and Shanghai World Financial Centre. We stood in awe, it was amazing!!!
And then there was the food of course. If nothing else Shanghai is a paradise for foodies with cuisines covering every corner of the world. We sampled an Italian style sandwich for lunch with proper buffalo mozzarella and Italian ham followed by a delectable panna cotta dessert. In the evening we deliberated on Greek, French and Chinese restaurants. In the end we were won over by the Thai food and savoured a delicious green chicken curry, finger licking luscious prawns and pad Thai rice wraps.
But nothing compared with our luxurious Champagne Brunch on Sunday. Shamelessly expensive, but eat as much as you like lobster, sushi and seafood , followed by crispy, plum-sauce-oozing Peking Duck pancakes, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, Indian food, Mexican food, Chinese food, and a mountain of desserts, and all washed down with the best part of a bottle of Taittinger and some Bloody Mary to boot… An excellent way to kill some time.